Overseas France: Or Where You Can Find France Outside Of France

The days of colonial empires may be long over, though the United States, United Kingdom, France, Netherlands and Denmark continue each to administer a smattering of overseas territories.

Among these, France has arguably the most interesting and wide-ranging set of territories. Overseas France includes tiny St. Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Newfoundland (population around 6,000), the Caribbean overseas departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the smaller Caribbean “overseas collectivities” of St. Martin and St. Barts, the South American overseas department of French Guiana, the Indian Ocean overseas departments of Réunion and Mayotte, and French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Wallis & Futuna in the South Pacific.

Officially, overseas France is divided into “overseas departments” (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Réunion), “overseas collectivities” (French Polynesia, St. Barts, St. Martin, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna), and New Caledonia, which has a special status unto itself.

There are also two uninhabited French territories – a vast, noncontiguous territory with the grand name of Territory of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, inhabited only by researchers, and, most curious of all, the uninhabited island of Clipperton, which sits off Mexico and is administered directly by the Minister of Overseas France.

Tourism is a huge economic driver in many of these territories. St. Martin, St. Barts, and French Polynesia are particularly well known to Americans. Francophone tourists are also familiar with the islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique, New Caledonia, and Réunion.

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[Flickr image via Rayced]

Voyage To Rapanui: Sailing 10,000 Miles Without GPS, Maps Or Compass

The Voyage to Rapanui is done without GPS, maps or a compassIn these modern times most of us have become very reliant on technology – some would say a bit too much so. But no one will accuse the 24 sailors on the Voyage to Rapanui expedition of being too technology dependent. The group will soon set off on an ocean journey that will see them crossing more than 10,000 miles of open water without the use of any kind of modern navigational tool. That means they’ll be sailing the Pacific Ocean without GPS, a compass or even maps of any kind. Instead they’ll use traditional navigational techniques, which date back thousands of years, to help them find the way to their remote destination.

Each of the sailors on this journey are Māori – the indigenous Polynesian people who live in New Zealand. Their ancestors once sailed the Pacific Ocean using only the movement of the currents and the sun, moon and stars to guide them safely across the sea. These modern day explorers intend to do the same and recapture a bit of their cultural heritage in the process. Their destination is the island of Rapanui, better known as Easter Island, which is one of the most remote places on our planet. Locating it without navigational charts could be akin to finding a needle in a haystack, however.

The team will split into two crews of 12 with each crew manning a traditional double-hulled Māori sailing canoe. Sometime in the next few days they’ll set out from New Zealand and begin the long journey to Easter Island. Ironically they’ll be using social media to keep all of us updated on their progress with a Twitter feed, Facebook page and Google+ account all dedicated to the voyage.

[Photo courtesy of WakaTapu.com]

Search For Amelia Earhart Turns Up Few Clues

Amelia Earhart boards her planeA much vaunted and highly publicized search for the remains of Amelia Earhart has apparently turned up little in the way of new evidence to help solve the puzzle of the famous aviator’s ultimate fate. A team of researchers, armed with an array of high-tech gear, spent the past week searching a remote island in the South Pacific, but appear to have come up short in their quest to solve one of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century.

We first told you about the expedition, which was spurred on by intriguing new evidence, at the beginning of the month. At that time the research team was just setting out for Nikumaroro, the tiny island that some believe may have been the final resting place for Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan. The duo went missing back in 1937 while attempting to fly around the world, leaving many to ponder their fate for the next 75 years.

This most recent search for their whereabouts cost $2.2 million and employed the use of high-definition underwater cameras and sensitive sonar in an attempt to locate Earhart’s Lockheed Electra aircraft. According to Reuters, those efforts were stymied by equipment failures and steep, rocky terrain just off the coast of Nikumaroro. The coral reefs that surround the atoll feature craggy outcroppings and severe drops, with depths ranging from 110 to 250 feet. Those natural obstructions slowed down the search process and ultimately led the search team to cut short the expedition and return to Hawaii.

The researchers say that the expedition wasn’t for nothing, however, and that they are returning home with hours of video and sonar data to pore over. While they weren’t able to identify the wreckage from what they’ve seen so far, they hope that when they get the opportunity to analyze it later they’ll be able to find some hidden clues. They’ll have to search quickly, however, as a television show about the expedition is set to air on the Discovery Channel on August 19.

Search For Amelia Earhart Begins In South Pacific

The search for Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan is onIn the beginning of June we told you about new research that seemed to indicate that famous aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan not only survived a crash in the South Pacific back in 1937, but also made numerous attempts to radio for help. Armed with those findings a search team launched an expedition earlier this week with the aim of exploring the tiny atoll that they believe was the final resting place for the duo.

Earhart and Noonan went missing on July 2, 1937, while attempting to circumnavigate the planet by airplane. When they last made radio contact they were searching for Howland Island where they were planning on refueling for their flight across the Pacific. They never arrived at Howland and what exactly became of them remains a mystery to this day.

Historians and scientists have theorized that Earhart’s Lockheed Electra actually went down on a tiny atoll known as Nikumaroro, where she and Noonan proceeded to send radio messages for several days before the ocean claimed their aircraft. It is that small island, which is part of the nation of Kiribati, that this most recent search party is now en route.

When they arrive the team will use a robotic submersible to search for the missing airplane in the waters just off Nikumaroro and they’ll comb the island itself for more clues to Earhart and Noonan’s ultimate fate. A recent excursion to the atoll discovered an old jar of freckle cream that was consistent with the brand that Earhart used and researchers are hoping to discover similar clues this time out. They feel that if they find definitive evidence that the island was Earhart and Noonan’s last resting place it can help solve one of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century.

The expedition is expected to last approximately 26 days, with ten of those days dedicated to the search itself. The team departed from Honolulu on Tuesday and should arrive on site some time next week. After that, we’ll all have to wait to see if they discover anything of interest.

Teahupo’o: the world’s ‘heaviest’ surfing wave



Teahupo’o
, site of a legendary surfer break on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti, has developed quite the reputation among big-wave surfers. Due to a shallow coral reef just off shore, waves here tend break as massive, chunky walls of water, a phenomenon that has earned Teahupo’o the distinction as the “heaviest” wave in the world.

The video above, filmed at Teahupo’o, offers a first-hand view from the ocean of what it’s like to ride the massive swells of this epic surf spot. Set to an ethereal soundtrack, the video follows surfers as they brave one of the biggest surfing days at Teahupo’o in recent memory, riding crushing “fists” of ocean that grow and collapse, threatening to swallow them whole at any minute. Sit back, click the play button, and let yourself be mesmerized by these awesome feats of athleticism.