An orthographic projection of the Pacific Ocean showing much of Oceania.
Map of Oceania

Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean.[1] Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific (ethnologically divided into the subregions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia[2]) to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago.[3] The term is sometimes used more specifically to denote a continent comprising Australia and proximate islands,[3][4][5][6][7] or biogeographically as a synonym for either the Australasian ecozone (Wallacea and Australasia) or the Pacific ecozone (Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia apart either from New Zealand[8] or from mainland New Guinea[9]).



The term was coined as Océanie ca. 1812 by geographer Conrad Malte-Brun.[3] The word Océanie derives from the Greek word ὠκεανός (ōkeanós), ocean.



An orthographic projection of geopolitical Oceania.
Geopolitical Oceania

Demonym Oceanic; Oceanian
Area 8,536,716 km2 (3,296,044 sq mi)
Population 35,670,000
Time Zones UTC+8 (Australian Western Standard Time) to UTC-6 (Easter Island) (West to East)
Largest Cities Sydney


Oceania was originally conceived as the lands of the Pacific Ocean, stretching from the Straits of Malacca to the coast of the Americas. It comprised four regions: Polynesia, Micronesia, Malaysia (now called the Malay Archipelago), and Melanesia (now called Australasia).[10] Included are parts of three geological continents, Eurasia, Australia, and Zealandia, as well the non-continental volcanic islands of the Philippines, Wallacea, and the open Pacific. It extends to Sumatra in the west, the Bonin Islands in the northwest, the Hawaiian Islands in the northeast, Rapa Nui and Sala y Gómez Island in the east, and Macquarie Island in the south, but excludes Taiwan and the Ryukyu, Japanese, and Aleutian Islands of the margins of Asia.[11][12]

The states that occupy Oceania that are not included in geopolitical Oceania are Indonesia, Malaysia (through Malaysian Borneo), Brunei, the Philippines, and East Timor. The islands of the geographic extremes are politically integral parts of Japan (Bonin), the United States (Hawaii), and Chile (Easter Island). A smaller geographic definition also exists, which excludes the land on the Sunda Plate, but includes Indonesian New Guinea as part of the Australian continent.


Biogeographically, Oceania is used as a synonym for either the Australasian ecozone (Wallacea and Australasia) or the Pacific ecozone (Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia apart either from New Zealand[8] or from mainland New Guinea[9]).


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, New Guinea, Melanesia apart from Fiji, and Australia constitute the separate Australasia ecozone. The Malay Archipelago is part of the Indomalaya ecozone. Related to these concepts are Near Oceania, that part of western Island Melanesia which has been inhabited for tens of millennia, and Remote Oceania, which is more recently settled.[13]


Economic zones of the Pacific, outlining Oceania

In the geopolitical conception used by the United Nations, International Olympic Committee, and many atlases, Oceania includes Australia and the nations of the Pacific from Papua New Guinea east, but not the Malay Archipelago or Indonesian New Guinea.[14][15][16]

Other definitions

  • The term is sometimes used more specifically than in the geopolitical conception, to denote a continent comprising Australia and proximate islands.[6][7]
  • New Zealand forms the south-western corner of the Polynesian Triangle. Its indigenous Māori constitute one of the major cultures of Polynesia. It is also, however, considered part of Australasia.[14]
  • The widest definition of Oceania includes the entire region between continental Asia and the Americas, thereby including islands in the Pacific Rim such as the Japanese Archipelago, Taiwan, and the Aleutian islands.[17]

Satellite image of Oceania
Ethno-cultural definition of Oceania



An orthographic projection of geographic Oceania.
Wider Geographic Oceania.
Little of the South Pacific is apparent at this scale, though Hawaii is just visible near the eastern horizon.

