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American Samoa
Christmas Island
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Cook Islands
East Timor
Fiji Islands
French Polynesia
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Micronesia, F.S.
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New Zealand
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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World map showing Oceania (geographically)
World map showing Oceania (geographically)

Oceania is a geographical, often geopolitical, region consisting of numerous lands – mostly islands but often including Australia – in the Pacific Ocean and vicinity. The exact scope of Oceania is defined variously, with interpretations including Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and East Timor.

For the oceans of the Earth, see Oceans.




The primary use of the term Oceania is to describe a macrogeographical region that lies between Asia and the Americas, with the Australian continent as the major landmass and consisting of some 10,000 islands in the Pacific. The name Oceania is used because, unlike the other regional groupings, it is the ocean and adjacent seas rather than a continent that link the lands together.


Geopolitical map of Oceania
Geopolitical map of Oceania

Originally coined by the French explorer Dumont d'Urville in 1831, Oceania has been traditionally divided into Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Australasia. As with any region, however, interpretations vary; increasingly, geographers and scientists divide Oceania into Near Oceania and Remote Oceania.

Most of Oceania consists of small island nations. Australia is the only continental country; by some definitions, East Timor and Papua New Guinea are the only countries with land borders, both with Indonesia.

Territories and regions

Name of territory,
with flag[1]
(1 July 2002 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Australia Australia 7,686,850 19,546,792 2.5 Canberra
Christmas Island Christmas Island (Australia)[2] 135 474 3.5 The Settlement
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Australia)[2] 14 632 45.1 West Island
New Zealand New Zealand 268,680 3,908,037 14.5 Wellington
Norfolk Island Norfolk Island (Australia) 35 1,866 53.3 Kingston
Fiji Fiji 18,270 856,346 46.9 Suva
New Caledonia New Caledonia (France) 19,060 207,858 10.9 Nouméa
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea 462,840 5,172,033 11.2 Port Moresby
Solomon Islands Solomon Islands 28,450 494,786 17.4 Honiara
Vanuatu Vanuatu 12,200 196,178 16.1 Port Vila
Federated States of Micronesia Federated States of Micronesia 702 135,869 193.5 Palikir
Guam Guam (USA) 549 160,796 292.9 Hagåtña
Kiribati Kiribati 811 96,335 118.8 Bairiki
Marshall Islands Marshall Islands 181 73,630 406.8 Majuro
Nauru Nauru 21 12,329 587.1 Yaren
Northern Mariana Islands Northern Mariana Islands (USA) 477 77,311 162.1 Saipan
Palau Palau 458 19,409 42.4 Koror
American Samoa American Samoa (USA) 199 68,688 345.2 Fagatogo, Utulei[5]
Cook Islands Cook Islands (NZ) 240 20,811 86.7 Avarua
French Polynesia French Polynesia (France) 4,167 257,847 61.9 Papeete
Niue Niue (NZ) 260 2,134 8.2 Alofi
Pitcairn Islands Pitcairn Islands (UK) 47 47 1.0 Adamstown
Samoa Samoa 2,944 178,631 60.7 Apia
Tokelau Tokelau (NZ) 10 1,431 143.1 [6]
Tonga Tonga 748 106,137 141.9 Nuku'alofa
Tuvalu Tuvalu 26 11,146 428.7 Vaiaku
Wallis and Futuna Wallis and Futuna (France) 274 15,585 56.9 Mata-Utu
Total 8,508,648 31,623,138 3.7


  1. ^ Regions and constituents as per UN categorisations/map except notes 2-3. Depending on definitions, various territories cited below (notes 2-5) may be in one or both of Oceania and Asia or North America.
  2. ^ a b Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands are Australian external territories in the Indian Ocean southwest of Indonesia.
  3. ^ Excludes Timor-Leste and parts of Indonesia, island territories in Southeastern Asia (UN region) frequently reckoned in this region.
  4. ^ Excludes the US state of Hawaii, which is distant from the North American landmass in the Pacific Ocean and frequently reckoned in this region.
  5. ^ Fagatogo is the legislative and judicial seat of American Samoa; Utulei is the executive seat.
  6. ^ Tokelau, a domain of New Zealand, has no capital: each atoll has its own administrative centre.

