Satellite view of Fangataufa Atoll showing the dark blue depths of the induced crater. Courtesy NASA.
|Area||45 km2 (17 sq mi) (lagoon)|
5 km2 (2 sq mi) (above water)
|Length||9.5 km (5.9 mi)|
|Width||9.5 km (5.9 mi)|
|Overseas collectivity||French Polynesia|
Fangataufa (or Fangatafoa) is a small, low, narrow, coral atoll in the eastern side of the Tuamotu Archipelago. It was formerly known as Cockburn Island. Along with its neighboring atoll, Moruroa, it has been the site of approximately 200 nuclear bomb tests.
The island is approx. 9.5 kilometres (5.9 miles) long and 9.5 kilometres (5.9 miles) wide. It has a lagoon area of 45 square kilometres (17 square miles) and a land area of 5 kilometres (3.1 miles). It is located 37 kilometres (23 miles) south of Moruroa atoll, 197 kilometres (122 miles) east of Tematangi, 240 kilometres (150 miles) southwest of the Gambier Islands and 1,190 kilometres (740 miles) southeast of Tahiti.
Access to the lagoon is through a pass lying 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometres) SW of the northernmost point of the atoll; the channel has a width of about 60 metres (200 feet) and a dredged depth of 6.5 metres (21.3 feet). A 12-metre-long (39-foot) quay, in 2.5 metres (8.2 feet) of water, is situated in the NE part of the lagoon; another quay, 50 metres (160 feet) long in 5 metres (16 feet) of water, and landing ramps, were constructed in its E part. The access channel is marked, on each side, by two beacons. There is an abandoned airfield, built to accommodate medium size transport aircraft, on the NE coast of the atoll. It is reported that the pass of Fangataufa is obstructed by a chain boom. This boom can be moved by agreement with the local military authority.
The first recorded European to arrive at Fangataufa Atoll was Frederick William Beechey in 1826. The atoll was inhabited well into the 20th century.
Fangataufa was the site of France's first two-stage thermonuclear test, code named Canopus, detonated on August 24, 1968. The nuclear explosion had a yield of 2.6 megatons. The atoll was also the location of the 1970 914-kiloton Licorne ('Unicorn') test and two other atmospheric nuclear tests as well as several underground nuclear tests. Today, Fangataufa serves as a wildlife sanctuary for various species of birds.
Fangataufa is permanently uninhabited. It is classified as a Common Military Zone. The zone includes the lagoon areas enclosed by the atoll and by baselines linking the closest points emerging from the reef on both sides of the channel. Entry is prohibited without authorization.