Determining the boundaries between the continents of Earth is generally a matter of geographical convention. Several slightly different conventions are in use. The number of continents is most commonly considered seven (in English-speaking countries) but may range as low as four when Afro-Eurasia and the Americas are both considered a single continent. An island can be considered to be associated with a given continent by either lying on the continent's adjacent continental shelf (e.g. Singapore, the British Isles) or being a part of a microcontinent on the same principal tectonic plate (e.g. Madagascar and Seychelles). An island can also be entirely oceanic while still being associated with a continent by geology (e.g. Bermuda, the Australian Indian Ocean Territories) or by common geopolitical convention (e.g. Ascension Island, the South Sandwich Islands). Another example is the grouping into Oceania of the Pacific Islands with Australia and Zealandia.
There are three overland boundaries subject to definition:
- between Africa and Asia (dividing Afro-Eurasia into Africa and Eurasia): at the Isthmus of Suez;
- between Asia and Europe (dividing Eurasia): along the Turkish Straits, the Caucasus, and the Urals and the Ural River (historically also north of the Caucasus, along the Kuma–Manych Depression or along the Don River);
- between North America and South America (dividing the Americas): at some point on the Isthmus of Panama, with the most common demarcation in atlases and other sources following the Darién Mountains watershed that divides along the Colombia–Panama border where the isthmus meets the South American continent (see Darién Gap).
While today the isthmus between Asia and Africa is navigable via the Suez Canal, and that between North and South America via the Panama Canal, these artificial channels are not generally accepted as continent-defining boundaries in themselves. The Suez Canal happens to traverse the isthmus between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, dividing Africa and Asia. The continental boundaries are considered to be within the very narrow land connections joining the continents.
The remaining boundaries concern the association of islands and archipelagos with specific continents, notably:
- the delineation between Africa, Asia, and Europe in the Mediterranean Sea;
- the delineation between Asia and Europe in the Arctic Ocean;
- the delineation between Europe and North America in the North Atlantic Ocean;
- the delineation between North and South America in the Caribbean Sea;
- the delineation of Antarctica from Africa, Australia, and South America in the Indian, South Pacific, and South Atlantic oceans, respectively (referred to collectively by some geographers as the Southern Ocean or the Antarctic Ocean);
- the delineation of Asia from Australia in the Ceram Sea, Arafura Sea, Timor Sea, Halmahera Sea, and the Wallacean region of the Malay Archipelago
- the delineation of Asia from North America in the North Pacific Ocean.
Africa and AsiaEdit
Historically in Greco-Roman geography, "Africa" meant Ancient Libya, and its eastern extent was taken to be around Marmarica, at the Catabathmus Magnus, placing Egypt in Asia entirely. The idea of Egypt being an "African" country seems to develop in around the mid-19th century; the term Africa was classically reserved for what is now known as the Maghreb, to the explicit exclusion of Egypt, but with the exploration of Africa, the shape of the African landmass (and Egypt's "natural" inclusion in that landmass) became apparent. In 1806, William George Browne still titled his travelogue Travels in Africa, Egypt, and Syria. Similarly, James Bruce in 1835 published Travels through part of Africa, Syria, Egypt, and Arabia. On the other hand, as early as 1670 John Ogilby under the title Africa published "an accurate Description of the Regions of Egypt, Barbary, Libya, and Billedulgerid, the Land of Negroes, Guinea, Æthiopia, and the Abyssines, with all the adjacent Islands, either in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Southern, or Oriental Seas, belonging thereunto".
The usual line taken to divide Africa from Asia today is at the Isthmus of Suez, the narrowest gap between the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Suez, the route today followed by the Suez Canal. This makes the Sinai Peninsula geographically Asian, and Egypt a transcontinental country. Less than 2% of Egyptian population live on the Sinai Peninsula, and hence Egypt, even though technically transcontinental, is usually considered an African country entirely and not partly Asian. But when discussing the geopolitical region of the Middle East and North Africa, Egypt is usually grouped with the Western Asian countries as part of the Middle East, while Egypt's western neighbor Libya is grouped with the remaining North African countries as the Maghreb. Both are members of the African Union.
The Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles are island countries in the Indian Ocean which are nominally associated with Africa. The Socotra Archipelago may be considered African as it lies on its continental shelf, but is politically a part of Yemen, an Asian country.
Africa and EuropeEdit
The Portuguese Atlantic island possession of the Azores is 1,368 km (850 mi) from Europe and 1,507 km (936 mi) from Africa, and is sometimes grouped with Europe. By contrast, the Canary Islands and the Madeira islands (the latter of which also include the Desertas Islands and the Savage Islands) off the Atlantic coast of Morocco are much closer to, and usually grouped with, Africa; the Canary Islands are only 100 km (62 mi) from the African mainland at their closest point but 945 km (587 mi) from the European mainland, while Madeira is 520 km (320 mi) from the African mainland and 1,000 km (620 mi) from the European mainland. In his 1895 book Africa: Volume 2, author Augustus Henry Keane remarked, "In the North Atlantic there are four insular groups — Madeira, the Canaries, Cape Verde and Azores — which are usually assigned to Africa, although the Canaries and Cape Verde alone belong geographically to that continent, the Azores are lost, so to say, in mid-Atlantic."
