Oceania is a region in the Pacific Ocean, consisted of about 25,000 islands, many of which are uninhabited.
Oceania is also defined as one of the seven continents, the smallest one in terms of land area.
The name Oceania is a translation of French Océanie, which derives from the Latin word oceanus and the Greek word okeanos, meaning "ocean."
The name was given to the region by a geographer called Conrad Malte-Brun because, unlike with other continents connected by land, it is the ocean that links different nations together into Oceania.
The continent is further divided into four sub-regions: Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Australasia.
The name "Micronesia" derives from Greek mikros, meaning "small" and nesos, meaning "island." Such a name is perfect for this west Pacific sub-region of Oceania which is comprised of over 2,100 small islands.
Some of the islands of Micronesia were first settled several thousand years ago when people migrated from South Asia.
The first European to reach one of the islands, called Marianas, was the great Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (in 1521 AD).
The largest island in Micronesia is Guam, a territory of the United States. The United States captured the island in the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Another Micronesian island is Nauru, the second least-populated country in the world after Vatican City in Italy, with only around 11,000 residents. This small island country is surrounded by an amazing coral reef, which is home to a rich ocean life.
Melanesia is a sub-region which lies south from Micronesia, occupying the southwestern area of the Pacific.
Its name comes from Greek melas which means "black" and nesos, meaning "island." The expression "island of black (people)," referring to the dark skin of the native people, was first used in 1832 by Jules Dumont d'Urville, a French explorer.
There are four independent countries in Melanesia: Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea.
The population living in these countries is very diverse. For example, there are 1319 known languages spoken in Melanesia! Most of these languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea. This country is one of the most rural areas in the world, with only one-fifth of its 8 million people living in cities.
Being one of the earliest inhabited places by humans, Papua New Guinea still has parts which are completely unexplored. This means there are plants, animals, and even people, which still remain undiscovered.
The name Polynesia (in Greek polys means "many" and nesos means "island") was first used in 1756 by Charles de Brosses, a French writer, to describe this sub-region of thousands of islands scattered around the central and southern areas of the Pacific.
This sub-region includes several independent nations as well as overseas territories like French Polynesia (a French overseas territory comprising of about 120 islands, one of which is Tahiti).
While the people of Polynesia share some traits, they are divided into two different cultural groups: East and West Polynesia.
The West Polynesians, including the people of Tuvalu (an island country north of Fiji) and Samoa (an island group east-northeast of Fiji), have had well-developed institutions for a long time.
The East Polynesian cultural group is comprised of smaller islands such as Rapa Nui (an island of Chile). Rapa Nui is also known as Easter Island (because it was encountered by Dutch explorers on Easter Day). It is famous for its 887 enormous statues of human figures, built by the native people between 1250 and 1500.
Australasia is a sub-region which includes Australia, New Zealand and several neighboring islands in the south Pacific.
The French writer Charles de Brosses also coined this terms, which derives from the Latin australis, meaning "southern," to describe a place "southern from Asia."
In the early 20th century, this name was used for the combined Australia and New Zealand sports team, when these two countries competed together at the Olympic Games in 1908 and 1912.
Australia has the largest land area and population in Oceania. Most of the animals in Australia, such as kangaroos and koalas, are found nowhere else in the world because they have been isolated by the ocean for millions of years.
The large island of New Zealand, which lies some 930 miles (1,500 km) southeast of Australia, is known for its sheep industry. There are about 11 sheep for every person in New Zealand, meaning 44 million of them!
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