Oceania is the name of one of the six parts of the world, or continents. It is located west of America and southeast and east of Asia, in the Pacific Ocean. Most of its area is in the southern hemisphere.
Oceania is made up of about 10,000 islands spread across the Pacific Ocean. It comprises, in all, fourteen countries: eleven are in the smaller islands, in addition to three larger countries, which are New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia (the latter, due to its size, is considered a continent in its own right, in some geographic systems). Oceania is generally divided into four main areas: Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia and Australasia. Its surface is 9,008,458 km 2, constituting the smallest continent on Earth.
Soil and climate
Despite being in a wide expanse of ocean, the thousands of smaller islands in Oceania occupy a relatively small amount of land. Not to mention the three largest countries – Australia (which, with its enormous size, alone represents 85 percent of the area of Oceania), New Zealand and Papua New Guinea – the lands of the other 10,000 small islands represent a small portion of the total.
The islands of Melanesia lie in the center of Oceania, east of Asia. They are made up of four countries: Papua New Guinea (including the Bismark archipelago), Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. The French overseas collectivity of New Caledonia is also part of this region. “Melanesia” means “black islands”, a name given by Europeans because of the dark skin of the inhabitants.
The islands of Micronesia lie to the east of the Philippines and north of Melanesia, above the equator. “Micronesia” means “small islands”. The region spans five countries, from Palau in the west to the Kiribati archipelago in the east. The other three countries are: Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Nauru. The area also comprises the North American territory of Guam, in addition to the Northern Mariana Islands (state associated with the United States).
The islands of Polynesia lie to the east of Micronesia and Melanesia, and cut across the Pacific from the north (Hawaii) to the south (Easter Island). Polynesia means “many islands”. It comprises the following three countries: Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu. Among the other islands are: the archipelago of Hawaii (which is an American state); American Samoa (United States territory); the Cook Islands (associated with New Zealand); Easter Island (which belongs to Chile); the French Polynesia, a French overseas collectivity of islands formed by the Society (including Tahiti and Bora Bora), the couches, the Tuamotu, the Gambier and Southern islands; and Wallis and Futuna (another French territory).
Australasia is the territorial group formed by two countries: New Zealand and Australia (which includes Tasmania, a state of Australia made up of a larger island and a few others, small ones). In some classifications, New Guinea is included in Australasia.
Because it is a partly tropical region, Oceania generally has a warm climate with little temperature changes between seasons. Australia has a dry climate in the interior. New Zealand has a temperate, mild and rainy climate, with snow only in the mountains. On the islands, the main source of moisture is the ocean. Part of the western Pacific receives more than 2000 mm of rain per year. When the humidity is high, violent cyclones, called typhoons there, form over water (the same type of storm is known as a hurricane when it happens in the Atlantic Ocean).
Flora and fauna
The flora of Australia and New Zealand is varied. In northern Australia there are tropical forests, with flowers and palm trees. In the semiarid, pastures and shrubs. In the southeast, the vegetation has a temperate climate and there are many eucalyptus. In mountainous New Zealand, mild and rainy, there are forests and pine trees. These two countries grow vines. In most islands, the plants are from Asia. They spread eastward from Indonesia and New Guinea. Islands near Asia and Australia have more types of plants than distant islands. Shrubs and coconut trees are born next to the sea, and mangroves, in the salt marshes. There are banana trees, breadfruit trees and papaya trees inside. Tropical forests are characteristic of the most mountainous islands.
In Australia exotic animals live, such as koalas, kangaroos and platypuses, and in New Zealand there are deer, rabbits and skunks. Ducks and sea birds, such as rumpers, albatrosses and boobies, live on the islands in general. There are also snakes, lizards and crocodiles on the western islands. Reefs and lagoons are home to many types of fish, as well as lobsters, shrimp, snails, eels, turtles and octopuses. Swordfish and blue marlin hide in the deep waters, as well as porpoises, whales and sharks.
