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Encyclopedia > Continent
Animated, colour-coded map showing the various continents. Depending on the convention and model, some continents may be consolidated or subdivided: for example, Eurasia is often subdivided into Europe and Asia (red shades), while North and South America are sometimes recognized as one American continent (green shades).
Dymaxion map by Buckminster Fuller shows land masses with minimal distortion as nearly one continuous continent
Dymaxion map by Buckminster Fuller shows land masses with minimal distortion as nearly one continuous continent

A continent is one of several large landmasses on Earth. They are generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, but seven areas are commonly regarded as continents – they are (from largest in size to smallest): Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.[1] Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 406 pixel Image in higher resolution (1488 × 755 pixel, file size: 195 KB, MIME type: image/gif) Animated map showing the several existing continental models in the world. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 406 pixel Image in higher resolution (1488 × 755 pixel, file size: 195 KB, MIME type: image/gif) Animated map showing the several existing continental models in the world. ... Animated, colour-coded map showing the various continents. ... For other uses, see Eurasia (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Europe (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Asia (disambiguation). ... North American redirects here. ... South America South America is a continent crossed by the equator, with most of its area in the Southern Hemisphere. ... Image File history File links Dymaxion_map_unfolded-no-ocean. ... Image File history File links Dymaxion_map_unfolded-no-ocean. ... Unfolded Dymaxion map with nearly-contiguous land masses. ... Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (July 12, 1895 – July 1, 1983)[1] was an American visionary, designer, architect, poet, author, and inventor. ... A landmass is a large continuous area of land. ... This article is about Earth as a planet. ... Convention has at least two very distinct but related meanings. ... For other uses, see Asia (disambiguation). ... A world map showing the continent of Africa Africa is the worlds second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. ... North American redirects here. ... South America South America is a continent crossed by the equator, with most of its area in the Southern Hemisphere. ... For other uses, see Europe (disambiguation). ...


Plate tectonics is the geological process and study of the movement, collision and division of continents, earlier known as continental drift. The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century. ... This article includes a list of works cited but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... Plates in the crust of the earth, according to the plate tectonics theory Continental drift refers to the movement of the Earths continents relative to each other. ...


The term "the Continent" (capitalized), used predominantly in the European isles and peninsulas, such as the British Isles, Sardinia, Sicily and the Scandinavian Peninsula, means mainland Europe, although it can also mean Asia when said in Japan. This article explains the archipelago in north-western Europe. ... Sardinia (pronounced ; Italian: ; Sardinian: or ) is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily). ... Sicily ( in Italian and Sicilian) is an autonomous region of Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, with an area of 25,708 km² (9,926 sq. ... The Scandinavian Peninsula is in northeastern Europe, consisting principally of the mainland territories of Norway and Sweden. ... Continental Europe refers to the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding European islands and peninsulae. ...

Contents

Definitions and application

"Continents are understood to be large, continuous, discrete masses of land, ideally separated by expanses of water."[2] However, many of the seven most commonly recognized continents are identified by convention rather than adherence to the ideal criterion that each be a discrete landmass, separated by water from others. Likewise, the criterion that each be a continuous landmass is often disregarded by the inclusion of the continental shelf and oceanic islands. The Earth's major landmasses are washed upon by a single, continuous World Ocean, which is divided into a number of principal oceanic components by the continents and various geographic criteria.[3][4]  Sediment  Rock  Mantle  The global continental shelf, highlighted in cyan The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain, which is covered during interglacial periods such as the current epoch by relatively shallow seas (known as shelf seas) and gulfs. ... For other uses of island or islands, see Island (disambiguation). ... The term World Ocean refers to the interconnected system of the planet Earths marine waters. ... Animated map exhibiting the worlds oceanic waters. ...


Extent of continents

The narrowest meaning of continent is that of a continuous[5] area of land or mainland, with the coastline and any land boundaries forming the edge of the continent. In this sense the term continental Europe is used to refer to mainland Europe, excluding islands such as Great Britain, Ireland, and Iceland, and the term continent of Australia may refer to the mainland of Australia, excluding Tasmania. Similarly, the continental United States refers to the 48 contiguous United States in central North America and may include Alaska in the northwest of the continent (both separated by Canada), while excluding Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Continental Europe, also referred to as mainland Europe or simply the Continent, is the continent of Europe, explicitly excluding European islands and, at times, peninsulas. ... The Australian continental shelf (light blue) is contiguous with New Guinea, but not with other Pacific islands like New Zealand. ... Slogan or Nickname: Island of Inspiration; The Apple Isle; Holiday Isle Motto(s): Ubertas et Fidelitas (Fertility and Faithfulness) Other Australian states and territories Capital Hobart Government Constitutional monarchy Governor Peter Underwood Premier David Bartlett (ALP) Federal representation  - House seats 5  - Senate seats 12 Gross State Product (2006-07)  - Product... The continental United States is a term referring to the United States situated on the North American continent. ... For other uses, see Alaska (disambiguation). ... This article is about the U.S. State. ...


From the perspective of geology or physical geography, continent may be extended beyond the confines of continuous dry land to include the shallow, submerged adjacent area (the continental shelf)[6] and the islands on the shelf (continental islands), as they are structurally part of the continent.[7] From this perspective the edge of the continental shelf is the true edge of the continent, as shorelines vary with changes in sea level.[8] In this sense the islands of Great Britain and Ireland are part of Europe, and Australia and the island of New Guinea together form a continent (Australia-New Guinea). This article includes a list of works cited but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... True-color image of the Earths surface and atmosphere Physical geography (also know as geosystems or physiography) is a subfield of geography that focuses on the systematic study of patterns and processes within the hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere, and lithosphere. ...  Sediment  Rock  Mantle  The global continental shelf, highlighted in cyan The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain, which is covered during interglacial periods such as the current epoch by relatively shallow seas (known as shelf seas) and gulfs. ... For other uses of island or islands, see Island (disambiguation). ... Australia-New Guinea, also called Sahul or Meganesia, is made up of the continent of Australia and the islands of New Guinea and Tasmania. ...


