Oceania is the collective name for the vast accumulation of islands and atolls in the central and western parts of the Pacific Ocean. The borders of Oceania are arbitrary. The island of New Guinea is considered to be the western border, Easter Island is the eastern border. As a rule, Oceania does not include Australia, as well as the islands and archipelagos of Southeast Asia, the Far East and North America. In the section of geography, country studies, Oceania is studying an independent discipline - ocean studies.

Oceania is the world's largest cluster of islands located in the southwestern and central parts of the Pacific Ocean, between the subtropical latitudes of the Northern and temperate Southern Hemispheres. When all land is divided into parts of the world, Oceania is usually united with Australia into a single part of the world, Australia and Oceania, although sometimes it stands out as an independent part of the world.

Geographically, Oceania is divided into several regions: Micronesia (in the north-west), Melanesia (in the west), and Polynesia (in the east); New Zealand is sometimes singled out.

The total area of ​​the islands of Oceania, the largest of which is New Guinea, is 1.26 million km² (together with Australia 8.52 million km²), the population is about 10.7 million people. (together with Australia 32.6 million people). Excluding Australia, Oceania in terms of total area and total population is comparable to the African state of Chad.

The islands of Oceania are washed by numerous Pacific seas (Coral Sea, Tasman Sea, Fiji Sea, Koro Sea, Solomon Sea, New Guinea Sea, Philippine Sea) and Indian Oceans (Arafura Sea).

Equator and the international date line pass through Oceania. It is a broken line, most of which runs along the 180 ° meridian.

Sea currents
Across the whole of Oceania, along the equator, are the warm Northern Passat and Southern Passat currents and the Passat countercurrent. In the southwestern part of Oceania, a warm East Australian Current passes. Characteristic of Oceania is the absence of cold sea currents (with the exception of the Pacific Ocean region southeast of New Zealand), which largely determines the climate of this region.



New Zealand
Papua New Guinea
Federated States of Micronesia
Marshall Islands
Solomon islands

Other territories
American Samoa
Cook Islands
New Caledonia
Norfolk Island
Easter Island
Pitcairn Islands
Northern Mariana Islands
Wallis and Futuna
French Polynesia

Coconut islands


Concept definition

Oceania in the broadest sense of the term includes all the islands between Asia and America. In most cases, however, the Japanese Islands, the Ryukyu Archipelago, the Kuril Islands and the Aleutian Islands are excluded from this list, and the most common interpretation of the term also excludes Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan, since the peoples and cultures of these islands are historically closely connected with continental Asia. Even in this limited sense, there are over 10,000 islands in Oceania, including New Guinea and New Zealand. Oceania in this sense of the term is traditionally divided into 4 regions - Australasia (Australia and New Zealand), Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.


Geographical position

Australia is located entirely in the Southern and Eastern Hemispheres. Almost in the middle of it crosses the Southern Tropic. Australia is a separate continent, remote from other continents. This is what determined the uniqueness of its nature. The main trade routes pass away from the mainland, which makes it difficult to develop economic ties.

The area of ​​Australia is 7.6 million km². The shores of the mainland are slightly indented. In the north, the Gulf of Carpentaria protrudes into the land, in the south - the Great Australian Gulf. The Cape York Peninsula forms the northern edge of the mainland. Off the southeastern coast is the island of Tasmania, off the northeastern coast is one of the largest islands in Oceania - the island of New Guinea, separated from Australia by the Torres Strait.

The island groups and archipelagos of the western and central Pacific Ocean are united in a geographical area under the general name of Oceania. The land area of ​​the island part of Oceania, which includes New Guinea and New Zealand, but not Australia, is 822,800 km². Historically, the division of all the islands into four ethnographic and geographical regions: Polynesia (Tonga, Samoa, Cook, Hawaiian, Easter Island, etc.), Melanesia (New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands, etc.), Micronesia (Marshall, Mariana Islands, etc.), New Zealand. Most of the islands of Oceania are concentrated in the equatorial belt between 10 ° S. sh. and 20° N. sh.