Area 10,975,600 km2 (4,237,700 sq mi)
Population 378 million (2010)
Time Zones UTC+7 (Western Indonesian Time) to UTC-6 (Easter Island)
Largest Cities Jakarta

Narrower Geographic Oceania.
Narrower Geographic Oceania.
Island Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia apart from New Zealand)

Area 183,000 km2 (71,000 sq mi)
Population 5.2 million (2008)
Time Zones UTC+9 (Palau) to UTC-6 (Easter Island)
Largest Cities Honolulu
Geographic map of islands of Oceania

The demographic table below shows the subregions and countries of geopolitical Oceania.[14] The countries and territories in this table are categorized according to the scheme for geographic subregions used by the United Nations. The information shown follows sources in cross-referenced articles; where sources differ, provisos have been clearly indicated. These territories and regions are subject to various additional categorisations, of course, depending on the source and purpose of each description.

Name of region, followed by countries
and their flags[18]
Population Population density
(per km²)
Capital ISO 3166-1
 Australia 7,686,850 22,028,000 2.7 Canberra AU
 New Zealand[20] 268,680 4,108,037 14.5 Wellington NZ
External territories of Australia:
 Ashmore and Cartier Islands 199
 Christmas Island[21] 135 1,493 3.5 Flying Fish Cove CX
 Cocos (Keeling) Islands[21] 14 628 45.1 West Island CC
 Coral Sea Islands 10 4
 Heard Island and McDonald Islands 372
 Norfolk Island 35 2,114 53.3 Kingston NF
 Fiji 18,270 856,346 46.9 Suva FJ
 New Caledonia (France) 19,060 240,390 12.6 Nouméa NC
 Papua New Guinea[23] 462,840 5,172,033 11.2 Port Moresby PG
 Solomon Islands 28,450 494,786 17.4 Honiara SB
 Vanuatu 12,200 240,000 19.7 Port Vila VU
 Federated States of Micronesia 702 135,869 193.5 Palikir FM
 Guam (USA) 549 160,796 292.9 Hagåtña GU
 Kiribati 811 96,335 118.8 South Tarawa KI
 Marshall Islands 181 73,630 406.8 Majuro MH
 Nauru 21 12,329 587.1 Yaren (de facto) NR
 Northern Mariana Islands (USA) 477 77,311 162.1 Saipan MP
 Palau 458 19,409 42.4 Melekeok[24] PW
Wake Island Wake Island (USA) 2 12 Wake Island UM
 American Samoa (USA) 199 68,688 345.2 Pago Pago, Fagatogo[25] AS
 Cook Islands (NZ) 240 20,811 86.7 Avarua CK
 Easter Island (Chile) 163.6 3,791 23.1 Hanga Roa CL
 French Polynesia (France) 4,167 257,847 61.9 Papeete PF
 Hawaii (USA) 16,636 1,283,388 72.8 Honolulu US
 Niue (NZ) 260 2,134 8.2 Alofi NU
 Pitcairn Islands (UK) 5 47 10 Adamstown PN
 Samoa 2,944 179,000 63.2 Apia WS
 Tokelau (NZ) 10 1,431 143.1 Nukunonu TK
 Tonga 748 106,137 141.9 Nukuʻalofa TO
 Tuvalu 26 11,146 428.7 Funafuti TV
 Wallis and Futuna (France) 274 15,585 56.9 Mata-Utu WF
Total 8,536,716 35,669,267 4.2
Total minus mainland Australia 849,866 13,641,267 16.1

Map of Nations and territories of Oceania incl Australia and New Zealand


The predominant religion in Oceania is Christianity.[citation needed] Traditional religions are often animist and prevalent among traditional tribes is the belief in evil spirits (masalai in Tok Pisin), which are blamed for "poisoning" people, causing calamity and death. In recent Australian and New Zealand censuses, large proportions of the population say they belong to "No religion" (which includes humanism, atheism, agnosticism, and rationalism). In Tonga, everyday life is heavily influenced by Polynesian traditions and especially by the Christian faith. The Bahá'í House of Worship in Tiapapata, Samoa is one of seven designations administered in the Baha'i faith.


Pacific Games

The Pacific Games (formerly known as the South Pacific Games) is a multi-sport event, much like the Olympics, (albeit on a much smaller scale), with participation exclusively from countries around the Pacific. It is held every four years and began in 1963.