The Mediterranean island country of Malta is about 81 km (50 mi) from the coast of Sicily - much closer than the 288 km (179 mi) distance to the African mainland. The nearby Italian island of Lampedusa (principal island of the Pelagie Islands) is 207 km (129 mi) from Sicily while just 127 km (79 mi) from the African mainland; similarly, Pantelleria is 100 km (62 mi) from Sicily and just 71 km (44 mi) from the African mainland. All of these Mediterranean islands, including Malta and Sicily, are actually located on the African Plate, and could be considered part of the African continent geologically. However, for political and cultural reasons, maps generally display them as part of Europe instead.
A single Spanish islet, known as Alboran Island, is also debatably located on either the African Plate or the Eurasian Plate. This island is located in the Alboran Sea, 50 km (31 mi) north of the Moroccan coast and 90 km (56 mi) south of Spain.
European-governed territories in AfricaEdit
There are six definitive occurrences of territories unequivocally being a part of the African continent, but legally being administered by a European state. Three of these are administered by France, and three of these are administered by Spain. The existence of these territories further blurs the line between the borders of Africa and Europe, in particular with regard to the Spanish territories which lie immediately adjacent to and/or connected to the African mainland. The French territories lie within the Indian Ocean, and, consequently, are more dislocated from the principal boundary between the two continents.
The uninhabited Spanish unincorporated overseas minor territories, known as the plazas de soberanía ("Localities of Sovereignty"), are small islands that lie immediately adjacent to the North African coastline, with the exception of Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, which was originally an island like the other 'localities' but has subsequently become directly connected to the Moroccan (African) mainland. The two other Spanish territories are the exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which are two populated coastal cities located directly on the African mainland, both bordering only Morocco.
Two of the French territories are the inhabited overseas departments and regions of Mayotte and Réunion. Mayotte is an island territory located west of the island country of Madagascar within the Mozambique Channel. Réunion is an island territory located near the island country of Mauritius and to the east of Madagascar (both nominally considered part of the African continent). The final territory is the Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean, administratively a part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. This French territory consists of a range of minor uninhabited atolls in the Indian Ocean, located in the deep sea surrounding Madagascar.
Antarctica along with its outlying islands have no permanent population. All land claims south of 60°S latitude are held in abeyance by the Antarctic Treaty System.
Australia's Heard Island and McDonald Islands (an external territory) and the French Kerguelen Islands are located on the Kerguelen Plateau, on the Antarctic continental plate. Both are still within the bounds of the Indian Ocean. The United Nations categorizes Heard Island and McDonald Islands, which are politically affiliated with Australia, as being part of Oceania. The islands are 4,000 km from Perth in Australia, and have never been inhabited by indigenous peoples of Oceania or any other humans. Heard Island has only been visited 240 times throughout its entire history, and the McDonald Islands have only ever been visited twice, in 1971 and 1980. The World Factbook categorizes these islands as part of Antarctica rather than Oceania.
The French Crozet Islands, Île Amsterdam, Île Saint-Paul, and the Norwegian Bouvet Island are also located on the Antarctic continental plate, and are not often associated with other continents. The United Nations categorize Bouvet Island as part of South America, while the World Factbook categorizes it as part of Antarctica.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are closer to Antarctica than to any other continent. However, they are politically associated with the Falkland Islands, which are less geographically isolated from South America. Furthermore, Argentina, a South American country, maintains its irredentist claims on all of these islands, which are administered by the United Kingdom. The United Nations consider them to be part of South America. Definitions of South America that exclude the Galápagos Islands and Juan Fernández Islands (both oceanic in nature) still generally include the Falklands, which share biographical affinities to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, and which are located on the South American continental shelf. The Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands were uninhabited when discovered by Europeans, with some theorizing that the Falklands were visited by Indigenous peoples of the Americas during prehistoric times. These theories are usually considered dubious, as there is no archaeological evidence indicating prehistoric human inhabitation on the Falklands. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands do not have any permanent residents. The Falkland Islands have historically had a British population, with a distinct culture to that of mainland South America. There was a violent war between Argentina and the United Kingdom regarding ownership of the islands in 1982, and the residents of the Falklands do not currently wish to be associated with South America, despite their geographical proximity.
The Prince Edward Islands are located between Africa and Antarctica, and are the territory of South Africa, an African country.
Macquarie Island and the Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands, and Campbell Islands are all uninhabited, and located between Australia and New Zealand and Antarctica. The Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands and Campbell Islands are politically part of New Zealand, while Macquarie Island has been integrated into the Australian state of Tasmania. None are discrete political entities like Heard Island and McDonald Islands. As such, they are likely considered to also be part of Oceania by the United Nations. The Auckland Islands could be considered part of Oceania on cultural grounds rather than mere political grounds, as they are believed to be the southernmost island group to have been settled by Polynesians during prehistoric times. The islands were uninhabited when discovered by Europeans, but archaeological traces have since been found to indicate Polynesian settlement, dating to the 13th century, on Enderby Island. Macquarie Island is theorized to have possibly had contact with Polynesians, although there is no archaeological evidence to support this.
