Fiji is one of the most well-known islands in the Pacific Ocean and is part of the Melanesia group of islands. It consists of 330 Islands and 110 of these are permanently inhabited with three quarters of the population living on Viti Levu island. Fiji is located 1300 miles north-east from New Zealand and is one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations. The islands were formed by volcanic action although there are plenty of limestone rocks in evidence that have been uplifted out of the sea by tectonic activity.
The furthest south-western island in Melanesia is Guinea which is the second largest island in the world after Greenland. The island has Western New Guinea situated in the west of the island and Papua New Guinea in the east of the island. Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world with 852 different languages being spoken in the country. It has a large rural population with only 18% living in urban centres and it is an independent state. The island is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire and there are several active volcanoes on the main, and its surrounding islands. Western New Guinea is a territory of Indonesia and the only one of the country’s territories to be located in Oceania. This part of the island is well populated with over 4.2 million people living in the region.
Another famous group of islands in the Melanesia region are the Solomon Islands. It is a sovereign state and consists of six major islands and 900 smaller ones. The islands are made up of land that has been formed from volcanoes and smaller islands that are sand based and have appeared out of the sea. The distance between the islands from east to west is 1500 km.
The Micronesia region comprises of thousands of smaller Islands in the western part of the Pacific Ocean. The Caroline Islands consist of 500 small coral islands with the eastern group being controlled by the Federal States of Micronesia and the western islands being controlled by Palau. The islands have been formed by coral reefs growing out of the sea. They generally form islands of low lying land but there are occasions when higher land is created. The Gilbert Islands have been created in the same manner and consist of 16 islands that are located half way between Papua New Guinea and Hawaii. The equator divides the Northern Gilbert Island from the Southern Gilbert Islands and they come under the political control of Kiribati.
The most populated island is Tarawa which is in the Northern Gilberts. Its population of 45,000 is spread among 30 villages and it contains more than half the population for the whole islands. The Mariana Islands comprise of 15 volcanic peaks situated on the edge of the Mariana Trench, where the Pacific Plate submerges beneath the Mariana Plate. This is one of the most active volcanic regions on earth and are divided between Guam, which is a US territory, and the Northern Mariana Islands which are a commonwealth of the United States.
Despite the area being at the centre of volcanic activity there are over 200,000 people who live in the group of Islands. A lot of the residents are employed in the tourist industry which has been rapidly growing in recent years.
The Marshall Islands are spread over 29 separate coral atolls. They support a population of 53,000 people and the Republic of the Marshall Islands is an independent country. The coral islands actually lie on the top of submerged volcanoes on the sea floor. It is renowned as having the world’s largest shark sanctuary with the large area being free from shark fishing. The Pacific Ocean is full of islands that have been formed by a variety of different geographical processes. The only certainty that nature will continue to create and destroy more islands in the fullness of time.