A prominent Russian scientist Nikolai Miklukho-Maclay made a great contribution to the study of the nature and population of Oceania. He studied the life of the peoples of the island of New Guinea, left descriptions of the nature of coastal areas. His scientific research was connected with his conviction of the need to protect the backward and oppressed peoples. At the very end of the XIX century. lived and worked in the Hawaiian Islands, Nikolai Konstantinovich Sudzilovsky, a native of the Mogilev province, was the president of the Senate.



In 1804, the French geographer Conrad Malte-Brun (1775-1826), in his treatise Géographie mathématique, physique et politique published with Edme Mentelle, proposed the term "Oceanic" («Océanique» in French) to bring together both the Australasia and Polynesia[10] by Charles de Brosses. Malte-Brun resumed the name of «Terres océaniques» also in 1810 and 1812.

The term "Oceania" («Océanie» in French) was coined by the cartographer Adrien-Hubert Brué for the map he published in 1814, and of which the full title is «Océanie, ou cinquième partie du monde, comprenant l'archipel d' Asie, l'Australasie et la Polynésie (ou le continent de la Nouvelle-Hollande et les îles du Grand Océan)».

Ultimately "Oceania" derives from ocean, a term that Greek mythology connected to that of the titan of the same name (in Greek ᾿Ωκεανός/Okeanós), son of Uranus (the sky) and Gea (the earth), considered in the Greek world as a marine deity.



An already fully inhabited Oceania

The indigenous populations of Oceania settled in very ancient times in places that were reached by Europeans only from the sixteenth century onwards: exploiting the fact that there was a land link between Asia and Oceania, the first modern men (Homo sapiens) they arrived in New Guinea and Australia at least 60,000 years ago, i.e. before the arrival of H. sapiens in Europe.

The populations of Australia and those of New Guinea would later separate between 25,000 and 40,000 years ago, thus before the Sahul shelf submerged 10,000 years ago. Neighboring Oceania, which did not require complex navigation, was thus fully populated.

In much more recent times, i.e. between 1500 B.C. and the beginning of the common era, the civilization of Lapita, encouraged by the by now consolidated knowledge of navigation, was the protagonist of the population of the other islands of the Pacific: thousands of people gradually moved from one island to another. This "expansion" therefore concerned distant Oceania, starting initially from Formosa where there are aboriginal peoples who speak the Formosan languages, progenitor of the Austronesian languages which gave birth to the Oceanic languages of the Lapita civilization.

Finally, from central Polynesia, with its diffusion center starting from Fiji, during the first millennium of the new era, while the Roman Empire ended in Europe and the Middle Ages began, the population reached the most remote groups of islands, such as Hawaii, New Zealand or Easter Island.


The first European explorers

The first discoveries were accidental with one main target, the spice islands. Portuguese navigators, between 1512 and 1526, reached the Moluccas (with António de Abreu and Francisco Serrão in 1512), Timor, the Aru Islands (Martim Afonso de Melo Coutinho), the Tanimbar Islands, some of the Caroline Islands (with Gomes de Sequeira in 1525) and New Guinea (with Jorge de Menezes in 1526). In 1519 a Spanish expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan descended the east coast of South America, found and passed through the strait that bears his name, and on November 28, 1520 entered the ocean which he dubbed the "Pacific". The three remaining ships, led by Magellan and his captains Duarte Barbosa and João Serrão, then sailed north catching the trade winds that carried them across the Pacific to the Mariana Islands and the Philippines, where Magellan was killed. One surviving vessel led by Juan Sebastián Elcano returned west across the Indian Ocean and the other went north in hopes of finding the westerly winds and reaching Mexico. Failing to find the right winds, she was forced to return to the East Indies. The Magellan-Elcano expedition made the first circumnavigation of the world and reached the Philippines, the Mariana Islands and other islands of Oceania.