Asia and AustraliaEdit
The continental boundary between Asia and Australia is somewhere in the Wallacean region of the Malay Archipelago. The boundary is frequently divided along the anthropologic Melanesian Line or the biogeographic Weber's Line. Two provinces of Indonesia are located at the western half of New Guinea, geologically a part of the Australian continent. The eastern half of the island is a part of Papua New Guinea which is considered to be a part of Oceania. Indonesia is commonly referred to as one of the Southeast Asian countries. Indonesia's current ownership of Western New Guinea makes it a transcontinental country; Western New Guinea is often considered part of Oceania because of its Indigenous Melanesian inhabitants and geological association with the Australian continental landmass. East Timor, an independent state that was formerly a part of Indonesia, is classified by the United Nations as a part of the South-eastern Asia subregion. It is expected to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, having been involved as an ASEAN Regional Forum member since independence, and has participated in the Southeast Asian Games since 2003.
Occasionally, all of the Malay Archipelago is included in Oceania, although this is extremely rare, especially as most of the archipelago lies on the Asian continental shelf. The Malay Archipelago was more frequently associated with Oceania during the 19th century, when the term was first coined. Many inhabitants in the Malay Archipelago are Austronesians, sharing genetic and linguistic affinities to the Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian inhabitants of Oceania, who also fall under the Austronesian umbrella. However, the Austronesians of the Malay Archipelago had significant contact with mainland Asia during prehistoric times, unlike with the Austronesians and Indigenous Australians of Oceania, who were isolated from the culture of Asia and the eastern world. Epeli Hauʻofa, a scholar of Tongan and Fijian descent, considered the Malay Archipelago separate from Oceania for this very reason. He wrote, "Before the advent of Europeans into the Pacific, our cultures were truly oceanic, in the sense that the sea barrier shielded us for millennia from the great cultural influences that raged through continental land masses and adjacent islands. This prolonged period of isolation allowed for the emergence of distinctive oceanic cultures with the only non-oceanic influences being the original cultures that the earliest settlers brought with them when they entered the vast, uninhabited region. Scholars of antiquity may raise the issue of continental cultural influences on the western and northwestern border islands of Oceania, but these are exceptions, and the Asian mainland influences were largely absent until the modern era. On the eastern extremity of the region there were some influences from the Americas, but these were minimal. It is for these reasons that Pacific Ocean islands from Japan, through the Philippines and Indonesia, which are adjacent to the Asian mainland, do not have oceanic cultures, and are therefore not part of Oceania. This definition of our region delineates us clearly from Asia and the pre-Columbian Americas and is based on our own historical developments, rather than on other people’s perceptions of us."
The United Nations and The World Factbook categorize the Australian Indian Ocean external territories of Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands (both geographically adjacent to Java) as being part of Oceania, rather than Asia. The islands lie within the bounds of the Australian Plate, and were uninhabited prior to European discovery in the 17th century. They have oceanic geology, making them distinct from both mainland Asia and mainland Australia.
Japan possesses the Bonin Islands (also known as the Ogasawara Islands), the Volcano Islands, and three remote islets (Nishinoshima, Minami-Tori-shima and Okinotorishima), all governed collectively as Ogasawara Village, which is an administrative division consisting of scattered island atolls located in the Pacific Ocean. These mostly uninhabited islands are located at some distance southeast of the Japanese archipelago. Owing to the location and oceanic nature of these islands, they are sometimes considered to be a part of Oceania as well. The islands are within the Oceanian biogeographical realm, unlike the rest of Japan, and may have been inhabited by Micronesians around 2,000 years ago. Their official discovery came much later in the 16th century, through Europeans. The most remote island within this group, Minami-Tori-shima (also known as Marcus Island) is nearly 2,000 km removed from Tokyo, and is geographically closer to the Micronesian territories of Guam and Northern Mariana Islands. Inhabitants of the Ryukyu Islands, on the periphery of the main Japanese archipelago, are sometimes associated with Austronesians. The islands are geologically and historically linked with Asia, and are excluded from most definitions of Oceania, along with the similarly non-oceanic Japanese archipelago, which is not associated with Austronesians. To the north of Japan is the disputed Kuril Islands, currently administered by Russia. Usually, these islands are associated with the Russian Far East. This is primarily as a result of their non-tropical biogeography, and their inhabitants, who are mostly white Russian mainlanders.
