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Mataiva is a coral atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago, in French Polynesia, located about 311 km north of the island of Tahiti. The ring-shaped island is the rim of a partially submerged volcanic cone which has eroded and sunk beneath the sea surface. Over time coral reefs have established around the cone at shallow depth, while the caldera became a lagoon.

A striking feature of Mataiva is the network of ridges, appearing in white in satellite and overhead photos, in the central lagoon. This ridges are formed by eroded coral reefs that have morphed into linear rocky structures some 50 to 300 meters wide. The reticulated honeycomb structure forms about seventy shallow pools within the lagoon having an average depth of about 8 meters. The ridge themselves are submerged about a meter below the water surface. The varying depths of these basins and the clear water gives the lagoon a blue and green tessellated appearance when viewed from above.


Photo credit: NASA

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