Australia alone has 21.5 million inhabitants, but in the rest of Oceania’s countries and dependencies only 15 million people live. Of these countries, as shown on Countryaah.com, the three most populous are Papua New Guinea (6.5 million), New Zealand (4.3 million) and Fiji (1 million). There are still many inhabitants, the American state of Hawaii (1.3 million) and the Solomon Islands (500 thousand). Micronesia is the region with the fewest inhabitants.
The population of Oceania can be divided between the white majority of European descent and the original peoples, such as Melanesians, Micronesians and Polynesians, according to the region of origin. But within that classification, there are smaller groups of people who speak hundreds of different languages. Many follow their traditional beliefs, but Christianity is the most important religion, especially among the European majority in Australia and New Zealand. There are also some Buddhists and Muslims.
Most of Oceania’s population lives in large cities, such as Sydney, Melbourne, mainly in Australia and New Zealand. On the islands, people live in villages, where they grow food and fish to eat. Outside Australia and New Zealand, the only major city is Honolulu, Hawaii.
|Country||Number of residents per square kilometer||Proportion of residents in the cities (percent)|
|Australia||3 (2018)||85.9 (2017)|
|Fiji||48 (2018)||55.7 (2017)|
|Kiribati||143 (2018)||53.3 (2017)|
|Marshall Islands||325 (2018)||76.6 (2017)|
|Micronesia Federation||161 (2018)||22.6 (2017)|
|Nauru||635 (2018)||100.0 (2017)|
|New Zealand||18 (2018)||86.5 (2017)|
|Palau||39 (2018)||79.4 (2017)|
|Papua New Guinea||19 (2018)||13.1 (2017)|
|Solomon Islands||23 (2018)||23.3 (2017)|
|Samoa||69 (2018)||18.5 (2017)|
|Tonga||143 (2018)||23.2 (2017)|
|Tuvalu||384 (2018)||61.5 (2017)|
|Vanuatu||24 (2018)||25.2 (2017)|
Australia and New Zealand are developed and prosperous countries. Its population works in commerce, in public services, in the food and chemical products, machinery and clothing industries. In New Zealand, agriculture and timber are important. Both countries have many sheep, and are the world’s largest producers of wool. Its vines produce great wines. They also explore natural resources such as coal, gas, oil, iron and precious metals.
The three other regions of Oceania manufacture coconut derivatives, such as copra (dry coconut pulp) and coconut oil. They sell these products to the rest of the world. Fish and other seafood are also important to your economy. In Fiji and Hawaii, sugar cane is grown. In Solomon Islands and Vanuatu there are many logging companies. There is gold and oil in Papua New Guinea, and New Caledonia has nickel mines. Tourism is an important source of resources across Oceania. Visitors will get to know the cultural life of cities and towns, as well as practice adventure sports and enjoy beautiful and cozy beaches.
Papua-speaking peoples have occupied New Guinea for about 50 thousand years, which at that time was attached to Australia. Papuans have been farmers for 9,000 years, growing sugar cane and tubers. This was, therefore, the first region of Oceania to be populated. Then, about 4,000 years ago, the Lapite people also settled in northern New Guinea. It must have come from Southeast Asia. For centuries, they occupied Polynesia and Micronesia. The Polynesian Maori people arrived in New Zealand only in the 9th century. So just over a thousand years ago, almost all of the Pacific islands were populated.
In 1521, the Portuguese explorer Fernão de Magalhães was the first European to reach Oceania. Then came other Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English navigators. Dutchman Abel Tasman spotted the island of Tasmania in 1642 and Englishman James Cook traveled throughout the region in the 18th century. In 1770, he took possession of Australia for the English. In the year Cook died, 1779, the world already knew the main groups of islands in Oceania. From 1840, the English also dominated New Zealand.
In the 19th century, France, Great Britain and the United States took over parts of Oceania. These colonies remained under foreign control until the 20th century. In 1901 Australia became independent. New Zealand in 1947. Many islands gained independence after 1962. But foreign powers still dominate some islands in Oceania.