As a cultural construct, the concept of a continent may go beyond the continental shelf to include oceanic islands and continental fragments. In this way, Iceland is considered part of Europe and Madagascar part of Africa. Extrapolating the concept to its extreme, some geographers take Australia, New Zealand and all the islands of Oceania (or sometimes Australasia) to be equivalent to a continent, allowing the entire land surface of the Earth to be divided into continents or quasi-continents.[9] For other uses of island or islands, see Island (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Oceania (disambiguation). ... Australasia Australasia is a term variably used to describe a region of Oceania: Australia, New Zealand, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. ...


Separation of continents

See also Borders of the continents and Transcontinental country

The ideal criterion that each continent be a discrete landmass is commonly disregarded in favor of more arbitrary, historical conventions. Of the seven most commonly recognized continents, only Antarctica and Australia are separated from other continents. The borders of the continents are the limits of the several continents of the Earth, as defined by various geographical, cultural, and political criteria. ... A transcontinental country is a country belonging to more than one continent. ...


Several continents are defined not as absolutely distinct bodies but as "more or less discrete masses of land".[10] Asia and Africa are joined by the Isthmus of Suez, and North and South America by the Isthmus of Panama. Both these isthmuses are very narrow in comparison with the bulk of the landmasses they join, and both are transected by artificial canals (the Suez Canal and Panama Canal, respectively) which effectively separate these landmasses. The Isthmus of Panama. ... For other uses, see Isthmus (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Canal (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Suez (disambiguation). ... The Panama Canal is a waterway in Central America which joins the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. ...


The division of the landmass of Eurasia into the continents of Asia and Europe is an anomaly, as no sea separates them. The distinction is maintained for historical and cultural reasons. An alternative view is that Eurasia is a single continent, one of six continents in total. This view is held by some geographers and is preferred in Russia (which spans Asia and Europe). For other uses, see Eurasia (disambiguation). ...


North America and South America are now treated as separate continents in much of Western Europe, India, China, and most native English-speaking countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand[citation needed]. Furthermore, the concept of two American continents is prevalent in much of Asia. However, in earlier times they were viewed as a single continent known as America or, to avoid ambiguity with the United States of America, as the Americas. However, the plurality of this last term suggests that even in these "earlier times" some considered the New World (the Americas) as two separate continents. North and South America are viewed as a single continent, one of six in total, in some parts of Europe, and much of Latin America[citation needed]. A current understanding of Western Europe. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... For other uses, see United States (disambiguation) and US (disambiguation). ... World map showing the Americas CIA political map of the Americas in an equal-area projection The Americas are the lands of the Western hemisphere or New World, consisting of the continents of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions. ... Latin America consists of the countries of South America and some of North America (including Central America and some the islands of the Caribbean) whose inhabitants mostly speak Romance languages, although Native American languages are also spoken. ...


When continents are defined as discrete landmasses, embracing all the contiguous land of a body, then Asia, Europe and Africa form a single continent known by various names such as Afro-Eurasia. This produces a four-continent model consisting of Afro-Eurasia, the Americas, Antarctica and Australia. Afro-Eurasia plus associated islands. ...


When sea levels were lower during the Pleistocene ice age, greater areas of continental shelf were exposed as dry land, forming land bridges. At this time Australia-New Guinea was a single, continuous continent. Likewise North America and Asia were joined by the Bering land bridge. Other islands such as Great Britain were joined to the mainlands of their continents. At that time there were just three discrete continents: Afro-Eurasia-America, Antarctica, and Australia-New Guinea. For considerations of sea level change, in particular rise associated with possible global warming, see sea level rise. ... The Pleistocene epoch (IPA: ) on the geologic timescale is the period from 1,808,000 to 11,550 years BP. The Pleistocene epoch had been intended to cover the worlds recent period of repeated glaciations. ... Variations in CO2, temperature and dust from the Vostok ice core over the last 400 000 years For the animated movie, see Ice Age (movie). ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Australia-New Guinea, also called Sahul or Meganesia, is made up of the continent of Australia and the islands of New Guinea and Tasmania. ... Nautical chart of Bering Strait, site of former land bridge between Asia and North America The Bering land bridge, also known as Beringia, was a land bridge roughly 1,000 miles (1,600 km) north to south at its greatest extent, which joined present-day Alaska and eastern Siberia at...


Number of continents

There are numerous ways of distinguishing the continents;

Models
Colour-coded map showing the various continents. Similar shades exhibit areas that may be consolidated or subdivided.
7 continents
[11][12][13][14][15][16]
    North America
    South America
    Antarctica
    Africa
    Europe
    Asia
    Australia
6 continents
[17][12]
    North America
    South America
    Antarctica
    Africa
       Eurasia
    Australia
6 continents
[citation needed]
       America
    Antarctica
    Africa
    Europe
    Asia
    Australia
5 continents[18][19]
       America
    Africa
    Europe
    Asia
    Australia