From 1527 to 1595, often with Manila galleons, several other large Spanish expeditions crossed the Pacific Ocean, resulting in arrivals at the Marshall Islands and Palau in the North Pacific, as well as Ellice Islands, the Marquesas Islands, the Solomon Islands archipelago , the Cook Islands and the Admiralty Islands in the South Pacific.

In search of Terra Australis, Spanish explorations in the 17th century, such as the expedition led by Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, sailed to the Pitcairn and Vanuatu archipelagos and navigated the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, named by the navigator Luís Vaz de Torres. Willem Janszoon, made the first fully documented European landing in Australia (1606), at Cape York Peninsula. Abel Tasman circumnavigated and landed parts of the Australian mainland coast and discovered Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania), New Zealand in 1642 and Fiji. He was the first known European explorer to reach these islands.


From the eighteenth century to the present day

In 1616, passing by Cape Horn, the Dutchman Jacob Le Maire discovered part of Tonga (Niua Islands), the Hoorn Islands and the Schouten Islands. Soon it was also the United Kingdom to take an interest in the area from a scientific point of view. Between 1768 and 1779 Captain James Cook made three voyages, in which he explored the eastern coast of Australia, ascertaining that it was not part of the imaginary southern continent already sought by the Spaniards: the same for New Zealand which circumnavigated entirely, while it was the first to land in the Hawaiian Islands and to travel the Torres Strait, realizing that New Guinea and Australia were not united as everyone thought (but the strait had already been crossed unknowingly by the Spaniard Luis Váez de Torres, to whom it was named in following the rediscovery of his diaries, within the wave of Spanish explorations of the sixteenth century). On his second voyage Cook went as far as very cold latitudes, putting an end to the myth of the southern continent: if it existed, it was in areas so close to the south pole as to be uninhabitable (Antarctica was later discovered in 1820); his explorations were certainly the most important in the history of Oceania; however he was not the first of the great navigators who "roamed" the Pacific in the eighteenth century: in 1699 William Dampier had followed in the footsteps of Tasman in Australia and discovered New Ireland and New Britain; from 1766 to 1769 Louis Antoine de Bougainville had been the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the globe; in 1766 Samuel Wallis had rediscovered the Tuamotu (already visited by the Portuguese Pedro Fernandes de Queirós in the sixteenth century), including the splendid Tahiti and the Pitcairns; and in 1785 Jean-François de La Pérouse had set out with the intention of emulating his predecessors, especially by mapping the coasts of the northern Pacific. The last big geographical doubts were clarified by Matthew Flinders who in 1801 defined once and for all the coasts of Australia and ascertained that Tasmania was an island, which not even Cook had understood.

In the meantime, the Enlightenment myth of the "good savage" (created by Bougainville, still continues today) who lived in harmony with nature began to spread: on the other hand, these explorations had been wanted in the context of the eighteenth-century European Enlightenment culture, according to which it was the task of the evolved man to civilize the world, an ideal which would then remain rooted in society throughout the colonial era, up to the 20th century; the first example of this feeling is the famous novel by Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, written in those years. The colonization of these areas was initiated by the United Kingdom in Australia, but in a very unusual way: so little was the interest in this continent, which by now the Netherlands had given up, that it was used as a penal colony; in 1788 the first load of convicts landed at Botany Bay (where Sydney stands today). Shortly after, however, other people also arrived, such as in New Zealand (from 1814) with the intention of founding large farms: these tenacious men during the nineteenth century will first come to terms (Treaty of Waitangi, 1840), then they will defeat the Māori in New Zealand and will drive the Aboriginal people into the most hostile areas of Australia, which they will explore far and wide; memorable the feat of Robert O'Hara Burke and William John Wills who in 1860 managed to reach the north coast from Melbourne, through deserts and forests. These two great colonies will begin the long process of emancipation from the United Kingdom from their transformation into Dominion, Australia in 1901 and New Zealand in 1907, to full independence after the Second World War.

