Is Europe the smallest continent
- From Eurasia to Australia-Oceania - How many continents are there on earth and where are the borders between them? -
About 70% of the earth's surface is covered by water. The large land masses are known as continents. But how is "continent“Actually defines how many continents are there on earth and where are the borders? We present various possible answers to these questions here. In addition, the division of the continents that we use at Marmota Maps.
Continent - definition
Our current view of the land masses of the earth shows us only a certain section in the history of the earth. The continental plates, or lithospheric plates, move at a speed of about 1-10 centimeters per year. The supercontinent Pangea, in which all the major land masses on earth were connected, broke apart about 150 million years ago. And in the future too, the image of the earth's surface will slowly change over millions of years due to continental drift.
The term "continent“Comes from Latin. "Terra continens" can with "contiguous land" to be translated.
However, there is no completely undisputed definition of what constitutes a continent. The Encyclopædia Britannica is often cited, which in addition to the definition also gives the number of continents. Accordingly, a continent is "one of the larger contiguous land masses, viz Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe and Australia, arranged by size. (Europe and Asia are sometimes considered a single continent, Eurasia, viewed)“.
The smallest continent Australia, is also called in other definitions Oceania, or Australia-Oceania designated
In general it can be stated that plate tectonic, geological, geographical, as well as cultural and political criteria are used to classify the continents.
Which continents are there?
Usually the number of continents is given as seven, as in the Encyclopædia Britannica. Depending on the point of view, other numbers between four and eight are also mentioned.
Antarctica - the undisputed continent
The Antarctic represents the unequivocal case. The southernmost and uninhabited part of the world is, according to all known definitions, an independent, continental land mass. The borders of the Antarctic continent are largely undisputed.
One, two or three Americas?
America can be viewed as a single land mass. For almost three million years there has been a land connection from Alaska and the Arctic Shield in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south. Usually, however, the division into North America and South America. Partly be Central America and the Caribbean regarded as another, third continent in between.
This three-way division roughly corresponds to the arrangement of the continental plates. Because Central America lies between Mexico and Colombia together with the Caribbean islands on the Caribbean plate, between the North American and South American plates. This tripartite division of America can also make sense culturally and geopolitically. At Marmota Maps we have them on our world map of surfing regions around 2017 "Surfing Worldwide“Used.
Today, however, we mostly follow the common division of America into the North American continent, including Central America, the Caribbean and all of their islands, as well as the South American continentwhich begins on the border between Panama and Colombia. This demarcation based on the political border is a pragmatic solution here. Geographically, a demarcation on the Isthmus of Panama, or on the Panama Canal, would also make sense.
Even if Africa is viewed as a separate continent in almost all counting methods, there are also arguments for Africa along with Eurasia to be regarded as a contiguous land mass and thus as a continent. However, it is common to draw borders along the Mediterranean, Suez Canal and Red Sea. The eastern part of Egypt with the Sinai Peninsula is therefore already part of it Asiaalthough it is on the African continental plate.
Europe or Eurasia?
That Europe is counted as an independent continent, has mainly cultural and geopolitical reasons. Geologically and geographically there is a lot to be said for it, instead of one Eurasian continent to speak. The Eurasian tectonic plate stretches from eastern Iceland to southern Japan. The course of the continental border is correspondingly between Europe and Asia probably the most controversial.
In the north, the Ural mountains and rivers are generally recognized as the border between the two continents. The recognized southern border is the Bosporus, which runs through the middle of Istanbul, the only city that is located on two continents. In contrast, the further course of the border between the Black Sea and western Kazakhstan is particularly controversial. This is of interest not least to mountaineers, because whether the highest peaks in the Caucasus too Europe or to Asia count has an impact on which mountain is Europe's highest peak and thus one of the Seven Summits is to be seen. A representative here is Eberhard Jurgalski, who argues that the European-Asian border runs on the Manytsch lowlands, north of the Caucasus, making Mont Blanc in the Alps Europe's highest mountain. In particular in mountaineering circles, as well as in the Anglophone and Francophone areas, it is common today, however, to draw the line between Europe and Asia along the watershed of the Caucasus, making Elbrus in the Russian part of the Caucasus Europe's highest peak.
The course of the borders Asia is not just in the west after Europe controversial. The Arabian Peninsula and most of it India are each on their own continental plates, which is shown, among other things, by the fact that people often speak of the Indian subcontinent. Still, both areas are as good as always as parts Asia viewed. The easternmost part of Russia and northern Japan are already on the North American plate. Here again, for geopolitical and geographical reasons, it makes sense to do both anyway Asia to count. In the southeast you can finally see the exact border between Asia as Australia and Oceania to be debated. Mostly the Philippines as well as most of Indonesia are considered to be too Asia well respected. The island of New Guinea (including the Indonesian part) and Australia, on the other hand, are already part of Australia-Oceania.
Australia - Oceania - Zealandia
Australia-Oceania is the seventh continent in our counting method. It undoubtedly comprises the main continental land mass, which largely corresponds to the national territory of Australia. New Guinea, which is also located on the Australian plate, is mostly considered part of the Australian continent considered. Whether, in addition to the Australian plate, the Pacific plate with its islands should also be counted as part of the continent, however, is again the subject of discussions. In some cases, the view is that only large land masses can be viewed as continents and that the islands, especially in the Pacific, as a separate category, so-called "Microcontinents“Should be considered. At Marmota Maps, we count Australia-Oceania as one continent, including the Pacific Islands from Hawaii to Micronesia to New Zealand.
There has been a debate since 2014 as to whether Zealandia, a plaice in an area between New Caledonia and New Zealand, possibly as another continent alongside Australia is to be seen. Should this view prevail, we will possibly speak of eight continents on earth in the future.
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