Australia has a more developed economy than neighboring Pacific Island nations, and is occasionally associated with mainland Asia as a result of this, despite being geologically distinct and having no cultural links to it prior to European discovery. It has historically been included in definitions of Oceania, ever since the term was first coined in the early 1810s. Scottish cartographer John Bartholomew commented in 1873 that, "the New World consists of North America, and the peninsula of South America attached to it. These divisions [are] generally themselves spoken as continents, and to them has been added another, embracing the large island of Australia and numerous others in the [Pacific] Ocean, under the name of Oceania. There are thus six great divisions of the earth — Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Oceania." In the 19th century, many geographers divided up Oceania into mostly racially-based subdivisions; Australasia, Malaysia (encompassing the Malay Archipelago), Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Australian historian Stuart Macintyre's 2009 book A Concise History of Australia states that, "Australians commonly regard themselves, along with New Zealanders, as part of Oceania, and they have liked to think they enjoy a special relation with the most powerful of all English-speaking countries on the other side of that ocean", however, he added that "as the balance of regional power shifted, Australians increasingly claim they are part of Asia and regard their earlier presence in the Pacific as a romantic interlude in tropical islands far removed from the business hub of Asian tigers." Australia, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands currently compete in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), with Australia and Northern Mariana Islands having originally been part of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC). Guam was never an official OFC member, although they exclusively played against teams from Oceania prior to joining the AFC. The presence of these teams in the AFC is not necessarily related to geography or politics, but rather because the Asian Football Confederation have far more resources than the Oceania Football Confederation. All three are members of the Pacific Islands Forum, the major governing body for the Oceania region, with Australia being a founding member in 1971. Guam and Northern Mariana Islands have had similar histories to the rest of Micronesia, and are biogeographically and geologically distinct from mainland Asia. Palau made an unsuccessful attempt to join the Asian Football Confederation in 2009. They too share much of the same history as the rest of Micronesia, and are a member of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Taiwan has at times been associated with Oceania, not only because of their loose status as a Pacific Island, but also because of their indigenous population, who are related to the natives of Oceania. In 2010, Australian historian Bronwen Douglas claimed in The Journal of Pacific History that "a strong case could be made for extending Oceania to at least Taiwan, the homeland of the Austronesian language family whose speakers colonized significant parts of the region about 6,000 years ago." Definitions of Oceania which include Taiwan are extremely rare, due to their historical ties to mainland Asia, their proximity to China (being 180 km removed), and the fact that they lie on the continental shelf of Asia. Taiwan was formerly a member of the Oceania Football Confederation; this was for political reasons: It was forced to compete against teams from Oceania because China, its political administrator, did not recognize its sovereignty and would not compete against them. It was a member from 1975 to 1989, but now competes as part of the Asian Football Confederation. Taiwan, Japan and most of the nations in the Malay Archipelago are dialogue partners of the Pacific Islands Forum, but none have full membership, only Australia, New Zealand and the island states in Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia do.
Asia and EuropeEdit
The boundary between Asia and Europe is unusual among continental boundaries because of its largely mountain-and-river-based characteristics north and east of the Black Sea. The reason is historical, the division of Asia and Europe going back to the early Greek geographers.
Anaximander placed the boundary between Asia and Europe along the Phasis River (the modern Rioni in Georgia in the Caucasus Mountains), from Rioni mouth in Poti on the Black Sea coast, through the Surami Pass and along the Kura River to the Caspian Sea, a convention still followed by Herodotus in the 5th century BC.  As geographic knowledge of the Greeks increased during the Hellenistic period, this archaic convention was revised, and the boundary between Asia and Europe was now considered to be the Tanais (the modern Don River). This is the convention used by Roman era authors such as Posidonius, Strabo and Ptolemy.
Throughout the Middle Ages and into the 18th century, the traditional division of the landmass of Eurasia into two continents, Asia and Europe, followed Ptolemy, with the boundary following the Turkish Straits, the Black Sea, the Kerch Strait, the Sea of Azov and the Don (known in antiquity as the Tanais). But maps produced during the 16th to 18th centuries tended to differ in how to continue the boundary beyond the Don bend at Kalach-na-Donu (where it is closest to the Volga, now joined with it by the Volga–Don Canal), into territory not described in any detail by the ancient geographers.
Philip Johan von Strahlenberg in 1725 was the first to depart from the classical Don boundary by drawing the line along the Volga, following the Volga north until the Samara Bend, along Obshchy Syrt (the drainage divide between the Ural and Volga rivers) and then north along the Ural Mountains. The mapmakers continued to differ on the boundary between the lower Don and Samara well into the 19th century. The 1745 atlas published by the Russian Academy of Sciences has the boundary follow the Don beyond Kalach as far as Serafimovich before cutting north towards Arkhangelsk, while other 18th- to 19th-century mapmakers such as John Cary followed Strahlenberg's prescription. To the south, the Kuma–Manych Depression was identified circa 1773 by a German naturalist, Peter Simon Pallas, as a valley that, once upon a time, connected the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and subsequently was proposed as a natural boundary between continents.
By the mid-19th century, there were three main conventions, one following the Don, the Volga–Don Canal and the Volga, the other following the Kuma–Manych Depression to the Caspian and then the Ural River, and the third abandoning the Don altogether, following the Greater Caucasus watershed to the Caspian. The question was still treated as a controversy in geographical literature of the 1860s, with Douglas Freshfield advocating the Caucasus crest boundary as the best possible, citing support from various modern geographers.
In Russia and the Soviet Union, the boundary along the Kuma–Manych Depression was the most commonly used as early as 1906. In 1958, the Soviet Geographical Society formally recommended that the boundary between Asia and Europe be drawn in textbooks from Baydaratskaya Bay, on the Kara Sea, along the eastern foot of the Ural Mountains, then following the Ural River until the Mugodzhar Hills, and then the Emba River; and Kuma–Manych Depression, thus placing the Caucasus entirely in Asia and the Urals entirely in Europe. However, most geographers in the Soviet Union favoured the boundary along the Caucasus crest and this became the standard convention in the latter 20th century, although the Kuma–Manych boundary remained in use in some 20th-century maps.