Rugby League

Rugby league is a popular sport throughout Oceania, and is the national sport of Papua New Guinea[26] (the second most populous country in Oceania after Australia) and is very popular in Australia[27] and attracts significant attention across New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.[28]

Australia and New Zealand are two of the most successful sides in the world.[29] Australia has won the Rugby League World Cup a record nine times while New Zealand won their first World Cup in 2008. Australia hosted the second tournament in 1957. Australia and New Zealand jointly hosted it in 1968 and 1977. New Zealand hosted the final for the first time in 1985 - 1988 tournament and Australia hosted the last tournament in 2008.

Rugby Union

Fiji playing the Cook Islands at seven-a-side rugby

Rugby union is one of the region's most prominent sports,[30] and is the national sport of New Zealand,[31] Samoa,[31] Fiji and Tonga.[31] Fiji's sevens team is one of the most successful in the world, as is New Zealand's.

New Zealand and Australia have won the Rugby World Cup a record two times (tied with South Africa who have also won it two times). New Zealand won the inaugural World Cup in 1987. Australia and New Zealand jointly hosted the World Cup in 1987. Australia hosted it in 2003 and New Zealand also hosted it in 2011, which they then went on to win.


Fans' welcome to the Australian team after winning 2007 Cricket World Cup

Cricket is a popular summer sport in Australia and New Zealand. Australia had ruled International cricket as the number one team for more than a decade, and have won four Cricket World Cups and have been runner-up for two times, making them the most successful cricket team. New Zealand is also considered a strong competitor in the sport, with the New Zealand Cricket Team, also called the Black Caps, enjoying success in many competitions. Both Australia and New Zealand are Full members of the ICC. Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea are some of the Associate/Affiliate members of the ICC from Oceania that are governed by ICC East Asia-Pacific. Beach Cricket, a greatly simplified variant of cricket played on a sand beach, is also a popular recreational sport in Australia.

Cricket is culturally a significant sport for summer in Oceania. The Boxing Day Test is very popular in Australia, conducted every year on 26 December at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne.

Australian rules football

Australian rules football is the national sport in Nauru[32] and is the most popular football code in Australia.[33] It is also popular in Papua New Guinea.[34]

Association football (soccer)

The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) is one of six association football confederations[35] under the auspices of FIFA, the international governing body of the sport. The OFC is the only confederation without an automatic qualification to the World Cup Finals. Currently the winner of the OFC qualification tournament must play off against an Asian confederation side to qualify for the World Cup.[36][37]

Currently, Vanuatu is the only country in Oceania to call football (soccer) its national sport.

Oceania has been represented at four World Cup finals tournaments — Australia in 1974, 2006 and 2010, and New Zealand in 1982 and 2010. In 2006, Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation and qualified for the 2010 World cup as an Asian entrant. New Zealand qualified through the Oceania Confederation, winning its playoff against Bahrain. 2010 was the first time two countries from Oceania had qualified at the same time, albeit through different conferences.