The seven-continent model is usually taught in Western Europe, Northern Europe, Central Europe, Southeastern Europe, China and most English-speaking countries. The six-continent combined-Eurasia model is preferred by the geographic community, Russia, Eastern Europe, and Japan. The six-continent combined-America model is taught in Latin America, Iran and some parts of Europe including Iberian Peninsula and Greece. This model may be taught to include only the five inhabited continents (excluding Antarctica)[18][19] — as depicted in the Olympic logo.[20] Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1420x655, 32 KB) Summary en: Compiled chiefly from Image:BlankMap-World. ... North American redirects here. ... South America South America is a continent crossed by the equator, with most of its area in the Southern Hemisphere. ... A world map showing the continent of Africa Africa is the worlds second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. ... For other uses, see Europe (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Asia (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Eurasia (disambiguation). ... World map showing the Americas CIA political map of the Americas in an equal-area projection The Americas are the lands of the Western hemisphere or New World, consisting of the continents of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions. ... A current understanding of Western Europe. ... Northern Europe Northern Europe is the northern part of the European continent. ... Central Europe is the region lying between the variously and vaguely defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe. ... The Balkans is the historic and geographic name used to describe southeastern Europe (see the Definitions and boundaries section below). ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... This is a list of countries of the world sorted by the total English-speaking population in that country. ... Eastern Europe is a concept that lacks one precise definition. ... Latin America consists of the countries of South America and some of North America (including Central America and some the islands of the Caribbean) whose inhabitants mostly speak Romance languages, although Native American languages are also spoken. ... The Iberian Peninsula, or Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe, and includes modern day Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar. ...


The names Oceania or Australasia are sometimes used in place of Australia. For example, the Atlas of Canada names Oceania,[11] as does the model taught in Latin America and Iberia.[21][22] For other uses, see Oceania (disambiguation). ... Australasia Australasia is a term variably used to describe a region of Oceania: Australia, New Zealand, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. ... Ibero-America is a term used to refer collectively to the countries in the Americas which were formerly colonies of Spain or Portugal. ...


Area and population

Comparison of population and area
Comparison of population and area
Continent Area (km²) Approx. population
2002
Percent of
total population
Density
People per
square kilometre
Asia 43,810,000 3,800,000,000 60% 86.7
Africa 30,370,000 922,011,000 14% 29.3
Americas 42,330,000 890,000,000 14% 20.9
North America 24,490,000 515,000,000 8% 21.0
South America 17,840,000 371,000,000 6% 20.8
Antarctica 13,720,000 1,000 0.00002% 0.00007
Europe 10,180,000 710,000,000 11% 69.7
Oceania 9,010,000 33,552,994 0.6% 3.7
Australia-New Guinea 8,500,000 30,000,000 0.5% 3.5
Australia mainland 7,600,000 21,000,000 0.3% 2.8

The total land area of all continents is 148,647,000 km², or approximately 29.1% of earth's surface (510,065,600 km2). For other uses, see Asia (disambiguation). ... A world map showing the continent of Africa Africa is the worlds second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. ... World map showing the Americas CIA political map of the Americas in an equal-area projection The Americas are the lands of the Western hemisphere or New World, consisting of the continents of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions. ... North American redirects here. ... South America South America is a continent crossed by the equator, with most of its area in the Southern Hemisphere. ... For other uses, see Europe (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Oceania (disambiguation). ... Australia-New Guinea, also called Sahul or Meganesia, is made up of the continent of Australia and the islands of New Guinea and Tasmania. ... The Australian continental shelf (light blue) is contiguous with New Guinea, but not with other Pacific islands like New Zealand. ...


Other divisions

Certain parts of continents are recognized as subcontinents, particularly those on different tectonic plates to the rest of the continent. The most notable examples are the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Peninsula. Greenland, on the North American Plate, is sometimes referred to as a subcontinent. Where America is viewed as a single continent, it is divided into two subcontinents (North America and South America)[23][24][25] or various regions.[26] Map of South Asia (see note on Kashmir) A subcontinent is a large part of a continent. ... The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century. ... Map of South Asia (see note) This article deals with the geophysical region in Asia. ... Arabia redirects here. ...  The North American plate, shown in brown The North American Plate is a tectonic plate covering most of North America, extending eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward to the Cherskiy Range in East Siberia. ...


Some areas of continental crust are largely covered by the sea and may be considered submerged continents. Notable examples are Zealandia, emerging from the sea primarily in New Zealand and New Caledonia, and the almost completely submerged Kerguelen continent in the southern Indian Ocean. The thickness of the Earths crust (km). ... Topography of Zealandia. ... The Kerguelen Plateau is an underwater volcanic ridge—the largest in the Indian Ocean, and one of the largest in the world. ...


Some islands lie on sections of continental crust that have rifted and drifted apart from a main continental landmass. While not considered continents because of their relatively small size, they may be considered microcontinents. Madagascar, the largest example, is usually considered part of Africa but has been referred to as "the eighth continent". Dymaxion map by Buckminster Fuller shows land mass with minimal distortion as only one continuous continent A continent (Latin continere, to hold together) is a large continuous land mass. ...


History of the concept

Early concepts of the Old World continents

The Ancient Greek geographer Strabo holding a globe showing Europa and Asia
The Ancient Greek geographer Strabo holding a globe showing Europa and Asia
Medieval T and O map showing the three continents as domains of the sons of Noah - Sem (Shem), Iafeth (Japheth) and Cham (Ham)
Medieval T and O map showing the three continents as domains of the sons of Noah - Sem (Shem), Iafeth (Japheth) and Cham (Ham)