Other interpretations of Oceania

  • Australia is sometimes not included in Oceania, although a term like Pacific islands would normally be used to describe Oceania without Australia. The term "Australasia" invariably includes Australia along with parts of Oceania, but this term is sometimes controversial outside of Australia, as it may be seen as too greatly emphasising Australia.
  • Hawaii is correctly included in Oceania. Hawaiians are a Polynesian race and, although the Hawaiian Islands are some distance from most of the islands of Oceania, they are still physically as well as culturally much closer to the rest of Oceania than to North America - and they are no further from the rest of Oceania than from United States territories in the North Pacific.
  • The few U.S. territories in the North Pacific are invariably uninhabited except by itinerant service personnel, and are normally grouped with the mainland United States in North America. They are certainly no part of Oceania and, unlike Hawaii, they are closer to North America - most of them closer to North America than they are to Hawaii.
  • Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the eastern Pacific Ocean, part of the territory of Chile, and is correctly included in Oceania.
  • New Zealand is within the Polynesian triangle and in this sense is part of Polynesia - the Māori of New Zealand constitute one of the major cultures of Polynesia.
  • On very rare occasions the term may be stretched even further to include other Pacific island groups such as the Aleutian Islands, but these are obviously islands off the coast of North America. It would be just as logical to include the Pacific islands of Russia, all of Japan and the Philippines, insular Malyasia, and all of Indonesia as part of Oceania, as to include the Aleutians.


Oceania is one of eight terrestrial ecozones, which constitute the major ecological regions of the planet. The Oceania ecozone includes all of Micronesia, Fiji, and all of Polynesia except New Zealand. New Zealand, along with New Guinea and nearby islands, Australia, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia, constitute the separate Australasia ecozone.


The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) is one of six football confederations under the auspices of FIFA, the international governing body of football (soccer). The OFC is the only confederation without an automatic qualification to the World Cup Finals. Currently the winner of the OFC must play-off against a South American confederation side.

Oceania has only been represented at three World Cup Finals - Australia in 1974, New Zealand in 1982 and Australia in 2006. However, Australia is now no longer a member of the Oceania Football Confederation, having joined the Asian Football Confederation in 2006, with the thinking that qualification to the the World Cup Finals will come easier with automatic qualification available and will stop the disappointment associated with qualifying for the play-offs before losing to the 5th placed South American confederation country.

See also

External links

Countries and territories of Oceania
Australia : Australia · Norfolk Island
Melanesia : East Timor · Fiji · Maluku Islands & Western New Guinea (part of Indonesia) · New Caledonia · Papua New Guinea · Solomon Islands · Vanuatu
Micronesia : Guam · Kiribati · Marshall Islands · Northern Mariana Islands · Federated States of Micronesia · Nauru · Palau
Polynesia : American Samoa · Cook Islands · French Polynesia · Hawaii · New Zealand · Niue · Pitcairn · Samoa · Tokelau · Tonga · Tuvalu · Wallis and Futuna

Continents of the world










North America

South America

Geological supercontinents :  Columbia · Gondwana · Laurasia · Pangaea · Rodinia

Regions of the World
Africa Eastern · Middle · Northern · Southern · Western
Americas Caribbean · Central · Latin · Northern · South
Asia Central · Eastern · Southern · Southeastern · Western
Europe Eastern · Northern · Southern · Western
Oceania Australia · Melanesia · Micronesia · New Zealand · Polynesia

Polar Arctic · Antarctic
Oceans Pacific · Atlantic · Indian  · Southern  · Arctic

