Society Islands South Pacific archipelago, part of French Polynesia; the capital is Papeete on Tahiti. The archipelago divides into two groups of mountainous, volcanic and coral islands. Only eight are inhabited. The larger Windward group includes the islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Maio, and the smaller Mehetia, and Tetiaroa. The Leeward group includes Raiatéa (the largest and site of the chief town, Uturoa), Tahaa, Huahine, Bora-Bora, and Maupiti. Tourism is the most important industry, with 148,000 people visiting the islands in 1993. The economy is primarily agricultural, and the major crop is copra, with coconut trees dominating the coastal plains. The islands were first sighted by Europeans in 1607. The French claimed the islands in 1768. In 1769, the islands were visited by James Cook, who named them after the Royal Society. In 1843, they were made a French Protectorate, and in 1880 became a French colony. In 1946, they became a French overseas territory. The principal language is Tahitian. Area: 1446sq km (558sq mi). Pop. (2002) 214,445.
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