The first distinction between continents was made by ancient Greek mariners who gave the names Europe and Asia to the lands on either side of the waterways of the Aegean Sea, the Dardanelles strait, the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus strait and the Black Sea.[27] The names were first applied just to lands near the coast and only later extended to include the hinterlands.[28] But the division was only carried through to the end of navigable waterways and "... beyond that point the Hellenic geographers never succeeded in laying their finger on any inland feature in the physical landscape that could offer any convincing line for partitioning an indivisible Eurasia ..."[27] Download high resolution version (873x1056, 180 KB) This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... Download high resolution version (873x1056, 180 KB) This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... The Greek geographer Strabo in a 16th century engraving. ... Image File history File links Please see the file description page for further information. ... Image File history File links Please see the file description page for further information. ... Earliest printed example of a classical T and O map (by Guntherus Ziner, Augsburg, 1472), illustrating the first page of chapter XIV of the Etymologiae. ... This article is about the biblical Noah. ... Shem (Hebrew: , Standard  Tiberian  ; Greek: Σημ, SÄ“m ; Arabic:  ; Geez: Sham ; renown; prosperity; name) was one of the sons of Noah in the Bible. ... Japheth (Hebrew. ... Ham (חָם, Standard Hebrew , Tiberian Hebrew , , Geez Kam), according to the Genealogies of Genesis, was a son of Noah and the father of Cush, Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan. ... The term ancient Greece refers to the periods of Greek history in Classical Antiquity, lasting ca. ... For other uses, see Europe (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Asia (disambiguation). ... Look up Aegean Sea in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The Dardanelles, a long narrow strait dividing the Balkans (Europe) along the Gallipoli peninsula from Asia Minor. ... Map of the Sea of Marmara Satellite view of the Sea of Marmara The Sea of Marmara (Turkish: Marmara Denizi, Modern Greek: Θάλασσα του Μαρμαρά or Προποντίδα) (also known as the Sea of Marmora or the Marmara Sea) is an inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, thus separating the... Bosphorus - photo taken from International Space Station. ... For other uses, see Black Sea (disambiguation). ...


Ancient Greek thinkers subsequently debated whether Africa (then called Libya) should be considered part of Asia or a third part of the world. Division into three parts eventually came to predominate.[29] From the Greek viewpoint, the Aegean Sea was the center of the world; Asia lay to the east, Europe to the west and north and Africa to the south.[30] The boundaries between the continents were not fixed. Early on, the Europe-Asia boundary was taken to run from the Black Sea along the Rioni River (known then as the Phasis) in Georgia. Later it was viewed as running from the Black Sea through Kerch Strait, the Sea of Azov and along the Don River (known then as the Tanais) in Russia.[31] The boundary between Asia and Africa was generally taken to be the Nile River. Herodotus[32] in the fifth century BC, however, objected to the unity of Egypt being split into Asia and Africa ("Libya") and took the boundary to lie along the western border of Egypt, regarding Egypt as part of Asia. He also questioned the division into three of what is really a single landmass,[33] a debate that continues nearly two and a half millennia later. A world map showing the continent of Africa Africa is the worlds second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. ... The Rioni River (Georgian რიონი) is the principal river of western Georgia. ... Kerch Strait. ... The shallow Sea of Azov is clearly distinguished from the deeper Black Sea. ... The Don (Дон) is one of the major rivers of Russia. ... For other uses, see Nile (disambiguation). ... Herodotus of Halicarnassus (Greek: Hēródotos Halikarnāsseús) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC (c. ...


Eratosthenes, in the third century BC, noted that some geographers divided the continents by rivers (the Nile and the Don), thus considering them "islands". Others divided the continents by isthmuses, calling the continents "peninsulas". These latter geographers set the border between Europe and Asia at the isthmus between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and the border between Asia and Africa at the isthmus between the Red Sea and the mouth of Lake Bardawil on the Mediterranean Sea.[34] This article is about the Greek scholar of the third century BC. For the ancient Athenian statesman of the fifth century BC, see Eratosthenes (statesman). ... For other uses, see Isthmus (disambiguation). ... The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the worlds largest lake or a full-fledged sea. ... Location of the Red Sea The Red Sea is an inlet of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Asia. ... Mediterranean redirects here. ...


Through the Roman period and the Middle Ages, a few writers took the Isthmus of Suez as the boundary between Asia and Africa, but most writers continued to take it to be the Nile or the western border of Egypt (Gibbon). In the Middle Ages the world was portrayed on T and O maps, with the T representing the waters dividing the three continents. By the middle of the eighteenth century, "the fashion of dividing Asia and Africa at the Nile, or at the Great Catabathmus [the boundary between Egypt and Libya] farther west, had even then scarcely passed away".[35] The Middle Ages formed the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three ages: the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times, beginning with the Renaissance. ... Earliest printed example of a classical T and O map (by Guntherus Ziner, Augsburg, 1472), illustrating the first page of chapter XIV of the Etymologiae. ...


European discovery of the Americas

Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the West Indies in 1492, sparking a period of European exploration of the Americas. But despite four voyages to the Americas, Columbus never believed he had reached a new continent – he always thought it was part of Asia. Christopher Columbus (1451 – May 20, 1506) was a navigator, colonizer, and explorer and one of the first Europeans to explore the Americas after the Vikings. ... West Indies redirects here. ... World map showing the Americas CIA political map of the Americas in an equal-area projection The Americas are the lands of the Western hemisphere or New World, consisting of the continents of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions. ...


In 1501, Amerigo Vespucci and Gonçalo Coelho attempted to sail around the southern end of the Asian mainland into the Indian Ocean. On reaching the coast of Brazil, they sailed a long way south along the coast of South America, confirming that this was a land of continental proportions and that it extended much further south than Asia was known to.[36] On return to Europe, an account of the voyage, called Mundus Novus ("New World"), was published under Vespucci’s name in 1502 or 1503,[37] although it seems that it had additions or alterations by another writer.[38] Regardless of who penned the words, Mundus Novus attributed Vespucci with saying, "I have discovered a continent in those southern regions that is inhabited by more numerous people and animals than our Europe, or Asia or Africa",[39] the first known explicit identification of part of the Americas as a continent like the other three. Amerigo Vespucci (Américo Vespucio in Spanish) (March 8, 1454 - February 22, 1512) was an Italian merchant, explorer and cartographer. ... Gonçalo Coelho (15th century/16th century), Portuguese explorer of the South Atlantic and of the South American coast (expedition to Brazil and further south in 1502). ... South America South America is a continent crossed by the equator, with most of its area in the Southern Hemisphere. ...