The modern border between Asia and Europe is a historical and cultural construct, and for that reason, its definition has varied. One commonly accepted border follows the Aegean Sea, the Dardanelles–Sea of Marmara–Bosporus (together known as the Turkish Straits), the Black Sea, along the watershed of the Greater Caucasus, the northwestern portion of the Caspian Sea, and along the Ural River and Ural Mountains to the Kara Sea, as mapped and listed in most atlases including that of the National Geographic Society and as described in The World Factbook. According to this particular definition, Georgia is a transcontinental country with some of its northern portions (such as Kazbegi Municipality, Khevsureti, and Tusheti) geographically located in Eastern Europe, north of the Greater Caucasus Watershed, whereas the country's south is arguably in Asia. Due to historical, cultural, religious, and political reasons, the country is regarded as a European country. Similarly, according to this one particular definition, Azerbaijan is a transcontinental country with some northern portions (e.g. Khachmaz, Quba, Qusar, Shabran, and Siazan) located north of the Greater Caucasus Watershed and thus geographically in Europe, whereas the rest arguably falls under Asia.
However, the international geographic community has never reached a universal agreement on continental borders, especially with regard to the Caucasus region between the Black and Caspian seas. As Encyclopædia Britannica explains:
“The watershed of the Greater Caucasus, the backbone of the system, traditionally has been part of the line dividing Europe and Asia, but Europe's eastern boundary has been the subject of much debate. One widely accepted scheme draws the dividing line along the crest of the Greater Caucasus range, putting the portion of the region north of the line in Europe and the portion south of it in Asia. Another puts the western portion of the Caucasus region in Europe and the eastern part (the bulk of Azerbaijan and small portions of Armenia, Georgia, and Russia's Caspian Sea coast) in Asia. Still another scheme identifies the Aras River and the Turkish border as the line of continental demarcation, thereby locating Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia in Europe”
Russia and Turkey are transcontinental states with territory in both Asia and Europe. Russia is historically, culturally, and politically a European state, with a history of imperial conquests in Asia. Conversely, Turkey is an Asian state with imperial conquests in Europe. Kazakhstan is also a transcontinental state by this definition, with its West Kazakhstan and Atyrau provinces extending on either side of the Ural River. The Turkish city Istanbul is a transcontinental city due to its location on both sides of the Bosporus (one of the Turkish Straits).
This Ural River delineation is the only segment not to follow a major mountain range or wide water body, both of which often truly separate populations. However, the Ural River is the most common division used by authorities, is the most prominent natural feature in the region, and is the "most satisfactory of those (options) proposed" which include the Emba River, a much smaller stream cutting further into Central Asian Kazakhstan. The Ural River bridges in Atyrau and Orenburg are even labeled with permanent monuments carved with the word "Europe" on one side, "Asia" on the other.
Due to the fact that the Kazakhs are an Asian people, after the collapse of the USSR, the option according to which the border of Europe runs from the Caspian Sea along the state border between Russia and Kazakhstan to the Ural River has also gained popularity.
The Kuma–Manych Depression (more precisely, the Manych River, the Kuma–Manych Canal, and the Kuma River) remains cited less commonly as one possible natural boundary in contemporary sources. This definition peaked in prominence in the 19th century; however, it has declined in usage over time, because it included traditionally European areas[vague] of Russia, such as Stavropol, Krasnodar, and even areas just south of Rostov-on-Don, in Asia.
One formal means by which states are grouped into one specified continental area or another is by using the definition used for statistical purposes by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD): According to UNSD,"assignment of countries or areas to specific groupings is for statistical convenience and does not imply any assumption regarding political or other affiliation of countries or territories". Furthermore, the UNSD classification often differs from those of other United Nations organizations. For instance, while UNSD includes Georgia and Cyprus in Western Asia, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and UNESCO include both states in Europe.
The Council of Europe includes transcontinental or Eurasian states, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Georgia, Russia, and Turkey as members. Cyprus is a member of the European Union, where as Georgia has been explicitly told that it is eligible to apply for EU membership “like any other European state”. The EU reiterated its stance with regard to Georgia in 2022, expressing readiness to grant Georgia candidate status once certain reforms are implemented.
Cyprus is an island of the Mediterranean located on the Asian continental shelf, geologically a part of the Anatolian Plate and adjacent to Asia Minor, by which it is sometimes associated with Asia (Western Asia), as in the United Nations geoscheme. Despite differences regarding its geographic affiliation, the Republic of Cyprus was nevertheless admitted to the Council of Europe in 1961 and joined the EU in 2004. The northern part of the island functions as the unrecognized (except by Turkey) Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The Greek North Aegean Islands and the Dodecanese lie on the coast of the Asian part of Turkey (on the Asian continental shelf). Thus, generally, these island groups could be considered part of Asia. More specifically, the small islands of Kastellorizo, Strongyli Megistis, and Ro (all these islands are still in the Dodecanese group) are directly to the south of the Turkish Anatolia coastline, of which they are directly adjacent. Additionally, they lie at some distance to the east of the rest of the Dodecanese group in the direction of Cyprus and the Turkish city of Antalya. Akin to Cyprus, these small islets would nominally be considered Asian if only the continental shelf were used to define the boundary, but due to their history and cultural influences they are considered a part of Europe.
Russia's Vaygach Island and Novaya Zemlya extend northward from the northern end of the Ural Mountains and are a continuation of that chain into the Arctic Ocean. While Novaya Zemlya was variously grouped with Europe or with Asia in 19th-century maps it is now usually grouped with Europe, the continental boundary considered to join the Arctic Ocean along the southern shore of the Kara Sea. The Russian Arctic archipelago of Franz Josef Land farther north is also associated with Europe.
