The Oceania Portal

Map of Oceania

Oceania is a geographical (often geopolitical) region consisting of numerous countries and territories—mostly islands—in the Pacific Ocean. The exact scope of Oceania is controversial, with varying interpretations including East Timor, Australia, and New Zealand.

The primary use of the term Oceania is to describe a continental region (like Europe or Africa) that lies between Asia and the Americas, with Australia as the major land mass. The name Oceania is used, rather than Australasia, because unlike the other continental groupings, it is the ocean rather than the continent that links the nations together. Oceania is the smallest continental grouping in land area and the second smallest, after Antarctica, in population.

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A beach at Funafuti atoll, Tuvalu, on a sunny day.

Tuvalu is an island nation located in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia. Its name means "Eight Standing Together" in Tuvaluan. Its small, scattered group of atolls and reef islands have poor soil and a total land area of only about 26 square kilometres (less than 10 sq. mi) making it the fourth smallest country in the world. The population of 10,837 (2012) is vulnerable to the effects of tropical cyclones and by the threat of current and future sea level rise.

A creation story that is found on many of the islands is that te Pusi mo te Ali (the Eel and the Flounder) created the islands of Tuvalu; te Ali (the flounder) is believed to be the origin of the flat atolls of Tuvalu and the te Pusin (the Eel) is the model for the coconut palms that are important in the lives of Tuvaluans.

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KPhotograph of Mau Piailug in 1999

Pius "Mau" Piailug (pronounced /ˈpəs ˈm pˈləɡ/; 1932 – July 12, 2010) was a Micronesian navigator from the Carolinian island of Satawal, best known as a teacher of traditional, non-instrument wayfinding methods for deep-sea voyaging. Mau's Carolinian navigation system—which relies on navigational clues using the sun and stars, winds and clouds, seas and swells, and birds and fish—was acquired through rote learning passed down through teachings in the oral tradition.

He earned the title of master navigator (palu) by the age of eighteen, around the time the first American missionaries arrived in Satawal. As he neared middle age, Mau grew concerned that the practice of navigation in Satawal would disappear as his people became acculturated to Western values. To preserve the navigational tradition for future generations, Mau shared his knowledge with the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS). With Mau's help, PVS created the Hōkūle‘a, a modern reconstruction of a double-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe to test lost navigational techniques. The successful, non-instrument sailing of Hōkūle‘a to Tahiti in 1976, proved the efficacy of Mau's navigational system to the world.

Later in life, Mau was respectfully known as a grandmaster navigator, and he was called "Papa Mau" by his friends with great reverence and affection. He received an honorary degree from the University of Hawaii, and he was honored by the Smithsonian Institution and the Bishop Museum for his contributions to maritime history.

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