Universalis Cosmographia, Waldseemüller's 1507 world map which was the first to show the Americas separate from Asia
Universalis Cosmographia, Waldseemüller's 1507 world map which was the first to show the Americas separate from Asia

Within a few years the name "New World" began appearing as a name for South America on world maps, such as the Oliveriana (Pesaro) map of around 1504–1505. Maps of this time though still showed North America connected to Asia and showed South America as a separate land.[38] Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 447 pixelsFull resolution (2048 × 1144 pixel, file size: 820 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Image:Martin waldseemuller map 1507 m 2. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 447 pixelsFull resolution (2048 × 1144 pixel, file size: 820 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Image:Martin waldseemuller map 1507 m 2. ... North American redirects here. ...


In 1507 Martin Waldseemüller published a world map, Universalis Cosmographia, which was the first to show North and South America as separate from Asia and surrounded by water. A small inset map above the main map explicitly showed for the first time the Americas being east of Asia and separated from Asia by an ocean, as opposed to just placing the Americas on the left end of the map and Asia on the right end. In the accompanying book Cosmographiae Introductio, Waldseemüller noted that the earth is divided into four parts, Europe, Asia, Africa and the fourth part which he named "America" after Amerigo Vespucci's first name.[40] On the map, the word "America" was placed on part of South America. Martin Waldseemüller (19th century painting). ... Universalis Cosmographia, the Waldseemüller wall map dated 1507, depicts the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Ocean separating Asia from the Americas The Waldseemüller map, Universalis Cosmographia, is a wall map of the world drawn by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller and originally published in April 1507. ... Cosmographiae introductio was a book published in 1507 to accompany Martin Waldseemüllers map of the world and wall-map, which was the first appearance of the name America. It is widely held to have been written by Matthias Ringmann although some historians attribute it to Waldseemüller himself. ...


The word continent

From the 1500s the English noun continent was derived from the term continent land, meaning continuous or connected land[41] and translated from the Latin terra continens.[42] The noun was used to mean "a connected or continuous tract of land" or mainland.[41] It was not applied only to very large areas of land — in the 1600s, references were made to the continents (or mainlands) of Kent, Ireland and Wales and in 1745 to Sumatra.[41] The word continent was used in translating Greek and Latin writings about the three "parts" of the world, although in the original languages no word of exactly the same meaning as continent was used.[43] This article is about the geomorphological/geopolitical term; MAINLAND is also a cheese brand owned by Fonterra, a New Zealand dairy company. ... For other uses, see Kent (disambiguation). ... This article is about the country. ... For other uses, see Sumatra (disambiguation). ...


While continent was used on the one hand for relatively small areas of continuous land, on the other hand geographers again raised Herodotus’s query about why a single large landmass should be divided into separate continents. In the mid 1600s Peter Heylin wrote in his Cosmographie that "A Continent is a great quantity of Land, not separated by any Sea from the rest of the World, as the whole Continent of Europe, Asia, Africa." In 1727 Ephraim Chambers wrote in his Cyclopædia, "The world is ordinarily divided into two grand continents: the old and the new." And in his 1752 atlas, Emanuel Bowen defined a continent as "a large space of dry land comprehending many countries all joined together, without any separation by water. Thus Europe, Asia, and Africa is one great continent, as America is another."[44] However, the old idea of Europe, Asia and Africa as "parts" of the world ultimately persisted with these being regarded as separate continents. Peter Heylin or Heylyn (1600–1662) was an English ecclesiastical writer. ... Ephraim Chambers (c1680 - 15 May 1740), was an English writer and encyclopedist, who is primarily known for producing the Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. ... For other uses, see Old World (disambiguation). ... Frontispiece of Peter Martyr dAnghieras De orbe novo (On the New World). Carte dAmérique, Guillaume Delisle, 1722. ...


Beyond four continents

From the late 18th century some geographers started to regard North America and South America as two parts of the world, making five parts in total. Overall though the fourfold division prevailed well into the 19th century.[45]


Europeans discovered Australia in 1606 but for some time it was taken as part of Asia. By the late 18th century some geographers considered it a continent in its own right, making it the sixth (or fifth for those still taking America as a single continent).[45] In 1813 Samuel Butler wrote of Australia as "New Holland, an immense island, which some geographers dignify with the appellation of another continent" and the Oxford English Dictionary was just as equivocal some decades later.[46] Samuel Butler, FRS (30 January 1774 - 4 December 1839), was an English classical scholar and schoolmaster at Shrewsbury, and Bishop of Lichfield. ... Map of a part of New Holland made by William Dampier in 1699 New Holland is a historic name for the island continent of Australia. ... The Oxford English Dictionary print set The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a dictionary published by the Oxford University Press (OUP), and is the most successful dictionary of the English language, (not to be confused with the one-volume Oxford Dictionary of English, formerly New Oxford Dictionary of English, of...


Antarctica was sighted in 1820 and described as a continent by Charles Wilkes on the United States Exploring Expedition in 1838, the last continent to be identified, although a great "Antarctic" (antipodean) landmass had been anticipated for millennia. An 1849 atlas labelled Antarctica as a continent but few atlases did so until after World War II.[47] Charles Wilkes Charles Wilkes (April 3, 1798 – February 8, 1877) was an American naval officer and explorer. ... The United States Exploring Expedition was an exploring and surveying expedition of the Pacific Ocean (the Southern Seas) conducted by the United States Navy from 1838–1842. ... Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000...


