You might have heard the name before, but just what is Oceania exactly? Most consider Oceania to be a continent that includes the following countries: Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Want to learn more? Here is the lowdown on Oceania.
What Is Oceania?
The term “Oceania” was first coined in 1812 by Conrad Malte-Brun. Originally, it was used to describe the territory that stretched from the Strait of Malacca near Indonesia to the American coast.
Today, Oceania is typically divided into four subregions: Australasia, Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia. The area extends to Sumatra, Rupa Nui Island, the Hawaiian Islands, Macquarie Island, and Bonin Island.
“Oceania” is also another name for the Australasian ecozone or the Pacific ecozone. It is a term used by the International Olympic Committee, the UN, and several atlases to describe the area that includes Australia and several other Pacific nations, including Papua New Guinea. In a broad definition, Oceania refers to the region between the Americas and Asia.
What Countries Are In Oceania?
Countries that are included in the Oceania region are the following:
- Marshall Islands
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- Solomon Islands
Australia is the biggest nation in Oceania. The other two dominant landmasses in the region include New Zealand and Papua New Guinea (on the island of New Guinea). The region is made up of thousands of islands. The islands are separated into three island groups: continental islands, low islands, and high islands.
At one point in time, the continental islands were all connected to continents until the sea level changed and tectonic activity isolated them. The low islands are also referred to as coral islands. In some cases, coral islands barely reach above sea level, which is why they are referred to as “low islands.” They are often irregularly ring-shaped and very small. They form an atoll, which often surrounds a lagoon.
High islands are also referred to as volcanic islands. They are created by volcanic eruptions that build up over time. The Melanesia area contains a lot of high islands because it is part of the “Ring of Fire,” an area where there are a lot of volcanoes around the boundary of the Pacific Ocean.
Is Oceania a Continent?
When it comes to determining whether or not Oceania is a continent, there are a few things that need to be considered. First, we need to understand that there isn’t a consistent definition of what a continent is.
For a long time, Australia was traditionally considered the world’s 7th continent in addition to also being a country. But increasingly, “Oceania” has gained prominence as a more fitting name for the continent, as the term seems to better encompass New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the many other islands in the Pacific.
That said, many people still use the term “Australia” in place of “Oceania”. Some have even described the continent as “Australia/Oceania”. It is worth noting that both the UN and the International Olympic Committee recognize this area as Oceania. Whether that makes it more legitimate is up to personal preference.
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