The Oceania Portal

An orthographic projection of geopolitical Oceania
An orthographic projection of geopolitical Oceania

Oceania (UK: /ˌsiˈɑːniə, ˌʃi-, -ˈn-/, US: /ˌʃiˈæniə/ (listen), /-ˈɑːn-/) is a geographic region that includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Spanning the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, Oceania is estimated to have a land area of 8,525,989 square kilometres (3,291,903 sq mi) and a population of over 41 million. When compared with the continents, the region of Oceania is the smallest in land area and the second smallest in population after Antarctica. Its five major population centres are Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Auckland.

Oceania has a diverse mix of economies from the highly developed and globally competitive financial markets of Australia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, French Polynesia and Hawaii, which rank high in quality of life and human development index, to the much less developed economies such as Papua New Guinea, Indonesian New Guinea, Kiribati, Vanuatu and Tuvalu, while also including medium-sized economies of Pacific islands such as Palau, Fiji and Tonga. The largest and most populous country in Oceania is Australia, and the largest city is Sydney. Puncak Jaya in Papua is the highest peak in Oceania at 4,884 metres.

The arrival of European settlers in subsequent centuries resulted in a significant alteration in the social and political landscape of Oceania. In more contemporary times there has been increasing discussion on national flags and a desire by some Oceanians to display their distinguishable and individualistic identity. The rock art of Aboriginal Australians is the longest continuously practised artistic tradition in the world. Most Oceanian countries are multi-party representative parliamentary democracies, with tourism being a large source of income for the Pacific Islands nations. (Full article...)

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Vanuatu and New Caledonia, Matthew and Hunter Islands on the bottom right.
Vanuatu and New Caledonia, Matthew and Hunter Islands on the bottom right.

Hunter Island and Matthew Island are two small and uninhabited high islands in the South Pacific, located 300 kilometres (190 mi) east of New Caledonia and south-east of Vanuatu archipelago. Hunter Island and Matthew Island, 70 km (43 mi) apart, are claimed by Vanuatu as part of Tafea Province, and considered by the people of Aneityum part of their custom ownership, and were claimed by France as part of New Caledonia.

Small, arid, without fresh water and not easily accessible, the islands had no interest for Britain or France during their colonisation of the Pacific in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. France officially annexed both islands in 1929. In 1965, the United Kingdom also claimed the two islands, as part of the New Hebrides. France conducted a symbolic occupation in 1975. In 1980, on its independence, Vanuatu claimed sovereignty, but made no occupation of the islands. In 1979, Météo-France set up an automatic weather station on one of the islands, and the French Navy regularly visits both of them. (Full article...)

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Photograph of Mau Piailug from the 1999 film Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey.

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 open-ocean 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. In the hope that the navigational tradition would be preserved for future generations, Mau shared his knowledge with the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS). With Mau's help, PVS used experimental archaeology to recreate and test lost Hawaiian navigational techniques on the Hōkūleʻa, a modern reconstruction of a double-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe.

The successful, non-instrument sailing of Hōkūleʻa to Tahiti in 1976 proved the efficacy of Mau's navigational system to the world. To academia, Mau's achievement provided evidence for intentional two-way voyaging throughout Oceania, supporting a hypothesis that explained the Asiatic origin of Polynesians. The success of the Micronesian-Polynesian cultural exchange, symbolized by Hōkūleʻa, had an impact throughout the Pacific. It contributed to the emergence of the second Hawaiian cultural renaissance and to a revival of Polynesian navigation and canoe building in Hawaii, New Zealand, Rarotonga and Tahiti. It also sparked interest in traditional wayfinding on Mau's home island of Satawal. 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. Mau's life and work was explored in several books and documentary films, and his legacy continues to be remembered and celebrated by the indigenous peoples of Oceania. (Full article...)
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