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Pacific Ocean (from the Latin name Mare Pacificum, "peaceful sea", bestowed upon it by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan) is the world's largest body of water. It encompasses a third of the Earth's surface, having an area of 179.7 million square kilometres (69.4 million sq miles) - significantly larger than Earth's entire landmass, with room for another Africa to spare. Extending approximately 15 500 kilometres (9,600 miles) from the Bering Sea in the Arctic to the icy margins of Antarctica's Ross Sea in the south (although the Antarctic regions of the Pacific are sometimes described as part of the circumpolar Southern Ocean) the Pacific reaches its greatest east-west width at about 5°N latitude, where it stretches approximately 19 800 kilometres (12,300 miles) from Indonesia to the coast of Colombia and Peru. The western limit of the ocean is often placed at the Strait of Malacca. The lowest point on earth—the Mariana Trench—lies some 10 911 metres (35,797 ft) below sea level. Its average depth is 4270 m (14000 ft).

The Pacific contains about 25,000 islands (more than the total number in the rest of the world's oceans combined), the majority of which are found south of the equator. (See: Pacific Islands.)

Theories of Plate Tectonics state that the Pacific Ocean may be shrinking while the Atlantic ocean is increasing in size.

Along the Pacific Ocean's irregular western margins lie many seas, the largest of which are the Celebes Sea, Coral Sea, East China Sea, Sea of Japan, South China Sea, Sulu Sea, Tasman Sea, and Yellow Sea. The Straits of Malacca joins the Pacific and the Indian Oceans on the west, and the Straits of Magellan links the Pacific with the Atlantic Ocean on the east. To the north, the Bering Strait connects the Pacific with the Arctic Ocean.

As the Pacific straddles the ± 180° longitude where East becomes West, the Asian side of the ocean (where latitudes are E) is correctly referred to as East Pacific and the opposite side (eastwards) where latitudes are W is the West Pacific. To retain the popular "left is western" and "right is eastern" means of reference, the Western Pacific is thus the East Pacific and the Eastern Pacific is the West Pacific. The International Date Line follows the ±180° longitude to the greater part of its North-South demarcation but veers far eastwards around Kiribati (Caroline Island, which, not coincidentally, was renamed Millennium Island) and westwards round the Aleutian Islands as can be seen on the map at International Date Line.

For most of Ferdinand Magellan's voyage from the Straits of Magellan to the Philippines, the Portuguese explorer indeed found the ocean peaceful. However, the Pacific is not always peaceful. Many typhoons, called hurricanes when they occur in the Atlantic, batter the islands of the Pacific and the lands around the Pacific rim are full of volcanoes and often rocked by earthquakes. Tsunamis, caused by underwater earthquakes, have devastated many islands and wiped out whole towns.

Water characteristics - Water temperatures in the Pacific vary from freezing in the poleward areas to about 29 °C (84 °F) near the equator. Salinity also varies latitudinally. Water near the equator is less salty than that found in the mid-latitudes because of abundant equatorial precipitation throughout the year. Poleward of the temperate latitudes salinity is also low, because little evaporation of seawater takes place in these frigid areas. The pacific ocean is generally believed to be warmer than the Atlantic ocean.

The surface circulation of Pacific waters is generally clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere (the North Pacific Gyre) and counter-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. The North Equatorial Current, driven westward along latitude 15°N by the trade winds, turns north near the Philippines to become the warm Japan or Kuroshio Current.

Turning eastward at about 45°N, the Kuroshio forks and some waters move northward as the Aleutian Current, while the rest turn southward to rejoin the North Equatorial Current. The Aleutian Current branches as it approaches North America and forms the base of a counter-clockwise circulation in the Bering Sea. Its southern arm becomes the chilled slow, south-flowing California Current.

The South Equatorial Current, flowing west along the equator, swings southward east of New Guinea, turns east at about 50°S, and joins the main westerly circulation of the Southern Pacific, which includes the Earth-circling Antarctic Circumpolar Current. As it approaches the Chilean coast, the South Equatorial Current divides; one branch flows around Cape Horn and the other turns north to form the Peru or Humboldt Current.