From the mid-19th century, United States atlases more commonly treated North and South America as separate continents, while atlases published in Europe usually considered them one continent. However, it was still not uncommon for United States atlases to treat them as one continent up until World War II.[48] The Olympic flag, devised in 1913, has five rings representing the five inhabited, participating continents, with America being treated as one continent and Antarctica not included.[20] The Olympic symbols are the icons, flags and symbols used by the International Olympic Committee to promote the Olympic Games. ...


From the 1950s, most United States geographers divided America in two[48] — consistent with modern understanding of geology and plate tectonics. With the addition of Antarctica, this made the seven-continent model. However, this division of America never appealed to Latin America, which saw itself spanning an America that was a single landmass, and there the conception of six continents remains, as it does in scattered other countries. This article includes a list of works cited but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century. ... Latin America consists of the countries of South America and some of North America (including Central America and some the islands of the Caribbean) whose inhabitants mostly speak Romance languages, although Native American languages are also spoken. ...


However, in recent years, there has been a push for Europe and Asia—traditionally considered two continents—to be considered one single continent, dubbed "Eurasia" - consistent with modern understanding of geology and plate tectonics. In this model, the world is divided into six continents (if North America and South America are considered separate continents). For other uses, see Eurasia (disambiguation). ... This article includes a list of works cited but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century. ...


Geology

Further information: Continental crust, Plate tectonics

Geologists use the term continent in a different manner than geographers, where a continent is defined by continental crust: a platform of metamorphic and igneous rock, largely of granitic composition. Some geologists restrict the term 'continent' to portions of the crust built around stable Precambrian "shield", typically 1.5 to 3.8 billion years old, called a craton. The craton itself is an accretionary complex of ancient mobile belts (mountain belts) from earlier cycles of subduction, continental collision and break-up from plate tectonic activity. An outward-thickening veneer of younger, minimally deformed sedimentary rock covers much of the craton. The margins of geologic continents are characterized by currently-active or relatively recently active mobile belts and deep troughs of accumulated marine or deltaic sediments. Beyond the margin, there is either a continental shelf and drop off to the basaltic ocean basin or the margin of another continent, depending on the current plate-tectonic setting of the continent. A continental boundary does not have to be a body of water. Over geologic time, continents are periodically submerged under large epicontinental seas, and continental collisions result in a continent becoming attached to another continent. The current geologic era is relatively anomalous in that so much of the continental areas are "high and dry" compared to much of geologic history. The thickness of the Earths crust (km). ... The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century. ... Geologic provinces of the world (USGS) In geology, a crust is the outermost solid shell of a planet or moon. ... Quartzite, a form of metamorphic rock, from the Museum of Geology at University of Tartu collection. ... Igneous rocks (etymology from Latin ignis, fire) are rocks formed by solidification of cooled magma (molten rock), with or without crystallization, either below the surface as intrusive (plutonic) rocks or on the surface as extrusive (volcanic) rocks. ... For other uses, see granite (disambiguation). ... The Precambrian (Pre-Cambrian) is an informal name for the supereon comprising the eons of the geologic timescale that came before the current Phanerozoic eon. ... World geologic provinces. ... Oceanic-continental convergence: The required conditions for plate accretion Accretion, in geology, is a process by which sediment is added to a tectonic plate. ... Geometry of a subduction zone - insets to show accretionary prism and partial melting of hydrated asthenosphere. ... Continental collision is a phenomenon of the plate tectonics of our solid Earth. ... The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century. ... Two types of sedimentary rock: limey shale overlain by limestone. ... Nile River delta, as seen from Earth orbit. ... This article or section cites very few or no references or sources. ...  Sediment  Rock  Mantle  The global continental shelf, highlighted in cyan The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain, which is covered during interglacial periods such as the current epoch by relatively shallow seas (known as shelf seas) and gulfs. ... For the cities, see Basalt, Colorado and Basalt, Idaho. ... Diagrammatic cross-section of an ocean basin, showing the various geographic features. ...

The tectonic plates underlying the continents and oceans
The tectonic plates underlying the continents and oceans

Some argue that continents are accretionary crustal "rafts" which, unlike the denser basaltic crust of the ocean basins, are not subjected to destruction through the plate tectonic process of subduction. This accounts for the great age of the rocks comprising the continental cratons. By this definition, Europe could be regarded as a distinct continental mass from the rest of Eurasia because it has a separate ancient shield area. A younger mobile belt (the Ural Mountains) marks the boundary between Europe and the block to the east. Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... The thickness of the Earths crust (km). ... The East European craton is the core of the Baltica proto-plate and consists of three crustal regions/segments: Fennoscandia to the northwest, Volgo-Uralia to the east, and Sarmatia to the south. ... Map of the Ural Mountains The Ural Mountains (Russian: , Uralskiye gory) (also known as the Urals, the Riphean Mountains in Greco-Roman antiquity, and known as the Stone Belt) are a mountain range that runs roughly north and south through western Russia. ...


