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About South Pacific
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About South Pacific
  Papeete Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton ...

The words South Pacific evoke romantic images of soft sea breezes and carefree lifestyles, of swaying palms and white sand beaches, of secluded harbors and starlit skies, of emerald islands floating in a blue sea ...

Technically, however, the words refer to an area called Oceania and particularly to the islands that have similar cultures, such as Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

The land area of Oceania is diminutive in contrast to the ocean. Apart from New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia, most of the islands are clusters or solitary specks on maps of the Pacific. Their total land area is only about 42,000 square miles. It is an area where inhabitants are aware of great distances, solitude and being small in an immense sea.

Most of the islands evolved from either volcanoes or coral. They range from lush and popular tourist destinations to rocky and uninhabited. In 1994, there were only some 25 million people in Oceania -- about .5 percent of the world's population -- dwelling mainly in hamlets, villages or cities.

Obviously, there is tremendous cultural and political diversity in Oceania because of the many islands and their different histories. Most of the people inhabiting Australasia are of European descent. In the rest of Oceania, Polynesia has the most people -- the bulk of which live in New Zealand and Hawaii.

There are 13 independent countries in Oceania, including Fiji, Tonga and Solomon Islands. There are also numerous protectorates such as Guam and Easter Islands. Some climatic features of the tropical coasts and islands are heavy rainfall and sea breezes that relieve the ordinarily hot and muggy conditions. Many islands experience the strongest winds on Earth and are subject to earthquakes and tremors.

The traditional households on many islands are supported chiefly through agriculture and fishing. A few islands benefit as ports of call for South Pacific cruises, where the images of soft sea breezes and carefree lifestyles began.




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