The vast size of the Pacific Ocean means that there are huge numbers of different islands that are located in the region. These vary enormously in their shapes, their sizes and how they were formed. Some of these islands are ruled by other countries while other Islands have their own separate identity and nationality. There are around 25,000 islands that are located in the Ocean and can be split into three separate groups. The Micronesia group are found north of the equator and west of the International Date Line. The Melanesia Islands are found to the south-west of the Micronesia group, and finally the Polynesia Islands stretch from Hawaii in the North to New Zealand in the South.
Polynesia has more than a thousand islands scattered around the southern region of the Pacific Ocean. People from these islands are known collectively as Polynesians and their names have been associated with the area for a long time. The southernmost Island in the area is New Zealand which is composed of two main Islands, the North Island and the South Island, which are separated by the Cook Strait. Both Islands have been formed by both volcanic activity and the uplifting of the land through plate tectonics. This has resulted in the country having the Southern Alps Mountain Range, plus many active and dormant volcanoes. The country has a variety of climates and despite its remoteness its natural beauty makes it one of the most popular place in the world to visit.
The island that is furthest north in Polynesia is Hawaii. This is another island that has been created by tectonic and volcanic activity. The island today has some of the most active volcanoes in the world with the regular eruptions adding to the mystique of the island. The Hawaii Islands actually consists of eight major islands that extend for 1500 miles. The region was annexed by the United States in 1898 and is now a US state. The islands are a major tourist destination with great food, a warm climate and an abundance of beaches. The islands are remote with the nearest continent being 1800 miles away.
While New Zealand was formed by tectonic plates sliding beneath each other Hawaii has been formed by a weakness in the continental plate which is known as a “hot spot”. This has resulted in lava emerging on the surface in the form of volcanoes. Fortunately, most of these eruptions are less violent than others that are experienced in other places around the world. The two main Samoan Islands are separated by about 40 miles of water and around each main island are groups of smaller islands. The region has the largest population of Polynesians anywhere with around 250,000 living today.
The two main islands comprise of Samoa which is an independent state, and American Samoa which is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Samoa used to belong to Germany and was also occupied by New Zealand until gaining full independence in 1962. Like Hawaii, the islands have been formed by a “hot spot” in the continental plate which has left their closest neighbours 330 miles away in Tonga.
Tonga comprises of 169 islands of which only 36 are inhabited. Of its 107,000 people most reside on Tongatapu which is the main island. Although the islands do show evidence of previous volcanic activity, they are mainly composed of limestone. This used to be at the bottom of sea but when the Pacific Plate moved under the Australian Plate it lifted up the land. This has produced both mountains and volcanoes and the area is regularly subjected to earthquake activity. There are many more Polynesian Islands in this region of the Pacific and all have been formed by some type of tectonic activity