5 Things You Should Know About: Oceania

By C.L. Illsley on September 2 2020 in Did You Know

Summer of Koror, Palau Malakal Island, Oceania
  • The highest peak in Oceania is Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand.
  • Among the animals native to Australia are the common wombat, koala, and red kangaroo.
  • The majority of those living in Oceania describe themselves as Christians.

Oceania is one of the Earth's seven continents. It is made up of 14 countries, all of which are geographically situated in the southern region of the Pacific Ocean, and is comprised of over 10,000 islands. These island landmasses not only include the nations of Australia and New Zealand but also Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, the Soloman Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. 

1. Australia is by far Oceania's largest country...

The nation of Australia lies completely below the equator (an imaginary line dividing the Earth into Northern and Southern hemispheres). Because of its southern location, Australia is often referred to as being "down under." Another interesting fact related to the origin of the word "Australia" is that it is derived from the Latin term Terra Australis, meaning "Southern land." 

2. ...So it follows that Oceania's largest city is in Australia

The largest urban center in Oceania is Sydney, Australia which is spread over a total land area of 4,775.2 square miles (12,368 square km). This city, which lies on Australia's eastern coast, serves as the capital for the Australian state of New South Wales. It was founded in 1788 and statistics from 2019 show that its total population is approximately 5,312,163 residents with a population density of 1,112 people per square mile. About 65% of all residents living in the state of New South Wales reside in Sydney. 

Sydney, Australia. Image credit: f11photo/Shutterstock

3. Its tallest point is in New Zealand

The highest mountain in Oceania is Aoraki/Mount Cook which is located in New Zealand. Also known as Aoraki, at its highest point, this towering mountain reaches a maximum elevation of 12,316 feet. The Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park was opened in 1953 and is home to 19 mountain peaks measuring over 9,840 feet as well as 72 glaciers. The local South Island Maori refer to the mountain as Aoraki which can be translated to "cloud piercer." 

4. Its fauna and flora is diverse and unique

Oceania is home to a wide array of diverse fauna and flora. Animals native to the region include the common wombat, a marsupial usually inhabiting southern and eastern regions of Australia as well as Tasmania; emus, the world's second-largest bird species by height; koalas, a plant-eating marsupial; the platypus, a partially aquatic mammal found in parts of eastern Australia as well as Tasmania; the kookaburra, a tree kingfisher bird species; and red kangaroos, the largest land mammal native to Australia. Native vegetation in Oceania includes coachwood, also known as scented satinwood or tarwood; the grass tree, characterized by its long flowered white spikes; cabbage-tree palm, a fanned palm tree with large shiny green leaves; and waratah, a vibrantly red flower native to Australia. 

Fijian people performing a cultural dance. Image credit: Shutterstock

5. The population is diverse, with some common trends

A majority of residents living in Oceania, approximately 73%, identify as Christians. The remaining members of the population subscribe to various religions including Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Baha'i, as well as a wide array of traditional Indigenous belief systems. In 2018, 37% of those living in New Zealand considered themselves to be Christians while 48% did not subscribe to any religion. According to figures from 2016, 52% of Australians were Christians while 30% cited no religious affiliation. Citizens living on several Pacific island groups were much more likely to believe in Christianity. In Micronesia, for example, 93% defined themselves as Christians. That number rose to 96% in Polynesia. 

Oceania is so much more than white sand beaches and palm trees. Each island in its many sprawling archipelagoes has unique features and Indigenous traditions to immerse yourself in. Its eclecticism is sure to inspire and amaze travellers who make their way to these distant lands 

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