See also


  1. ^ For a history of the term, see Douglas & Ballard (2008) Foreign bodies: Oceania and the science of race 1750–1940
  2. ^ "Oceania". 2005. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Columbia University Press.
  3. ^ a b c "Oceania". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
  4. ^ Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings, United Nations Statistics Division. Revised August 28, 2007. Accessed on line October 11, 2007.
  5. ^ The Atlas of Canada. Revised Date Modified: August 17, 2004. Accessed on line January 31, 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Encarta Mexico "Oceanía"". Mx.encarta.msn.com. Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. http://www.webcitation.org/query?id=1257053672622272. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  7. ^ a b Lewis, Martin W.; Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 32. ISBN 0-520-20742-4, ISBN 0-520-20743-2. "Interestingly enough, the answer [from a scholar who sought to calculate the number of continents] conformed almost precisely to the conventional list: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Oceania (Australia plus New Zealand), Africa, and Antarctica." 
  8. ^ a b Udvardy. 1975. A classification of the biogeographical provinces of the world
  9. ^ a b Steadman. 2006. Extinction & biogeography of tropical Pacific birds
  10. ^ D'Urville, Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont; Isabel Ollivier, Antoine de Biran, and Geoffrey Clark. "On the Islands of the Great Ocean". The Journal of Pacific History (Taylor & Francis, Ltd.) 38 (2). http://www.jstor.org/stable/25169637. 
  11. ^ MacKay (1864, 1885) Elements of Modern Geography, p 283
  12. ^ Douglas & Ballard (2008) Foreign bodies: Oceania and the science of race 1750–1940
  13. ^ Ben Finney, The Other One-Third of the Globe, Journal of World History, Vol. 5, No. 2, Fall, 1994.
  14. ^ a b c "United Nations Statistics Division - Countries of Oceania". Millenniumindicators.un.org. http://millenniumindicators.un.org/unsd/methods/m49/m49regin.htm#oceania. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  15. ^ Atlas of Canada Web Master (2004-08-17). "The Atlas of Canada - The World - Continents". Atlas.nrcan.gc.ca. http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/reference/international/world/referencemap_image_view. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  16. ^ Current IOC members.
  17. ^ Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  18. ^ Regions and constituents as per UN categorisations/map except notes 2-3, 6. Depending on definitions, various territories cited below (notes 3, 5-7, 9) may be in one or both of Oceania and Asia or North America.
  19. ^ The use and scope of this term varies. The UN designation for this subregion is "Australia and New Zealand."
  20. ^ New Zealand is often considered part of Polynesia rather than Australasia.
  21. ^ a b Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands are Australian external territories in the Indian Ocean southwest of Indonesia.
  22. ^ Excludes parts of Indonesia, island territories in Southeast Asia (UN region) frequently reckoned in this region.
  23. ^ Papua New Guinea is often considered part of Australasia and Melanesia. It is sometimes included in the Malay Archipelago of Southeast Asia.
  24. ^ On 7 October 2006, government officials moved their offices in the former capital of Koror to Melekeok, located 20 km northeast of Koror on Babelthuap Island.
  25. ^ Fagatogo is the seat of government of American Samoa.
  26. ^ "MSN Groups Closure Notice". Groups.msn.com. 2008-10-23. http://groups.msn.com/PNGKumuls/history.msnw?pgmarket=en-us. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  27. ^ "Football in Australia - Australia's Culture Portal". Cultureandrecreation.gov.au. 2008-03-28. http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/football/. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  28. ^ "Rugby League Football - 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand". Teara.govt.nz. 1908-06-13. http://www.teara.govt.nz/1966/R/RugbyLeagueFootball/RugbyLeagueFootball/en. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  29. ^ Wilson, Andy (2009-11-05). "southern hemisphere sides are a class apart". London: guardian.co.uk. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2009/nov/05/england-rugby-league-australia-new-zealand. Retrieved 2010-06-17. 
  30. ^ "Oceania Rugby Vacations". Real Travel. http://realtravel.com/tag-z3461145-314.html. Retrieved 2009-04-17. [dead link]
  31. ^ a b c "How many national sports are there". WikiAnswers. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_national_sports_are_there. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  32. ^ "Nauru AFL team to play in International Cup". solomonstarnews.com. 2008-04-16. http://solomonstarnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1023&change=100&changeown=101&Itemid=42. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  33. ^ "Australian rules football (sport) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/44079/Australian-rules-football. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  34. ^ "pure AFL ... purely Papua New Guinea". Afl Png. http://www.afl-png.com/aboutus.html. Retrieved 2009-04-17. [dead link]
  35. ^ "FIFA confederations". Fifa.com. http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/federation/confederations/index.html. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  36. ^ FIFA world cup 2010 - Oceania preliminary competition
  37. ^ "FIFA world cup 2010 - qualifying rounds and places available by confederation". Fifa.com. 2009-04-03. http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/tournament/index.html. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 

External links

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