Geology - The Andesite Line is the most significant regional distinction in the Pacific. It separates the deeper, basic igneous rock of the Central Pacific Basin from the partially submerged continental areas of acidic igneous rock on its margins. The Andesite Line follows the western edge of the islands off California and passes south of the Aleutian arc, along the eastern edge of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kuril Islands, Japan, the Mariana Islands, the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand. The dissimilarity continues northeastward along the western edge of the Albatross Cordillera along South America to Mexico, returning then to the islands off California. Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, New Guinea, and New Zealand—all eastward extensions of the continental blocks of Australia and Asia—lie outside the Andesite Line.

Within the closed loop of the Andesite Line are most of the deep troughs, submerged volcanic mountains, and oceanic volcanic islands that characterize the Central Pacific Basin. It is here that basaltic lavas gently flow out of rifts to build huge dome-shaped volcanic mountains whose eroded summits form island arcs, chains, and clusters. Outside the Andesite Line, volcanism is of the explosive type, and the Pacific Ring of Fire is the world's foremost belt of explosive volcanism.

Landmasses - The Pacific is ringed by a large number of volcanoes and oceanic trenches. The largest landmass entirely within the Pacific Ocean is the island of New Guinea— the second largest in the world. Almost all of the smaller islands of the Pacific lie between 30°N and 30°S, extending from South-east Asia to Easter Island; the rest of the Pacific Basin is almost entirely submerged.

The great triangle of Polynesia, connecting Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand, encompasses the island arcs and clusters of the Cook, Marquesas, Samoa, Society, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuamotu, Tuvalu & Wallis and Futuna islands.

North of the equator and west of the international date line are the numerous small islands of Micronesia, including the Caroline Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the Mariana Islands.

In the southwestern corner of the Pacific lie the islands of Melanesia, dominated by New Guinea. Other important island groups of Melanesia include the Bismarck Archipelago, Fiji, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

Islands in the Pacific Ocean are of four basic types: continental islands, high islands, coral reefs, and uplifted coral platforms. Continental islands lie outside the Andesite Line and include New Guinea, the islands of New Zealand, and the Philippines. These islands are structurally associated with nearby continents. High islands are of volcanic origin, and many contain active volcanoes. Among these are Bougainville, Hawaii, & the Solomon Islands.

The third and fourth types of islands are both the result of coralline island building. Coral reefs are low-lying structures that have built up on basaltic lava flows under the ocean's surface. One of the most dramatic is the Great Barrier Reef off northeastern Australia. A second island type formed of coral is the uplifted coral platform, which is usually slightly larger than the low coral islands. Examples include Banaba (formerly Ocean Island) and Makatea in the Tuamotu group of French Polynesia.

History and economy - See the Oceania article for information on one set of the Pacific Island states listed below here. Important human migrations occurred in the Pacific in prehistoric times, most notably those of Polynesians from the asian edge of the ocean to Tahiti and then to Hawaii and New Zealand. See Polynesian Voyaging Society.

The ocean was sighted by Europeans early in the 16th century, first by Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1513) and then by Ferdinand Magellan, who crossed the Pacific during his circumnavigation (1519-1522). In 1564 conquistadors crossed the ocean from Mexico led by Miguel López de Legazpi who sailed to the Philippines and Mariana Islands. For the remainder of the 16th century Spanish influence was paramount, with ships sailing from Spain to the Philippines, New Guinea, and the Solomons. The Manila Galleons linked Manila and Acapulco.

During the 17th century the Dutch, sailing around southern Africa, dominated discovery and trade; Abel Janszoon Tasman discovered (1642) Tasmania and New Zealand. The 18th century marked a burst of exploration by the Russians in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, the French in Polynesia, and the British in the three voyages of James Cook (to the South Pacific and Australia, Hawaii, and the North American Pacific Northwest).

