Austral Islands ô´strəl [key], volcanic island group (2002 pop. 6,386), South Pacific, part of French Polynesia . They are sometimes known as the Tubuai Islands. The group comprises seven islands, plus islets, with a total land area of c.115 sq mi (300 sq km). Tubuai, the largest island (c.17 sq mi/44 sq km), was visited by Capt. James Cook in 1777 and was annexed by France in 1880. European diseases and slavers very nearly wiped out the native Polynesian population of the islands, especially on Rapa. In 1938, French authorities imposed strict regulations on immigration and tourism. Coffee, arrowroot, tobacco, and copra are produced on the islands.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Pacific Islands Political Geography