Asia and North AmericaEdit
The Bering Strait and Bering Sea separate the landmasses of Asia and North America, as well as forming the international boundary between Russia and the United States. This national and continental boundary separates the Diomede Islands in the Bering Strait, with Big Diomede in Russia and Little Diomede in the U.S. The Aleutian Islands are an island chain extending westward from the Alaskan Peninsula toward Russia's Komandorski Islands and Kamchatka Peninsula. Most of them are always associated with North America, except for the westernmost Near Islands group, which is on Asia's continental shelf beyond the North Aleutians Basin and on rare occasions could be associated with Asia, which could then allow the U.S. state of Alaska to be considered a transcontinental state. The Aleutian Islands are sometimes associated with Oceania, owing to their status as remote Pacific islands, and their proximity to the Pacific Plate. This is extremely rare however, due to their non-tropical biogeography, as well as their inhabitants, who have historically been related to Indigenous Americans.
St. Lawrence Island in the northern Bering Sea belongs to Alaska and may be associated with either continent but is almost always considered part of North America, as with the Rat Islands in the Aleutian chain. At their nearest points, Alaska and Russia are separated by only 4 kilometres (2.5 miles).
Europe and North AmericaEdit
The geographical notion of a continent stands in opposition to islands and archipelagos. Nevertheless, there are some islands that are considered part of Europe in a political sense. This most notably includes the British Isles (part of the European continental shelf and during the Ice Age of the continent itself); the islands of the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Mediterranean that are part of the territory of a country situated on the European mainland; the Azores on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, part of Portugal; and usually also the island states of Iceland (part of Norway and/or Denmark from 13th to early 20th centuries) and Malta.
South of the Arctic, Europe and North America are separated by the North Atlantic. In terms of associating its oceanic islands with either continent, the boundary is usually drawn between Greenland and Iceland and between Bermuda and the Azores' Grupo Ocidental (Western Group)—all other North Atlantic islands are continental. Iceland and the Azores are protrusions of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and are associated with and peopled from Europe, even though they have areas on the North American Plate. (Definitions of "continents" are a physical and cultural construct dating back centuries, long before the advent or even knowledge of plate tectonics; thus, defining a "continent" falls into the realm of physical and cultural geography [i.e., Geopolitics ], while continental plate definitions fall under plate tectonics in the realm of geology.) Some definitions of the Europe – America continent boundary place it on (the northern half of) the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which would make Iceland a transcontinental country.
Greenland is geographically part of North America. Politically, however, it is more associated with Europe as it is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, although it has extensive home rule and EU law no longer applies there. The United Nations consider Greenland to be part of North America; this is unusual, as the United Nations categorize many nations and territories purely on political convention rather than geographical or cultural convention. The Greenland national football team, while not officially part of any confederation, has historically competed against teams from Europe, rather than North America.
Three islands in the Caribbean are legally a direct part of the Netherlands, that is the Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius). Two islands in the Caribbean are legally a direct part of France, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
North America and South AmericaEdit
The border between North America and South America is at some point on the Isthmus of Panama. The most common demarcation in atlases and other sources follows the Darién Mountains watershed that divides along the Colombia–Panama border where the isthmus meets the South American continent (see Darién Gap). Virtually all atlases list Panama as a state falling entirely within North America and/or Central America.
Often the Caribbean islands are considered part of North America, but Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao (ABC islands), and Trinidad and Tobago lie on the continental shelf of South America. On the other hand, the Venezuelan Isla Aves and the Colombian San Andrés and Providencia lie on the North American shelf. Additionally, the adjacent Venezuelan islands of Nueva Esparta and the islands of the Venezuelan Federal Dependencies can be considered to be a part of the Caribbean instead of part of South America. The circumstance of these islands is akin to that of the ABC islands, as both the ABC islands and the Venezuelan islands are at an equivalent range from the Venezuelan mainland. Thus, these Venezuelan lands could consequently be placed in North America instead.
Oceania and the AmericasEdit
The Galápagos Islands and Malpelo Island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean are possessions of Ecuador and Colombia, respectively. Malpelo Island, located 500 km from Colombia, is nominally associated with South America, while the Galápagos Islands, 1,000 km from Ecuador, are also sometimes associated with Oceania. The Galápagos Islands lie on the Nazca Plate and are thought of as being included in Oceania due to their geographical distance from South America in the Pacific Ocean, and their oceanic geology. Malpelo is one of only two islands on the Cocos Plate (with the other being Costa Rica's Cocos Island). It is among the easternmost and least remote of the oceanic island groups in the southeastern Pacific. The French possession of Clipperton Island lies on the Pacific Plate, about 1,000 km off the Mexican coast, and roughly 300 km to the south of Mexico's oceanic Revillagigedo Islands, which are also on the Pacific Plate.  as well as with Oceania. Oceanic southeastern Pacific islands such as Clipperton and Galápagos were never inhabited by Indigenous peoples of the Americas, unlike with the Atlantic Ocean's Caribbean Islands. Clipperton remains uninhabited, and its marine fauna maintains interconnectivity to the marine fauna of Hawaii and Kiribati's Line Islands, with the island being labelled as a stepping stone between the south central Pacific and the southeastern Pacific. The Galápagos Islands similarly share interconnectivity with French Polynesia. Until 2007, Clipperton was administratively part of French Polynesia (formerly French Oceania). It has historically had very little contact with the Americas.