Growing imperialism during the 19th century resulted in the occupation of much of Oceania by Great Britain and France, followed by the United States. Significant contributions to oceanographic knowledge were made by the voyages of the HMS Beagle in the 1830s, with Charles Darwin aboard; the HMS Challenger during the 1870s; the USS Tuscarora (1873-76); and the German Gazelle (1874-1876). Although the United States took the Philippines in 1898, Japan controlled the western Pacific by 1914, and occupied many other islands during World War II. By the end of that war the U.S. Pacific Fleet was the virtual master of the ocean.

Seventeen independent states are located in the Pacific: Australia, Fiji, Japan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Republic of China (Taiwan), Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Eleven of these nations have achieved full independence since 1960. The Northern Mariana Islands are self-governing with external affairs handled by the United States, and Cook Islands and Niue are in similar relationships with New Zealand. Also within the Pacific is the US state of Hawaii and several island territories and possessions of Australia, Chile, Ecuador, France, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The exploitation of the Pacific's mineral wealth is hampered by the ocean's great depths. In shallow waters of the continental shelves off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, petroleum and natural gas are extracted, and pearls are harvested along the coasts of Australia, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Philippines, although in sharply declining volume in some cases. The Pacific's greatest asset is its fish. The shoreline waters of the continents and the more temperate islands yield herring, salmon, sardines, snapper, swordfish, and tuna, as well as shellfish.

In 1986, the member nations of the South Pacific Forum declared the area a nuclear-free zone in an effort to halt nuclear testing and prevent the dumping of nuclear waste there.

Selected ports and harbours - Acapulco (Mexico), Anchorage (United States), Auckland (New Zealand), Bangkok (Thailand), Brisbane (Australia), Buenaventura (Colombia), Callao by Lima (Peru), Cebu (Philippines), Guayaquil (Ecuador), Hong Kong (China (PRC), Honolulu (United States), Kitimat, British Columbia (Canada), Kobe (Japan), Long Beach (United States), Los Angeles (United States), Manila (Philippines), Panama City (Panama), Portland (Oregon) (United States), Prince Rupert (Canada), San Diego (United States), San Francisco (United States), Sapporo (Japan), Seattle (United States), Shanghai (China (PRC), Singapore (Singapore), Sydney (Australia), Taipei (China (ROC), Tijuana (Mexico), Vancouver (Canada), Victoria (Canada), Vladivostok (Russia), Yokohama (Japan)

Barkley, R.A., Oceanographic Atlas of the Pacific Ocean (1969)
Cameron, I., Lost Paradise (1987)
Couper, A., Development in the Pacific Islands (1988)
Crump, D.J., ed., Blue Horizons (1980)
Gilbert, John, Charting the Vast Pacific (1971)
Lower, J. Arthur, Ocean of Destiny: A Concise History of the North Pacific, 1500-1978 (1978)
Oliver, D.L., The Pacific Islands, 3nd ed. (1989)
Ridgell, R., Pacific Nations and Territories, 2nd ed. (1988)
Soule, Gardner, The Greatest Depths (1970)
Spate, O.H., Paradise Found and Lost (1988)
Terrell, J.E., Prehistory in the Pacific Islands (1986).
Pacific Voyages: The Encyclopedia of Discovery and Exploration (1973). Doubleday
Based on public domain text from US Naval Oceanographer

External links
EPIC Pacific Ocean Data Collection Viewable on-line collection of observational data
NOAA In-situ Ocean Data Viewer Plot and download ocean observations
NOAA Ocean Surface Current Analyses - Realtime (OSCAR) Near-realtime Pacific Ocean Surface Currents derived from satellite altimeter and scatterometer data
NOAA PMEL Argo profiling floats Realtime Pacific Ocean data
NOAA TAO El Nino data Realtime Pacific Ocean El NIno buoy data

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