Oceania is the collective name for the islands in the Pacific Ocean between
the Americas in the east and the Philippines and Australia in the west. The
islands are mostly of volcanic origin or coral islands or atolls. A distinction
is made between three metropolitan areas of Oceania according to the ethnic
characteristics of their inhabitants: Melanesia, Micronesia and
Polynesia. Tourism is an important source of income for the mostly economically
weakly developed countries.
In the huge area of around 70 million km², which stretches 12,500 km from
the Palau Islands to Easter Island and 7,500 km from the Midway Islands to New
Zealand, are tens of thousands of islands, of which only the 7,500 larger ones
have their own names have (Photo 1).
The islands of the Indonesian archipelago, the Hawaiian and Galapagos Islands
are generally not counted among Oceania.
The total land area of all islands covers 1.3 million km². Most of the
islands are volcanic islands. Many of the islands of volcanic origin rising
steeply from the ocean are protected by coral fringing reefs.
In addition, there are numerous coral islands and atolls built up from the lime
of dead marine organisms. Ring-shaped coral banks surround a lagoon near the
The majority of these islands protrude only a few meters from the sea. They are
therefore often unsuitable for settlement, but have “dream beaches” made of
snow-white coral lime. Important exceptions are New Guinea and the two main
islands of New Zealand.
Tropical and maritime climate prevails in Oceania, which is further tempered
by cooling sea breezes. The trade winds coming from the north and south-east
bring precipitation all year round. Under these conditions, the islands are
mostly covered with lush vegetation, with the coconut palm being the undisputed
leader among crops.
Only about 2100 of the islands are inhabited. 13.3 million people live on
The island world is divided into three large island groups according to the
ethnicity of the peoples native to the islands (Fig. 1):
- Melanesia ("Black Islands") were named after their inhabitants. Melanesia
includes the islands that extend in an arc from the northeastern coast of New
Guinea via the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the Fiji archipelago.
- To Micronesia ( "small islands") are u. a. the Mariana Islands, the Caroline
Islands, the Marshall Islands and Nauru and Kiribati. In the deep-sea trench of
the same name in the Mariana Islands, the greatest depth to date was measured at
- Polynesia ("Many islands") includes the countless islands within a triangle with
the corner points of Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand. Within the triangle
u. a. Samoa, Tonga and Tahiti.
The countries of Oceania are economically underdeveloped. According to
Countryaah, the only exceptions
are the larger and western states of New Zealand and Australia. Agriculture and fishing
are of greater importance. Only a few countries have their own
industry, which then mostly only processes fish and agricultural products. There
are mineral resources on a few islands, e.g. B. on Kiribati and Nauru phosphate
deposits, which are an important source of foreign exchange for the
countries. In most countries, only tourism is really important.
The natural conditions of most islands are just calling for tourists: lots of
sun, wide white beaches, crystal clear water, tranquility and exotic cultures
with friendly people.
Tourism is therefore the main source of income for these countries. However, the
expansion of this economic sector is often hampered by a lack of infrastructure
and excessive stress on the sensitive environment from tourism.
Almost nothing has survived from the early history of this area. However, it
is believed that around 10000 BC BC the first and a few millennia later another
migration of peoples from Asia to the area of Oceania. It has also not yet
been finally clarified whether the inhabitants of Oceania have made it to the
west coast of South America and whether they have had any contact with the
The first European to discover the island world was the Portuguese NUNEZ DE
BALBO (1475-1519) in 1513. He gave her the name South Pacific.
JAMES COOK (1728–1779) deserves special mention among the seafarers who
subsequently systematically opened up Oceania.
In 1828 the Netherlands became the first European country to claim
sovereignty in Oceania. From 1842, France also declared its protectorate, a
so-called "patronage" of colonial character, over a number of islands. This was
the beginning of the colonial age in this part of the world. Colonization
resulted in the demise of most of the traditional kingdoms on the islands. The
only exception was the Kingdom of Tonga, over which only a British protectorate
During the Second World War, Oceania was the theater of war. Japan in
particular conquered many of the islands. After Japan's defeat, a number of
islands were subsequently used by the USA and France as test areas for nuclear
weapons, making them uninhabitable for a long time.
Decolonization began in 1962 when Western Samoa gained independence. He was
followed in 1968 by Nauru, in 1970 Fiji, in 1975 Papua New Guinea, in 1978 the
Solomon Islands and Tuvalu and in 1979 Kiribati into state independence.
At the end of the 20th century, 1990, the United Nations trust over the
Marshall Islands, Micronesia and the Mariana Islands, with the exception of
Micronesia was probably populated from eastern Melanesia for approx. 3000
years ago. The Portuguese Diego da Rocha discovered two of the islands in 1527.
The islands were named the Carolines after King Charles 2 of Spain in 1686.
Spain took control of the islands in 1886 and sold them to Germany in 1899.
Japan took over the islands in 1914; they were captured by US forces in 1944-45.
In 1947, the islands became a United Nations territory administered by the
United States. The Carolines gained autonomy under the name Micronesia
Federation in 1979.
On November 3, 1986, the islands became independent and became a sovereign
state with an agreement on free association with the United States (Compact of
Free Association); a revised agreement came into force in 2003 and will be valid