MARQUESAS, or MARQUEZAS or MENDANA LANDS, or LES MARQUISES, Polynesia, an island group in the south Pacific Ocean, lat. to 11° S ; long. 30' to 141° W., be longing to France since 1842 and composed of 12 islands and islets divided into two groups, the northern and southern, with a total area of 480 square miles. The largest islands are Nuka hiva, or Marchand, and Hivaoa, or Dominica. The coasts are generally inaccessible, rising from water like walls; but in Nukahiva there are some excellent natural harbors. The is lands are generally high, some of their moun tains reaching an elevation of over 4,000 feet; the intervening valleys are fertile, picturesque and copiously watered by streams which form numerous cascades. The principal food produc tions are Pulse, yam, cocoanuts, sugar-cane, cotton and bamboo; hogs are also numerous. The men are well-formed, active, powerful and all tattooed. The women have regular features,
good complexions, fine teeth and neat hands, and are the finest of the sex to be met with in Polynesia. The people of these islands were formerly cannibals and though this practice has been discontinued cruelty and ferocity are pre vailing characteristics, and the efforts of the missionaries have met with but little success. The Marquesas were discovered in 1595 by Alonza Mendaria de Neyva. They were sub sequently visited and described by Cook and the Forsters in 1774, when Hood's Island was added to the group. In 1797 three more were discovered by Ingraham, an American captain, and were named Washington Islands. In 1842 they acknowledged the sovereignty of France. The population steadily decreased during the 19th century, in 1876 being 5,420; in 1910, 4,000; in 1915, 3,424.