There are many microcontinents that are built of continental crust but do not contain a craton. Some of these are fragments of Gondwanaland or other ancient cratonic continents: Zealandia, which includes New Zealand and New Caledonia; Madagascar; the northern Mascarene Plateau, which includes the Seychelles; etc. Other islands, such as several in the Caribbean Sea, are composed largely of granitic rock as well, but all continents contain both granitic and basaltic crust, and there is no clear boundary as to which islands would be considered microcontinents under such a definition. The Kerguelen Plateau, for example, is largely volcanic, but is associated with the breakup of Gondwanaland and is considered to be a microcontinent,[49][50][51] whereas volcanic Iceland and Hawaii are not. The British Isles, Sri Lanka, Borneo, and Newfoundland are margins of the Laurasian continent which are only separated by inland seas flooding its margins. Dymaxion map by Buckminster Fuller shows land mass with minimal distortion as only one continuous continent A continent (Latin continere, to hold together) is a large continuous land mass. ... This article is about the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. ... Topography of Zealandia. ... The Mascarene Plateau is an undersea plateau in the Indian Ocean, north and east of Madagascar. ... Map of Central America and the Caribbean The Caribbean Sea (pronounced or ) is a tropical sea in the Western Hemisphere, part of the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of the Gulf of Mexico. ... The Kerguelen Plateau is an underwater volcanic ridge—the largest in the Indian Ocean, and one of the largest in the world. ... Map of the Hawaiian Islands, a chain of islands that stretches 1,500 mi (2,400 km) in a northwesterly direction from the southern tip of the Island of Hawaii. ... This article explains the archipelago in north-western Europe. ... Φ Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located at the centre of Maritime Southeast Asia. ... Newfoundland —   IPA: [nuw fÉ™n lænd] (French: , Irish: ) is a large island off the east coast of North America, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. ... Laurasia was a supercontinent that most recently existed as a part of the split of the Pangaean supercontinent in the late Mesozoic era. ...


Plate tectonics offers yet another way of defining continents. Today, Europe and most of Asia comprise the unified Eurasian Plate which is approximately coincident with the geographic Eurasian continent excluding India, Arabia, and far eastern Russia. India contains a central shield, and the geologically recent Himalaya mobile belt forms its northern margin. North America and South America are separate continents, the connecting isthmus being largely the result of volcanism from relatively recent subduction tectonics. North American continental rocks extend to Greenland (a portion of the Canadian Shield), and in terms of plate boundaries, the North American plate includes the easternmost portion of the Asian land mass. Geologists do not use these facts to suggest that eastern Asia is part of the North American continent, even though the plate boundary extends there; the word continent is usually used in its geographic sense and additional definitions ("continental rocks," "plate boundaries") are used as appropriate. The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century. ...  The Eurasian plate, shown in green The Eurasian Plate is a tectonic plate covering Eurasia (a landmass consisting of the traditional continents of Europe and Asia) except that it does not cover the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian subcontinent, and the area east of the Verkhoyansk Range in East Siberia. ... Perspective view of the Himalaya and Mount Everest as seen from space looking south-south-east from over the Tibetan Plateau. ... For other uses, see Isthmus (disambiguation). ... Cleveland Volcano in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska photographed from the International Space Station For other uses, see Volcano (disambiguation). ... Canadian Shield Canadian Shield Landform. ...


See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

 Sediment  Rock  Mantle  The global continental shelf, highlighted in cyan The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain, which is covered during interglacial periods such as the current epoch by relatively shallow seas (known as shelf seas) and gulfs. ... In geology, a supercontinent is a land mass comprising more than one continental core, or craton. ... This is a list of the countries of the world by continent, displayed with their respective national flags and capitals. ... The definition of continental subregions in use by the United Nations. ... The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in the second half of the 20th century. ... This article includes a list of works cited but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ... Plates in the crust of the earth, according to the plate tectonics theory Continental drift refers to the movement of the Earths continents relative to each other. ... The borders of the continents are the limits of the several continents of the Earth, as defined by various geographical, cultural, and political criteria. ...

