Archipelago [Ital., from Gr.=chief sea], ancient name of the Aegean Sea, later applied to the numerous islands it contains. The word now designates any cluster of islands.

Group of some 80 islands (pop., 2002: 15,973), French Polynesia. The archipelago comprises 75 atolls, one raised coral atoll (Makatea), and innumerable coral reefs, roughly dispersed northwest-southeast as a double chain for more than 900 miles (1,450 km). Europeans visited the islands in the 16th and 17th centuries. France occupied them in 1844 and annexed them in 1880 as a Tahitian dependency. They now form, with the Gambier Islands, an administrative division of French Polynesia. In 1947 Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki expedition ended on Raroia, one of Tuamotu's many reefs. France has used some uninhabited atolls in the archipelago for nuclear-weapons testing.

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Volcanic and coral archipelago, southwestern Philippines, between Mindanao and Borneo. A double island chain, it extends 170 mi (270 km) and includes about 400 named islands and more than 500 unnamed ones; they cover an area of 1,038 sq mi (2,688 sq km). The islanders were converted to Islam by Abu Bakr in the mid-15th century. The Spanish tried, largely unsuccessfully, to subdue the inhabitants, whom they called Moros. The islands finally became a Spanish protectorate in the 19th century, and in 1899 came under U.S. authority. The archipelago was ceded to the Philippines in 1940. The islands have long provided a haven for smugglers.

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Largest group of islands in the world, located off the southeastern coast of Asia between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It consists of the more than 13,000 islands of Indonesia and some 7,000 islands of the Philippines. Formerly called the East Indies, the archipelago extends along the Equator for more than 3,800 mi (6,100 km). Principal islands include the Greater Sunda Islands (Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and Celebes), the Lesser Sundas, the Moluccas, New Guinea, Luzon, Mindanao, and the Visayan Islands.

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Island group, Papua New Guinea, southeast of New Guinea. Stretching for more than 100 mi (160 km), it occupies 10,000 sq mi (26,000 sq km) of the South Pacific Ocean. It has nearly 100 islands; the largest are Misima, Tagula, and Rossel. It was visited by the Spanish in 1606 and was named after Louis XV of France in 1768. Occupied by Japanese forces in 1942, the islands are near the site of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

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Island group, central Indian Ocean. Located about 1,000 mi (1,600 km) south of the tip of the Indian subcontinent, it has a total area of 23 sq mi (60 sq km). Acquired by Britain from France in 1814, it was originally administered by Britain as a dependency of Mauritius; since 1976 it has been the sole member of the British Indian Ocean Territory. Strategically situated at the centre of the Indian Ocean, its chief island, Diego Garcia, was developed as an air and naval refueling station by the U.S. and Great Britain in the mid 20th century, over the strong opposition from the region's coastal and island states.

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Island group, western Pacific Ocean. Lying northwest of New Guinea, it forms part of Papua New Guinea. It has a total area of about 18,600 sq mi (48,200 sq km); its largest components include New Britain, New Ireland, the Admiralty Islands, and Lavongai (New Hanover). Annexed by Germany in 1884, it was named for Otto von Bismarck. Occupied by Australia in 1914, it was made a mandated territory of Australia in 1920. The group became part of the UN Trust Territory of New Guinea after World War II and part of Papua New Guinea when it attained independence in 1975.

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Group of about 1,100 islands, southeastern Alaska, U.S. Extending southward from Glacier Bay, the chief islands are Chichagof, Admiralty, Baranof, Kupreanof, Prince of Wales, and Revillagigedo. The chief towns are Sitka (on Baranof) and Ketchikan (on Revillagigedo). The islands are separated from the mainland by deep, narrow channels that form part of the Inside Passage. The archipelago's name, given in 1867, honours Tsar Alexander II.

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An archipelago is a chain or cluster of islands. The word archipelago literally means "chief sea", from Italian arcipelago (artʃiˈpelago) , derived ultimately from Greek arkhon (arkhi-) ("leader") and pelagos ("sea"). In Italian, possibly following a tradition of antiquity, the Archipelago (Greek: Αρχιπέλαγος) was the proper name for the Aegean Sea and, later, usage shifted to refer to the Aegean Islands (since the sea is remarkable for its large number of islands). It is now used to generally refer to any island group or, sometimes, to a sea containing a large number of scattered islands like the Aegean Sea.

Types of archipelagos

Archipelagos are usually found in the open sea; less commonly, a large land mass may neighbour them, an example being Scotland which has more than 700 islands surrou Bailey Rocksgenerated by subductions zones or hotspots, but there are many other processes involved in their construction, including erosion, deposition, and land elevation.

The five largest modern states that are mainly archipelagos are Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Indonesia (the world's largest archipelagic state according to the CIA World Factbook)

The largest archipelago in the world by size is the Canadian Arctic Archipelago of Northern Canada. It is situated in the Arctic Ocean. The archipelago with most islands is the Archipelago Sea in Finland, but these islands are, on average, small.

See also


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