As for the rest of Oceania, it will be frequented by missionaries, mercenaries and traders from the beginning of the 19th century, but the first colonies will be the French ones: French Polynesia and New Caledonia from 1842, to which is added the archipelago of Wallis and Futuna in 1853. The other territories are quickly occupied by Germany (Micronesia and New Guinea) and the United Kingdom (all other islands) from 1882 onwards, until the First World War, when Germany loses its territories to the United Kingdom and to the United States of America, which in the end will be the only ones to maintain a certain influence on the Pacific due to their proximity (while France and the United Kingdom will grant independence to most of the islands, between the sixties and the nineties century) especially in Micronesia where dangerous nuclear tests were carried out for decades during the Cold War (Bikini atoll) of which the local population has yet to stem the effects. However, it is important to remember that even today these three states maintain a certain number of colonies in Oceania.



Geologically, Oceania extends over two plates: the Australian plate and the Pacific plate.

The Australian Plate includes the Australian mainland and nearby islands such as Tasmania, New Guinea, New Caledonia, the Aru Islands, the Raja Ampat Islands and most of New Zealand: the North Island and the northern part of the South Island. The Australian plate is also called Sahul.

When sea levels were lowest, during the Pleistocene, including the last glacial maximum (about 18,000 years BC), the territories of the Australian Plate formed a single landmass. Subsequently, with the rise of the sea level, the lower territories were submerged.

The Pacific Plate includes almost all of distant Oceania and the southern part of New Zealand's South Island; inside the plate is one of the most important hot spots on the planet, which gave rise to the archipelago of Hawaii. The Pacific plate is the only one of the planet's twelve major plates to be made up almost entirely of oceanic crust: small flaps of continental crust are only those of New Zealand and California.




Unlike all other continents, the highest mountain ranges of Oceania are not found on the continental mainland, i.e. in Australia, but on the three major islands: New Guinea, North Island and South Island. The highest altitudes are reached in New Guinea, with the Sudirman Mountains (or Dugunduguoo) and the Bismarck Mountains: the continent's highest peak is Puncak Jaya, or Carsztens Pyramid, (4 884 m) in the Sudirman Mountains; the second Oceanian peak is Mount Wilhelm (4 509 m), which rises instead in the Bismarck Mountains. Due to the presence of the Puncak Jaya, New Guinea is, of all the islands in the world, the one that has the highest mountain.

In terms of altitude, then come the New Zealand Alps, which run through the two major islands of the homonymous archipelago. The highest peak of this range is Mount Cook (or Aoraki) (3 764 m), in the South Island.

Lower than the mountains of New Guinea and New Zealand are the Australian Alps, which line the east coast of Australia; their highest peak is Mount Kosciuszko (or Tar Gan Gil) (2228 m), in New South Wales. Even isolated mountains and massifs present in the smaller islands can reach great heights; for example, the Mauna Kea volcano on the Island of Hawaii reaches 4,205 meters.

Depending on the criteria adopted, the "Seven Peaks" of mountaineering include either Puncak Jaya (the highest peak on the continent), or Mount Kosciuszko (the highest peak on the continental mainland); the two different criteria depend on the fact that Oceania is the only continent to have the highest peak placed on an island and not on the mainland.



Oceania is the second continent, after the American one, for wealth of water resources in relation to the population. The most important rivers are located in Australia; the Darling River and the Murray River, merging, form a single river system which, at 3,750 km, is the longest in all of Oceania; these two rivers are also notable for the vastness of their combined basin, which occupies an area of 1 061 469 km².

The main lake is Lake Eyre, also located in Australia.



