A World of Islands
Author: Robert W. Penry @ 2021
Islands! Earth contains millions of islands, of which about 11,000 are inhabited.
Many countries are islands, and I have included them on this site. But each country may consist of many, many islands.
For instance, Cuba. The main island of Cuba is surrounded by nearly 1,600 additional small islands and cays. The state of Hawaii has eight major islands, but altogether, there are 137 islands! Any mainland country has offshore islands.
The North and South American continents have some countries with coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and east of the coastal countries will probably have offshore islands.
Besides islands in oceans, there are islands in seas, gulfs, bays, lakes, and rivers.
Islands are often in the ocean in a line or a group. We call these groups Archipelagos. Examples are the Mariana Islands, the Florida Keys, Hawaiian Islands, and Aleutian Islands. Archipelagos are given names to identify the group. If you query an archipelago name, it will usually include a list of islands in the group. Archipelagos are grouped because they share common characteristics such as a line of volcanic islands above an underwater ridge, or perhaps coral outcroppings in a line.
If you are interested in seeing lists and information on the world’s islands, please visit the following links:
Of special interest are islands that have seen wars. Islands in the Mediterranean Sea have seen warfare since the dawn of civilization. The Minoan Culture on the island of Crete saw the Mycenaean invasion as early as the 15th century BC. The Anglo-French conflicts and the Napoleonic wars saw islands under siege for hundreds of years. During the American Revolution, a major battle was fought on Long Island. Smaller battles were fought on several small islands in the Carolina’s and Georgia. The Falkland Islands aka Maldives in the South Atlantic have seen combat in WW1 and also in 1982 between the British and Argentina.
However, the World War II saw many seemingly small and insignificant islands in the Pacific become household names for decades. Iwo Jima, Corregidor, and Guadalcanal are just a few. To learn more about islands that were involved in World War 1 and World War 2, please visit the following link: https://penrygenealogy.com/wp-content/uploads/Sea-and-Island-Involvement-in-WW-WW2.jpg
Geological Features of Islands
There are many thousands of islands in the world’s oceans. Of what are they composed? Why do they exsist? Section I indicated that the oceans’ floors are not flat. They have trenches, valleys, hills, mountains, or volcanoes. In other words, just like on land. Examples of these different types of islands follow.
Volcanic Islands: Most islands in the world are volcanic and are the tips of underwater volcanos, most are dormant, but some are active. Example Hawaiian Islands.
Coral Islands: These are coral reefs or atolls that have risen above the surface of the surrounding water. Example – Barbados and the Florida Keys. The Florida Keys are limestone outcroppings of an ancient coral reef but a few keys are just sand bars. In the Indian Ocean, the Maldives are Coral.
Continental Islands. These are islands that have broken from the mainland, usually caused by rising sea levels. Examples: Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico.
Tectonic Islands: The islands are formed when plates in the earth’s crust rub against each other and push rock upward. Example – Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean.
Sand Bar Islands. These islands that consist of nothing but sand. Example – Outer Banks of North Carolina.
An archipelago is a line or group of related islands scattered in lakes, rivers or the ocean and is given a group name that includes all of the included islands. Examples: Hawaii Islands, The Marshall Islands, The Philippines, or the Florida Keys.
Sometimes an archipelago can have multiple types of islands. Example: The Mariana Islands in the Pacific are the summits of fifteen mostly dormant volcanic mountains. But the southern islands in the Mariana Archipelago are limestone terraces and coral reefs.
Many, Many, Islands!
To understand the formation of an archipelago, it helps to review the topography (or shape of the land) on the bottom of the sea. The bottom of the sea is not flat. Just like the earth’s lands, the ocean bottom consists of granite mountains, deep canyons, volcanos, plains, and faults which are cracks in the earth. Mountains usually lie in a straight line on land, and so the ocean mountains do the same. A chain of islands is often just the peaks of an ocean mountain range.
A fault (a crack in the earth) is weak spot in the earth’s crust. The earth has a layer of rock and soil, several miles thick that lies over molten rock. The earth is not a solid, cold lump of rock. The earth is kind of like an orange. The orange has a hard peel, and underneath it is wet. If you cut the peel with a knife, juice will leak out. The earth is like that, put a crack in it, and the hot molten rock can leak out or erupt (explode) as a volcano. Faults are usually in a straight line and so a straight line of the tops of underwater volcanos can stick up above the water.
Sometimes, sand can pile up along a raised part of the earth underwater and as the piles get deeper, they can become sand islands. Coral can grow along a ridge and grow above the water in some places forming coral islands, reefs and atolls. Coral eventually dies and becomes limestone, and a chain of limestone islands can appear. Shallow water over rock can create shoals which can be hazardous to shipping.
Over time, the level of water on earth rises and falls. Seas get deeper or shallower. New islands can appear, or some can disappear. Volcanoes erupt underwater and rise creating a new island.
Careful! The links on the following list take you to associated Wiki articles. To get back to this page, you must use your browser's back arrow.
The number of islands on Earth number in the millions. The number of Archipelagos or chains of islands number over 1000. Wikipedia lists the world’s archipelagos which list follows. It is grouped by ocean and follows with a list of archipelagos sorted by populations (from greatest down to a population of 24 – there are many with less than 24).
Archipelagos of the Arctic Ocean:
o Walrus Islands (Nunavut)
o Walrus Islands (Southampton)
Archipelagos of the Atlantic Ocean:
Along the coast of Europe
§ St Kilda
· Þórðarhöfði (Thordarhofdi)
Along the coast of Africa
· Bight of Bonny Islands
Along the coast of the Americas
· Outer Lands (New England-New York islands)
Archipelagos of Macaronesia:
Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia and Gulf Of Finland
Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico
§ Cat Cays
Archipelagos of the Caspian Sea:
Archipelagos of the Mediterranean Sea:
Archipelagos of the North Sea:
· Frisian Islands (or Wadden Islands)
· Vega Islands (Vegaøyan)
Along the coast of Africa
· Cargados Carajos Shoals (Saint Brandon)
· Choazil Islands (Malandzamia Islands)
o La Digue
Along the coast of Asia
· Lakshadweep (Laccadives)
· Logo Islands (artificial)
· Logo Islands (other artificial one)
· Palm Jumeirah (artificial)
· The World (artificial)
Along the coast of Australia
Archipelagos in the Red Sea:
Along the coast of the Americas
Along the coast of Asia
· Côn Đảo
§ Spermonde Archipelago (Pabbring Islands)
§ Riau Islands (separate from the Riau Archipelago)
§ Schouten Islands (Known as Biak Islands and Geelvink Islands)
§ Sula Islands Also Known As Xulla Islands
o Lau Islands (Also known as Lau Group, Eastern Group and Eastern Archipelago)
· New Caledonia (Kanaky)
· Vanuatu (New Hebrides)
o Mathew and Hunter Islands (Disputed between Vanuatu and France so it could be in here or not)
Micronesia (Subdivision of Oceania not country)
· Gilbert Islands (Kiribati)
· Mortlock Islands (Nomoi Islands)
· Cook Islands (Hervey Islands)
§ Îles du vent (Windward Islands)
§ Îles sous le vent (Leeward Islands)
· Hawaiian Islands (Sandwich Islands)
· New Zealand (main chain)
· Samoan Islands (Navigators’ Islands)
· Tonga Islands (Friendly Islands)
· Tokelau (Union Islands)
· Tuvalu (Ellice Islands)
· Afuera Islands or Penguin Island or Dodge Rocks