Micronesia

Geography

East of the Philippines and south-west of the Hawaiian Islands lay approximately 2,000 islands designated as Micronesia. This region is separated into: the Micronesia, Federated States of, Guam, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau and Wake Island atoll. The deepest point in the world's oceans, the Challenger Deep, can be found to the southwest of Guam.

Politics,Economics and Religion

The islands are a curious mixture of the descendents of westerners (primarily British, German and America) and the indigenous people where you can find the old ways of living co-existing side-by-side with the new. English is spoken by many of the residents along with a variety of native languages. America has a heavy interest in the region. Guam has the largest population (170,000) and is an American territory as is Wake Island while the Northern Mariana Islands is a U.S. Commomwealth. The remaining countries are independent nations. There are also a number of U.S. military bases throughout the region from the heavy fighting that was seen during World War II over control of this theatre of war.

History

The ecosystems of the lands are very fragile and can be damaged by not just the weather but also man's needs; for example, on Narau, extensive mining has led to the need to initiate major reforestation campaigns to bring back threatened wildlife habitat. Colonization brought with it predators that ravaged the native wildlife, such as the arrival of snakes which decimated the bird population of Guam. There are remote regions in the Marshall Islands and Kiribati that were used by the western powers for atomic and nuclear weapons testing during the 1950s-1970s and remain uninhabitable.

Climate

The proximity of the region to the equator ensures that Micronesia enjoys a year-round tropical climate. Many of the islands are exposed to typhoons during the rainy season.

Polynesia

Geography

A region of the Pacific Ocean that contains over 1,000 islands. Polynesia lies within an imaginary triangle with the points at Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island. There are some exceptions that are slightly outside the triangle such as Tuvalu, Java, Ontong and the Ellice Islands. Major island groups within Polynesia include Tonga, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, the Pitcairn Islands, Kiribati, Niue, and Samoa.

Politics,Economics and Religion

The Polynesian culture is split into two separate groups, Eastern and Western. Western Polynesian people have been conditioned to build their societies according to the larger island size, constructing larger communities that require appropriate social orders. Conversely the eastern Polynesian groups adapted to life on smaller islands and atolls, often spread out over dozens or even hundreds of separate landmasses, their culture reflects a smaller village lifestyle. Today about 40 different native Polynesian languages are spoken across the region. The economies of all Polynesian countries are very small when compared to global standards. The tiny size of the nations and their low population count often mean that they are dependant on foreign aid with many younger people leaving to pursue better opportunities abroad. Some countries have niche industries such as Tonga's tuna fishing and canning.

History

After western colonization began in the 18th century, many native cultures adapted and incorporated modern advancements and beliefs whilst retaining their particular cultural traits. Trade between islands and different groups was an important aspect of all Polynesian settlements, a practice that remains today.

Climate

The climate is tropical and the volcanic soil provide home for breadfruit plants and coconut trees while the white sandy beaches are enjoyed by tourists and natives alike.

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Australia & New Zealand

Geography

Separated by 1600 kilometers of ocean, the southern continent of Australia and island nation of New Zealand share much in common - magnificent landscapes, a blending of European and native cultures and are major destinations in global tourism. Australia is made up of six states - Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and Southern Australia and two territories - Northern Territory and the tiny Australian Capital Territory which holds the capital, Canberra. Sydney is the continent's largest and best-known city of 4.2 million people, around one-fifth of Australia's residents. The world-famous Great Barrier Reef can be found off the northeast coast extending for 2,000 kilometers into the South Pacific Ocean. Most of the landmass is desert, with over 85% of the species being unique to Australia such as the koala, kangaroo, emu and wombat. Broken up into North and South Islands, New Zealand was originally a colony of New South Wales until 1840. Wellington serves as the capital for New Zealand's 4+ million residents while Auckland is the most heavily populated city (both are located on the North Island). As with Australia, New Zealand has exotic animals, flora and fauna not found elsewhere on the planet. Due to the harvesting of the forests and introduction of non-native animals many New Zealand species suffered or even became extinct, but the government has undertaken an intensive campaign to remove foreign creatures and reintroduce native ones back into the environment.

Politics,Economics and Religion

Economically Australia enjoys the recognition of having one of the world's highest quality of life indexes. Trade and tourism are vital components of the economy but high taxes, tariffs and a lack of a strong manufacturing industry are setbacks. A sporting nation, on any given weekend you could find cricket, rugby and Australian Rules football matches being watched across the land.

History

Both countries were heavily colonized by British settlers in the 18th -19th centuries because of their importance to the Crown's shipping interests (and in Australia's case, as a penal colony). The native population in Australia is Aborigine; in New Zealand, they are Maori. Both groups shared darker moments during Britain's wave of colonization but the 20th century has seen a concentrated effort by the two governments to make reparations for past wrongs. One recent proud moment for Australians was in hosting the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney.

Climate

The driest continent on the planet, Australia's population is mainly clustered around the south-eastern coastline. A mild, cool climate gives New Zealand a magnificent and highly beautiful landscape full of rich green valleys and forests while volcanism has produced dozens of majestic, snow-covered mountaintops known worldwide to climbers.

Melanesia

Geography

A chain of islands located to the north of Australia and running east-southeast into the Pacific Ocean, Melanesia consists of New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Torres Strait Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Palau Islands, Vanuatu and other smaller islands. The second-largest island in the world as well as the biggest landmass in the region, New Guinea is split into two regions at the island's center. It may be the most linguistically diverse country in the world with about 800 different languages spoken by its nearly 7 million people. Rainforests are common throughout the islands and are the home to an amazing array of animal and plant life; new species are constantly being catalogued and hundreds of thousands more are believed to be waiting to be discovered. Volcanism has produced some substantial mountains and hilly regions making ideal growing soil for native crops.

Politics,Economics and Religion

The warm waters are ideal for coral reefs and sandy beaches making it a favorite destination for western travellers. There have been some instances of political unrest within some of the Melanesian nations. Fiji has been plagued with a series of coups ousting the elected governments with the most recent taking place in late 2006. In 2000 the Malaku Islands west of New Guinea saw a flare up between Christian and Muslim groups resulting in many dead and half a million displaced from their homes. Most of the islands have had stable autonomous governments; as a territory of France, New Caledonia is governed by French law.

History

The people of the region encompass many cultures and languages but generally fall into two distinct groups, the Austronesians and Papuans. The former term is used to describe those whose ancestors came from Southeast Asia 12,000 years ago and spread across the island chains while the latter group is native to the region having settled approximately 35,000 years ago.

Climate

Temperatures are warm and the climate is moist producing substantial rainfall in the winter and spring months.