The US National Geographic Society website proposes a classification of the islands that make up Oceania based on geological differences. According to this principle, continental, high and low islands are distinguished. The continental islands in this case include Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea, which were part of a larger continental mass before tectonic changes and rising sea levels separated them. Continental islands are characterized by a variety of relief, in all three cases including mountain ranges of folded origin, resulting from the extrusion of rocks upward during the collision of lithospheric plates. The ongoing tectonic activity in New Zealand and New Guinea is reflected in the presence of active volcanoes. At the same time, the dominant processes that formed the continental islands differed significantly, which led to significant differences in the relief. Such a distinctive feature for Australia is Outback - a vast region of deserts and semi-deserts on the plains in its central part; for New Zealand - glaciers, the presence of which is due to high altitudes and prevailing wet and cold winds; and for New Guinea, where a significant altitude is combined with proximity to the equator and humid tropical winds, high-mountain evergreen tropical forests.

The high, or volcanic, islands of Oceania arose as a result of the eruptions of underwater volcanoes, in which the erupted magma was cooled by ocean water and solidified. Such activity, which continues for a long time, leads to the formation of islands, in the center of which is a mountain with steep slopes, from which ridges and gorges diverge towards the coastline. A significant concentration of high islands is characteristic of Melanesia in that part of it that coincides with the contour of the Pacific Ring of Fire - a chain of underwater volcanoes - at the junction of the Pacific and Australian plates. The important volcanoes of Melanesia are Tomaniwi (Fiji), Lamington (New Guinea) and Yasur (Vanuatu).

The basis of low, or coral, islands is the thickness of coral skeletons. Due to their origin, these islands often barely rise above sea level and often take the form of a discontinuous semicircular chain of small islets (atolls) around a central lagoon. This form occurs when a coral reef forms around an uplift of volcanic land, and then this land is eroded, leaving a depression in its place, which is filled with sea water. A typical example is the Kwajalein Atoll (Marshall Islands), consisting of 97 islets of different sizes, surrounding one of the world's largest lagoons; the total area of ​​their land and the inner lagoon is 2173 km². Low islands dominate Micronesia and Polynesia.

There are several mountain ranges in Australia, the most famous of which is the Great Dividing Range, but there are also such ranges as the Kimberley Mountains (the highest point of Ord (937 m)) and the Berkeley Plateau. The highest point on the mainland is Mount Wilhelm in Papua New Guinea.


The largest mountains in Oceania
Mount Wilhelm (4509 m)
Mount Mauna Kea (4205 m)
Mauna Loa volcano (4169 m)
Mount Cook (3764 m)
volcano Ruapehu (2797 m)
Ulawun volcano (2300 m)
Mount Kosciuszko (2228 m)
Mount Liebig (1440 m)
Mount Meharri (1251 m)
Mount Bluff Knoll (1096 m)
Mount Ord (937 m)

The fame of Oceania gives the deepest mark of the world - the Mariana Trench (10,994 m). In addition to it, there are two other equally deep trenches on the territory. These are the Tonga Trench (10,882 m) and the Kermadec Trench (10,047 m). On land, the Eyre North salt lake, up to −16 meters deep, became a deep mark.



The climate on different islands and in the states is diverse. In central Australia, precipitation is less than 250 mm per year, and the prevailing temperatures are + 7 ° С to + 47 ° С. In the northern part of Australia (city of Darwin), temperatures from +10°С to +41°С and precipitation from 2000 mm and more prevail. The highest precipitation rate is located in the north of Papua New Guinea and reaches more than 3000 mm, when temperatures here prevail from +18 to +24°C.


Flora and fauna

Many plants and animals of Oceania come from South Asia, from where they came to the modern islands during the last ice age, when the lower level of the oceans made it possible to cross over land. Plant seeds were also carried by wind, sea currents and birds. After the sea level rose again, organisms continued to evolve on individual islands or groups of islands, forming endemic species far from a common ancestor. The number of endemic species in Australia and Oceania is much higher than in other parts of the world. Important flowering plants in Australia and Oceania include jacaranda, hibiscus, pohutukawa, kowhai (endemic species of Sophora), breadfruit, eucalyptus, and banyan tree.