Easter Island, also known by its endonym Rapa Nui, is a territory located on the Nazca Plate, and is roughly 3,500 km off the Chilean coast. Because of its original inhabitants, It is culturally part of the Oceania subregion Polynesia, though politically it came to be associated with South America. Easter Island was annexed by Chile in 1888, but their first major contact with South America came during the 1860s, when islanders were kidnapped by Peruvians for slavery. This was also the case with other Polynesian islands, including Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, who lost significant amounts of their populations through the Peruvian kidnappings. Easter Island under Chilean rule has still made attempts to become politically involved with the rest of the South Pacific, and has considered gaining representation in the Pacific Islands Forum, which includes Australia, New Zealand and most of the Pacific Island nations/territories. Similar to Easter Island, and just to the northeast of it, is the nearby uninhabited Salas y Gómez Island of Chile, which is also considered to be geographically in Oceania while associated with South America politically. The island was never inhabited, yet it was known about by the natives of Easter Island during prehistoric times. The name for the island in their language was Motu Motiro Hiva. Additionally, Chile has the oceanic Desventuradas Islands, 850 km removed from the country, and the Juan Fernández Islands, which are 650 km removed. Both are located on the Nazca Plate and to the east of Salas y Gómez and Easter Island. Akin to Clipperton and Galápagos, the Desventuradas Islands and the Juan Fernández Islands were uninhabited prior to European discovery. They too are associated with both the American continent and Oceania. The marine fauna of the Desventuradas Islands and Juan Fernández Islands shares great similarity with the south central Pacific, more so than with the nearing South America. Some consider the islands to be the easternmost areas of the Oceanian biogeographical realm. Scientific journal PLOS One describe Easter Island, the Desventurudas Islands, the Juan Fernández Islands and Salas y Gómez (collectively titled Insular Chile) as having "cultural and ecological connections to the broader insular Pacific."
- List of countries bordering on two or more oceans
- List of transcontinental countries
- List of former transcontinental countries
- Tricontinental Chile
- List of sovereign states and dependent territories by continent
- Continental divide
- Borders of the oceans
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Finally, a few comments on the area we consider to be part of "South America" are in order. Essentially we have followed the limits established by Meyer de Schauensee (1970: xii) with a few minor modifications. Thus, all the continental inshore islands are included (e.g., Trinidad and Tobago; various small islands off the northern coast of Venezuela, the Netherlands Antilles [Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao]; and Fernando de Noronha, off the northeastern coast of Brazil), but islands more properly considered part of the West Indies (e.g. Grenada) are not. To the south, we have opted to include the Falkland Islands (or Islas Malvinas — in referring to them as the Falklands we are not making any political statement but merely recognizing that this book is being written in the English language), as their avifauna is really very similar to that of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. However, various other islands farther out in the South Atlantic (e.g., South Georgia) are not included except incidentally (e.g., endemic South Georgia Pipit have been incorporated). Likewise, the Juan Fernández Islands far off the Chilean coast have not been included (except for incidental comments), nor have the Galápagos Islands, situated even further off the Ecuadorian coast.
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The Bonin Islands, now known as the Ogasawara Islands, are a group of subtropical islands located roughly equidistant between the Tokyo, Japan and the Northern Mariana Islands. This group of islands is nowhere near Tokyo, but it is still considered to be a part of Tokyo! The Ogasawara Islands consist of 30 subtropical islands made The Bonin Islands were said to be discovered first by Bernardo de la Torre, a Spanish explorer, who originally called the islands “Islas del Arzobispo” [,,,]
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[we] can further define the word culture to mean language. Thus we have the French language part of Oceania, the Spanish part and the Japanese part. The Japanese culture groups of Oceania are the Bonin Islands, the Marcus Islands and the Volcano Islands. These three clusters, lying south and south-east of Japan, are inhabited either by Japanese or by people who have now completely fused with the Japanese race. Therefore they will not be taken into account in the proposed comparison of the policies of non - Oceanic cultures towards Oceanic peoples. On the eastern side of the Pacific are a number of Spanish language culture groups of islands. Two of them, the Galapagos and Easter Island, have been dealt with as separate chapters in this volume. Only one of the dozen or so Spanish culture island groups of Oceania has an Oceanic population — the Polynesians of Easter Island. The rest are either uninhabited or have a Spanish - Latin - American population consisting of people who migrated from the mainland. Therefore, the comparisons which follow refer almost exclusively to the English and French language cultures.
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Despite varied usage, Ocean, from Madagascar off the coast of Africa to Taiwan, Oceania primarily refers to most of the thousands of islands in the Pacific Ocean, but not to the shore nations of its surrounding continents, or to the Japanese islands.
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Oceania is the word often used by continental geographers to describe the great world of islands we are now entering upon [...] This boundless watery domain, which extends northwards of Behring Straits and southward to the Antarctic barrier of ice, is studded with many island groups, which are, however, very irregularly distributed over its surface. The more northerly section, lying between Japan and California and between the Aleutian and Hawaiian Archipelagos is relived by nothing but a few solitary reefs and rocks at enormously distant intervals.