References and notes

  1. ^ britannica.com
  2. ^ Lewis, Martin W.; Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 21. ISBN 0-520-20742-4, ISBN 0-520-20743-2. 
  3. ^ "Ocean". The Columbia Encyclopedia (2006). New York: Columbia University Press. Retrieved 20 February 2007.
  4. ^ "Distribution of land and water on the planet." UN Atlas of the Oceans (2004). Retrieved 20 February 2007.
  5. ^ "continent n. 5. a." (1989) Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition. Oxford University Press ; "continent1 n." (2006) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th edition revised. (Ed.) Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press; "continent1 n." (2005) The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd edition. (Ed.) Erin McKean. Oxford University Press; "continent [2, n] 4 a" (1996) Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. ProQuest Information and Learning ; "continent" (2007) Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 14, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  6. ^ "continent [2, n] 6" (1996) Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. ProQuest Information and Learning. "a large segment of the earth's outer shell including a terrestrial continent and the adjacent continental shelf"
  7. ^ Monkhouse, F. J.; John Small (1978). A Dictionary of the Natural Environment. London: Edward Arnold, pp. 67-68. “structurally it includes shallowly submerged adjacent areas (continental shelf) and neighbouring islands” 
  8. ^ Ollier, Cliff D. (1996). Planet Earth. In Ian Douglas (Ed.), Companion Encyclopedia of Geography: The Environment and Humankind. London: Routledge, p. 30. "Ocean waters extend onto continental rocks at continental shelves, and the true edges of the continents are the steeper continental slopes. The actual shorelines are rather accidental, depending on the height of sea-level on the sloping shelves."
  9. ^ Lewis, Martin W.; Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 40. ISBN 0-520-20742-4, ISBN 0-520-20743-2. “The joining of Australia with various Pacific islands to form the quasi continent of Oceania ...” 
  10. ^ Lewis, Martin W.; Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 35. ISBN 0-520-20742-4, ISBN 0-520-20743-2. 
  11. ^ a b The World - Continents, Atlas of Canada
  12. ^ a b "Continent". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
  13. ^ World, National Geographic - Xpeditions Atlas. 2006. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.
  14. ^ The New Oxford Dictionary of English. 2001. New York: Oxford University Press.
  15. ^ "Continent". MSN Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2006.
  16. ^ "Continent". McArthur, Tom, ed. 1992. The Oxford Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press; p. 260.
  17. ^ "Continent". The Columbia Encyclopedia. 2001. New York: Columbia University Press - Bartleby.
  18. ^ a b Océano Uno, Diccionario Enciclopédico y Atlas Mundial, "Continente", page 392, 1730. ISBN 84-494-0188-7
  19. ^ a b Los Cinco Continentes (The Five Continents), Planeta-De Agostini Editions, 1997. ISBN 84-395-6054-0
  20. ^ a b The Olympic symbols. International Olympic Committee. 2002. Lausanne: Olympic Museum and Studies Centre. The five rings of the Olympic flag represent the five inhabited, participating continents (Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania); thus, Antarctica is excluded from the flag. Also see Association of National Olympic Committees: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
  21. ^ "Continente" Portuguese Wikipedia
  22. ^ "Continente". Spanish Wikipedia
  23. ^ English map of 1770 by Jonghe
  24. ^ DPD: América
  25. ^ Dicionário da língua portuguesa: Contiente
  26. ^ In Ibero-America, North America usually designates a region (subcontinente in Spanish) of the Americas containing Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, and often Greenland, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Bermuda; the land bridge of Central America is generally considered a subregion of North America.Norteamérica (Mexican version)/(Spaniard version). Encarta Online Encyclopedia..
  27. ^ a b Toynbee, Arnold J. (1954). A Study of History. London: Oxford University Press, v. 8, pp. 711-12.
  28. ^ Tozer, H. F. (1897). A History of Ancient Geography. Cambridge: University Press, p. 69. 
  29. ^ Tozer, H. F. (1897). A History of Ancient Geography. Cambridge: University Press, p. 67. 
  30. ^ Lewis, Martin W.; Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 21-22. ISBN 0-520-20742-4, ISBN 0-520-20743-2. 
  31. ^ Tozer, H. F. (1897). A History of Ancient Geography. Cambridge: University Press, p. 68. 
  32. ^ Herodotus. Translated by George Rawlinson (2000). The Histories of Herodotus of Halicarnassus [6]. Ames, Iowa: Omphaloskepsis, book 2, p. 18.
  33. ^ Herodotus. Translated by George Rawlinson (2000). The Histories of Herodotus of Halicarnassus [7]. Ames, Iowa: Omphaloskepsis, book 4, p. 38. "I cannot conceive why three names ... should ever have been given to a tract which is in reality one"
  34. ^ Strabo. Translated by Horace Leonard Jones (1917). Geography.[8] Harvard University Press, book 1, ch. 4.[9]
  35. ^ Goddard, Farley Brewer (1884). "Researches in the Cyrenaica". The American Journal of Philology, 5 (1) p. 38.
  36. ^ O'Gorman, Edmundo (1961). The Invention of America. Indiana University Press, pp. 106-112. 
  37. ^ Formisano, Luciano (Ed.) (1992). Letters from a New World: Amerigo Vespucci's Discovery of America. New York: Marsilio, pp. xx-xxi. ISBN 0-941419-62-2.
  38. ^ a b Zerubavel, Eviatar (2003). Terra Cognita: The Mental Discovery of America. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, pp. 77–79. ISBN 0-7658-0987-7.
  39. ^ Formisano, Luciano (Ed.) (1992). Letters from a New World: Amerigo Vespucci's Discovery of America. New York: Marsilio, p. 45. ISBN 0-941419-62-2.
  40. ^ Zerubavel, Eviatar (2003). Terra Cognita: The Mental Discovery of America. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, pp. 80–82. ISBN 0-7658-0987-7.
  41. ^ a b c "continent n." (1989) Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition. Oxford University Press.
  42. ^ "continent1 n." (2006) The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th edition revised. (Ed.) Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press.
  43. ^ Lewis, Martin W.; Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 29. ISBN 0-520-20742-4, ISBN 0-520-20743-2. 
  44. ^ Bowen, Emanuel. (1752). A Complete Atlas, or Distinct View of the Known World. London, p. 3.
  45. ^ a b Lewis, Martin W.; Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 30. ISBN 0-520-20742-4, ISBN 0-520-20743-2. 
  46. ^ "continent n. 5. a." (1989) Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition. Oxford University Press. "the great island of Australia is sometimes reckoned as another [continent]"
  47. ^ Lewis, Martin W.; Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 32, 220. ISBN 0-520-20742-4, ISBN 0-520-20743-2. 
  48. ^ a b Lewis, Martin W.; Kären E. Wigen (1997). The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 32. ISBN 0-520-20742-4, ISBN 0-520-20743-2. 
  49. ^ UT Austin scientist plays major rule in study of underwater "micro-continent". Retrieved on 2007-07-03
  50. ^ REFERENCE Could we eventually uncover a lost civilization on the sunken Kerguelen continent? Retrieved on 2007-07-03
  51. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/353277.stm Retrieved on 2007-07-03
Animated map exhibiting the worlds oceanic waters. ... The term World Ocean refers to the interconnected system of the planet Earths marine waters. ... The Arctic Ocean, located in the northern hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest of the worlds five major oceanic divisions and the shallowest. ... Atlantic and North Atlantic redirect here. ... Pacific redirects here. ... The Southern Ocean, also known as the Great Southern Ocean, the Antarctic Ocean and the South Polar Ocean, is the International Hydrographic Organizations oceanic division encircling Antarctica, comprising the southernmost waters of the World Ocean south of 60° S latitude. ...

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