In the animal world of Oceania, birds occupy a central place due to their ability to fly between islands; in total, there are over 110 endemic bird species in Oceania. This number also includes the relic flightless birds of Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand - cassowaries, emu, kiwi, ueka shepherd and takahe. Among other animals, lizards and bats are widely represented (in particular, more than 100 species of fruit bats are known in Oceania). Australia and Oceania are the only region of the world where representatives of monotremes, egg-laying mammals, have survived. The surviving species of this order (four species of echidnas and one species of platypus) live only in Australia and New Guinea. Other wild mammals are mostly marsupials; of all known modern marsupial species in the world, 70% are in Oceania, the rest are concentrated in South America. Due to the absence of large predators, the marsupials of Oceania grow to sizes inaccessible to their American relatives - for example, a large red kangaroo reaches a height of 2 m and weighs up to 100 kg.

Oceania lies in three different marine ecoregions - Temperate Australasian (the seas washing the southern part of Australia and New Zealand), Central Indo-Pacific (the northern coast of Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga) and Eastern Indo-Pacific (the central region of the Pacific Ocean from the Marshall Islands to central and southeastern Polynesia). The temperate Australasian region is characterized by cold, nutrient-rich waters that support large populations of fish and seabirds ((several species of albatrosses and petrels, as well as the Australian gannet and crested penguin). The other two regions are home to corals that formed in the Central Indo-Pacific region giant formations - the Great Barrier Reef and the Barrier Reef of New Caledonia Barrier reefs are the basis for high biodiversity.Thus, the Great Barrier Reef is home to about 30 species of whales and dolphins, 6 species of sea turtles, 215 species of birds and more than 1500 species of fish, and Barrier Reef of New Caledonia - at least 1000 species of fish in addition to 600 species of sponges, 5500 species of molluscs and 5000 species of crustaceans.


Peoples and population density

All of Western and Eastern Australia is occupied by Anglo-Australians who settled during the colonization of the Australian continent. The entire island of New Guinea, attached to Oceania, is occupied by the Papuan peoples (including those on the Solomon Islands and the Santa Cruz Islands). Central Australia is inhabited by Indigenous Aboriginal Australians, for whom reservations have been established. New Zealand is inhabited by the Anglo-New Zealanders, as well as on such islands as Chatham and others.

Colonial lands (for example, the island of New Caledonia) are occupied by the French, and the Pitcairn Islands, in the south of the world, are inhabited by the British mixed with indigenous tribes.


Population density

Most of the Australian population lives in the east and southwest of the continent, where the population density ranges from 1 to 10 people / km². Near the largest cities, the density varies from 10 to 50 people/km². On the contrary, in Papua New Guinea, despite the mountainous terrain, there is a population density of 10-50 people per square kilometer. The capital of the state, Port Moresby, does not have a large population and does not stand out from the general background. The situation is similar in New Zealand, where the largest city is not the capital Wellington, but Auckland. Of the island states of Oceania, the most densely populated is Fiji (10 - 40 people / km²).


Natural resources

Most of the islands in Oceania are poor in minerals. The exceptions are New Caledonia, the world's fifth largest producer of nickel, whose reserves account for about 10% of the world's reserves of this metal, and Fiji, in whose exports gold occupies second place after cane sugar. New Guinea has significant mineral resources. The mining industry is one of Papua New Guinea's main employers, exporting gold, copper and oil. In the territorial waters of the country, mining has begun from a depth of more than a mile below the seabed. There are also a number of oil and gas fields around Australia and New Zealand, but these countries consume more oil than they produce themselves.

On the continental islands of Oceania (including Australia), there are significant resources for the logging and woodworking industries. For example, in Australia, these areas of the economy in 2008 brought in revenue of $1.7 billion. In this country, the main products are sawn wood, wood panels and paper. Logging also plays an important role in the economy of Papua New Guinea, which exports rosewood, eucalyptus and pine wood.