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The regional name of the Pacific Islands is appropriate: Oceania, a sea of islands, including those of Alaska and Hawaii. The Pacific Basin is not insignificant or remote. It covers one third of the globe's surface. Its northern boundary is the Aleutian Islands chain. Oceania virtually touches all of the Western Hemisphere.
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Easter Island on the east has been included on the basis of its Polynesian and biogeographic affinities even though it is politically apart. The other islands of the eastern Pacific (Galapagos, Juan Fernandez, etc.) have sometimes been included in Oceania.
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Oceania is primarily considered as the restricted region treated in this paper, but for comparative purposes, in the table only, it is also considered in a broad sense as including New Guinea, Australia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, the Antipodes, and Galapagos.
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In the present taxonomic study of the Hippoboscidae, Oceania covers, rather arbitrarily, the many archipelagos and isolated islands scattered throughout the Pacific Ocean, from the Marianas and Caroline Islands, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia to the Hawaiian islands and the Galapagos.
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Malpelo Island, the easternmost and least remote of the five oceanic islands or archipelagos in the ETP.
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French Polynesia operates as a CEPT country under French authority, but still requires local permission and a local call sign (as do the other French colonies in Oceania: Clipperton, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna.
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On the other side of Oceania, about 1,800 miles (2,897 km) west of the Panama Canal, is another French possession, Clipperton Island.
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In India, French settlements included Pondicherry, Karikal, Yanaon, Mahé and Chandernagore; and in Oceania, Clipperton, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Vanuatu (shared with the British Empire)
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The British added the Ellice, Pitcairn and portions of the Phoenix Islands; the Australians consolidated their claims to Papua; and the French consolidated their claims to Clipperton islands; Easter and adjacent islands were claimed by Chile, Cocos Island was claimed by Costa Rica, and the Galapagos claimed by Ecuador. By 1900, there were virtually no remaining islands in Oceania unclaimed by foreign powers.
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Its distribution encompasses much of Oceania from the Hawaiian archipelago, Clipperton Island, and Easter Island westward through Polynesia and Melanesia
- Flett, Iona; Haberle, Simon (2008). "East of Easter: Traces of human impact in the far-eastern Pacific" (PDF). In Clark, Geoffrey; Leach, Foss; O'Connor, Sue (eds.). Islands of Inquiry. ANU Press. pp. 281–300. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.593.8988. hdl:1885/38139. ISBN 978-1-921313-89-9. JSTOR j.ctt24h8gp.20.
- Romero-Torres, Mauricio; Treml, Eric A.; Acosta, Alberto; Paz-García, David A. (19 June 2018). "The Eastern Tropical Pacific coral population connectivity and the role of the Eastern Pacific Barrier". Scientific Reports. 8 (1): 9354. Bibcode:2018NatSR...8.9354R. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-27644-2. PMC 6008413. PMID 29921956.
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- "French Polynesia summary | Britannica". Britannica.com.
- "Clipperton Island | island, Pacific Ocean | Britannica". Britannica.com.
- King, Frank P. (1976). Oceania and Beyond: Essays on the Pacific Since 1945. Greenwood Press. pp. 20–21. ISBN 9780837189048. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
It is clear that since World War II, Britain, in contrast to France and the United States (and one might say Chile and Ecuador, which hold, respectively, Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands), conceived of Oceania as a region of sovereign nations living in a spirit of commonwealth.
- Aldrich, Robert (1993). France and the South Pacific Since 1940. University of Hawaii Press. p. 347. ISBN 9780824815585. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
Britain's high commissioner in New Zealand continues to administer Pitcairn, and the other former British colonies remain members of the Commonwealth of Nations, recognizing the British Queen as their titular head of state and vesting certain residual powers in the British government or the Queen's representative in the islands. Australia did not cede control of the Torres Strait Islands, inhabited by a Melanesian population, or Lord Howe and Norfolk Island, whose residents are of European ancestry. New Zealand retains indirect rule over Niue and Tokelau and has kept close relations with another former possession, the Cook Islands, through a compact of free association. Chile rules Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and Ecuador rules the Galapagos Islands. The Aboriginals of Australia, the Maoris of New Zealand and the native Polynesians of Hawaii, despite movements demanding more cultural recognition, greater economic and political considerations or even outright sovereignty, have remained minorities in countries where massive waves of migration have completely changed society. In short, Oceania has remained one of the least completely decolonized regions on the globe.
- Maude, H. E (1981). Slavers in paradise: the Peruvian slave trade in Polynesia, 1862-1864. Stanford University Press. hdl:1885/114682. OCLC 1088902109.[page needed]
- Dorney, Sean (27 August 2012). "Pacific forum looks to widen entry". ABC News.
- "Museum of New Zealand". Collections.tepapa.govt.nz. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
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- Friedlander, Alan M.; Ballesteros, Enric; Caselle, Jennifer E.; Gaymer, Carlos F.; Palma, Alvaro T.; Petit, Ignacio; Varas, Eduardo; Muñoz Wilson, Alex; Sala, Enric (6 January 2016). "Marine Biodiversity in Juan Fernández and Desventuradas Islands, Chile: Global Endemism Hotspots". PLOS ONE. 11 (1): e0145059. Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1145059F. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0145059. PMC 4703205. PMID 26734732.
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