is the collective name of all the islands of the Pacific of coral or volcanic origin. These South Sea islands are scattered, isolated, or more usually in groups over a stretch of ocean 7000 m. from N. to S. and 6000 from E. to W.; with the exception of the two chief members of the New Zealand archipelago they are mostly small, and exhibit wonderful uniformity of climate; the temperature is moderate, and where there are any hills to intercept the moisture-laden trade-winds the rainfall is high; they are extremely rich in flora; characteristic of their vegetation are palms, bread fruit trees, and edible roots like yams and sweet potatoes, forests of tree-ferns, myrtles, and ebony, with endless varieties of beautiful flowering plants; their fauna is wonderfully poor, varieties of rats and bats, a few snakes, frogs, spiders, and centipedes, with the crocodile, being the chief indigenous animals; the three divisions of Polynesia are Micronesia, comprising five small archipelagoes in the NW., N. of the equator, of which the chief are the Mariana and Caroline groups; Melanesia, comprising eleven archipelagoes in the W., S. of the equator, of which the largest are the Solomon, Bismarck, Fiji, New Caledonia, and New Hebrides groups; and Eastern Polynesia, E. of these on both sides of the equator, including New Zealand, Hawaii, and Samoa, ten other archipelagoes, and numerous sporadic islands; the first of these divisions is occupied by a mixed population embracing many distinct elements, the second by the black, low-type Melanesians, the third by the light brown, tall Polynesians; traces of extinct civilisation are found in Easter Island and the Carolines; most of the islands are now in the possession of European powers, and are more or less Christianised; New Zealand is one of the most enterprising and flourishing colonies of Great Britain; everywhere the native races are dying out before the immigration of Europeans.

The Nuttall Encyclopaedia. . 1907.

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