Raivavae 2006 Explorers Club Flag #95

When I first arrived to work with Edmundo Edwards and his daughter Alexandra in 2006, I did not believe that there was still a place in all of Polynesia that was as natural, unspoiled and stunningly beautiful as Raivavae.  It is an island of remarkable simplicity with a population of under 1,000.  Raivavae is one of 5 of the Austral Islands, lush, unspoiled and stunningly picturesque.  It is located just south of the Tropic of Capricorn at 23*52’ S latitude and 147*40’ W longitude.  The weather is ideal.  It is a high island of eroded volcanic basalt, 5-7 million years old, surrounded by a fringing reef; the farthest south in French Polynesia.  The surrounding reef with its numerous uninhabited Motus (small islands) creates a beautiful shallow lagoon with varied hues of iridescent blues.  It’s highest point; Mt. Hiro tops out at 438 meters or 1,423 feet.


Overall Research Mission:

Edmundo and Lynn are both Explorers Club members and will apply to carry a Flag into the field for this project. We will continue to explore and discover its relationships with the other Austral Islands, Pitcairn and Easter Island trading networks.  Provide a deeper understanding of the culture and how it is related to Rapa Nui.

Raivavae, French Polynesia

Our 2015 mission is to relocate precisely with an advanced GPS, all the archaeological sites previously recorded during the original surveys competed in the late 80’s by Edmundo Edwards and those newly discovered during our 2006 expedition.  We plan to photograph these structures, record their condition, orientation of the sites to the stars, and produce a video documentary of this expedition. This is an important final piece of research as it relates to Edmundo’s and Alexandra’s recent book, When the Universe was an Island; a compilation of Edmundo’s 40 years of research throughout Polynesia with an emphasis on Easter Island, which you may order online at www.universeisland.com.

When the Universe was an Island. Order online at www.universeisland.com.

Raivavae is the furthermost south high island of French Polynesia.  It was settled by Polynesians who carved large stone statues and impressive altars with upright slab walled courts. These are the largest statues in Polynesia after those of Easter Island, and represent goddesses and deified ancestors of the different clans. Oral traditions mention that this flourishing culture formed part of an extensive trade network with its neighboring island of Tubuai, and double outrigger canoes traveled regularly with offerings to be presented upon Marae Taputapuatea in Raiatea, Society Islands over 500 miles away. In 1985-1989 archaeologist Edmundo Edwards, then working for the Department of Archaeology of the Territory of French Polynesia, carried out the archaeological survey of Raivavae, recording in detail 610 archaeological structures and restored two marae or altars. This published (the Archaeological Survey of Raivavae), work constitutes the most comprehensive archaeological work carried out on Raivavae to date.  But as yet practically no archaeological excavations have been carried out upon the island so many aspects of its cultural history still remains a mystery.

In late 2005, Edmundo Edwards under the auspices the University Of Chile and in 2006 with Lynn Danaher and Alexandra Edwards carried out some excavations at several sites and some rich coastal middens were located.  Further excavations are needed.  Our hope for the future is to get the necessary permits to at least carry out additional preliminary excavations found promising.

On the Expedition

Participants of our 2015 expedition along with Edmundo Edwards will carry out further GPS mapping, surveys and recordation of the numerous sites condition.  Most of the sites are found in the island’s ancient caldera’s of Vaiuru and Rairua.

Meals and Accommodations

You’ll stay in cozy double or triple cabins with conventional bath facilities in a rented house in Vaiuru, You will enjoy creative island cuisine, including fresh fruits and seafood. This project is only for participants 18+ please.  All lodging and meals are included.


An expedition to Raivavae will give the adventurous few who participate a rare opportunity to visit one of the last remaining unspoiled islands of French Polynesia and study the ancient Marae of Raivavae with one of the worlds leading experts on Polynesian prehistory. We hope to do some cleaning and clearing of a few of the most significant sites.  We will also visit the only remaining Tiki on the island and the tiny museum with the only surviving Petroglyphs on the island.

Raivavae is an island with a very slow pace, where the people maintain a subsistence lifestyle; farming taro and fishing the outer reef in handmade outrigger canoes much like they have for generations.  There are no restaurants, bars or tee-shirt shops, only a very few small pensions.  Tourists are still rare on Raivavae, all the local natives still offer an “Iorana” and a friendly wave each time we pass.

We plan to offer many other adventures on Raivavae, bike rides to experience the island at the pace most of the local people enjoy.  We will explore the off shore, small uninhabited islands or Motus, snorkel the crystal clear waters, swim at the empty beaches of Mahanatoa, hike to the top of Mt. Hiro, along the ridge of the Taamora Peninsula and through the jungles.  We will also attend the magnificent church in charming Anatonu village on Sunday to hear their specialized version of singing in harmony along with their native chants.  This will also give us a chance to observe the colorful handmade hats and dresses of the women that they reserve only for the special occasion of church.  There will be opportunities to observe different groups of the local people prepare and taste their traditional foods of Ti, Taro and Pig, all cooked in the earth oven in the same manner as their ancestors of ancient times.

Pacific Islands Research Institute is a 501c3 non profit.

If interested, please contact the Expedition coordinator Capt. Lynn Danaher at 4islandexplorer@gmail.com.