Deeper Into Jeopardy! VI: Islands of the Pacific – $1200

Jeopardy! category: ISLANDS OF THE PACIFIC (19-02-2014)

$1200 clue: Called by some the most beautiful place on earth, Moorea is just 12 miles from this largest island in French Polynesia

Correct response

The gist: The Jeopardy! writers may have been reading their Frommer’s guide when they wrote this clue: that publication has called Moorea (or Mo’orea with the Polynesian glottal stop represented by the apostrophe) “the most beautiful island in the world.” Its nearly symmetrical Opunohu and Cook’s Bays give the island a vaguely cardioid shape, and it rises gently out of the ocean surrounded by clear water and sandy beaches, with its centre enclosed by mountain peaks that rise between the shores. Sounds pretty picturesque to me, at least. As part of French Polynesia, Moorea is less well-known than its larger neighbour, Tahiti, most famous in the Western imagination as the idyllic island paradise that led to the Mutiny on the Bounty, a spat between Captain William Bligh (played on film by Charles Laughton, Trevor Howard, Anthony Hopkins) and his master’s mate Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Mel Gibson),* the latter feeling, along with his shipmates, that life on the island was preferable to months more aboard the ship. Things didn’t work out too well for him in the end, though, with Bligh returning safely to Britain after a near-miraculous voyage, and Christian dying on Pitcairn Island after the indigenous Polynesians he’d unofficially enslaved decided they’d had enough and mutinied themselves.

French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of the French Republic. France is one of only two European countries to maintain overseas holdings in the Pacific, and French Polynesia dwarfs the Pitcairn Islands, the UK’s holdings, by a factor of about a hundred (4167 vs. 47 square kilometres).** As the clue says, Tahiti is the largest of collectivity’s islands, and it also accounts for almost 70% of its population, most of which live in the capital, Papeete. Prior to being claimed as a French colony in 1880, Tahiti was ruled by the Pomare dynasty (1788-1880), which fielded five rulers all named Pomare, including one queen, Pomare IV, who ruled longer than any other Tahitian monarch. The Pomare came to power with the backing of the British; prior to their intervention, Tahiti had been divided into a number of clans, each with their own chief and nobles. More recently, Tahiti and French Polynesia have been afforded greater autonomy and independence, and French Polynesian president Oscar Temaru has argued for complete independence from France.

Map of Moorea and Tahiti, a little bit south of pretty much the middle of the Pacific Ocean

The clue: Weasel word! I have an aversion to clues that include things like “called by some” and “considered by many,” since these days a writer can find some quote from someone saying just about anything about anything. If I want to write a question incorporating a subjective assessment like this, I find it much better, more accurate, and more compelling to try to find a direct quote from an interesting person that says what I’m trying to say. That way, the idea I’m expressing about the topic sits in a more fleshed-out historical context, and the question has less of a subjective feel to it.

In Jeopardy!: It’s a popular island: Tahiti shows up in 95 clues in the J!Archive. A few topics made frequent appearances: the Mutiny on the Bounty, Paul Gaugin (the Post-Impressionist visited the island twice in the 1890s and died there in 1903; if it’s about an artist and mentions Tahiti, it’s Gauguin), and its being a part of French Polynesia. Papeete even makes six appearances, frequently in high-value geography clues. But if it’s a geography-beginning-with-T category,┬ádon’t guess it when the answer is Tonga, as many contestants have! Remember, Tonga is an independent kingdom, while Tahiti is part of a larger territory, so if it’s asking about countries, it’s Tonga.

* Those films are Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, dir. Frank Lloyd), another Mutiny on the Bounty (1962, dir. Lewis Milestone), and The Bounty (1984, dir. Roger Donaldson).

** In the Pacific, France also claims rights to Wallis and Futuna as an overseas collectivity, New Caledonia as a special collectivity, and Clipperton Island as a “minor territory.”

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