Any sub-continental piece of land surrounded by water is an island. Although there are some technical features that distinguish between an island and a continent, in simpler words any piece of land which is equal to or smaller than Greenland is an island while any piece of land equal to greater than Australia is a continent. There are some islands which are one-island countries like Greenland, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka, while there are others which are comprised of several thousand islands. Indonesia for example is comprised of numerous islands. Greenland, with an area of 2.1 million square kilometers, is the world’s largest island, while Australia, with 7.6 million square kilometers, is the world’s smallest continent. Socio-economic conditions vary from island to island and they are so wide-ranged that some islands like Borneo and Papua New Guinea have Stone Age societies while the city islands of Singapore and Hong Kong represent the hi-tech lifestyle.
1. Great Britain
Located to the northwest of Europe and to the east of Ireland, Great Britain is the ninth largest island in the world. The North Sea and English Channel separate the island from continental Europe. The North Channel narrows to 34 kilometers at the straits of Dover. It is the largest European Island and the largest island of the about 1000 British Isles surrounding it. It is the third most populated island in the world. Politically, Great Britain is comprised of England, Scotland and Wales. The entire island falls within the territory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Inhabitants of this island have been known differently in different periods of history. Its Iron Age inhabitants were known as the Britons and they spoke Celtic language. During the Roman Empire, the island was known as Britannia. At one time, the British Empire ruled most of the world and it was said that sun never set in the British kingdom. The British history is the history of adventures, wars, duels, and the history of great people and a great language.
It is said that Greenland was named by Erik the Red, who was exiled on charges of murder, and when he reached his destination, he named it Greenland to attract the settlers. Located to the east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark. With a population of only 56,370 inhabitants, it is the least populated country in the world. More than 80% of the total area of the country is covered by ice sheet. The nearest countries to Greenland are Canada and Iceland. The average annual temperatures range from minus nine to seven degrees centigrade.
3. The Island of Hawaii
The island of Hawaii is the largest island of the Hawaiian archipelago and it is also the largest island in the United States. Hilo is the biggest city of the island. It is generally accepted that the island was named after the fictional Polynesian navigator Hawaii Iloa. The European explorer Captain James Cook, who discovered the Hawaiian Islands, was killed on the big island of Hawaii. The Mauna Kea mountain of Hawaii, measured from its sea floor base up to the top of its peak, is the tallest mountain in the world, even taller than Mount Everest. The island has witnessed and suffered many tsunamis.
Madagascar is an island country and it is the fourth largest island in the world, located in the Indian Ocean. Millions of years ago the island separated from the prehistoric supercontinent Gondwana. In the recorded history its name first appears in the memoirs of the thirteenth century Venetian explorer Marco Polo, who took it for the Somali port Mogadishu; Madagascar is an altered form of Mogadishu. After its separation from the supercontinent, its biodiversity developed in isolation. More than 80% of its fauna and flora is found exclusively in this island. The country was ruled by miscellaneous alliance up to the 18th century and became Kingdom of Madagascar in the 19th century. After the collapse of the kingdom in 1897 it became a French colony and regained freedom in 1960.
5. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon until 1972, is a country island located in the Indian Ocean. Its name was taken from the great Indian epic Mahabharata. Sri means revered while lanka means island.On account of its shape and location, it is also known as the Indian tear drop. India and the Maldives are its bordering countries. The island has diverse culture, and along with the Sinhalese majority, it includes many minorities like Tamils, Moors, Malays, Burghers, and Kaffirs. Its capital is Sri Jayawardenapura-Kotte, which is located in the suburbs of Colombo, the largest Sri Lankan city. The island produces tea, cinnamon, coffee, coconut, rubber, and gem stones. The country has suffered a thirty year civil war which ended in 2009.
6. New Zealand
Located in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is an island country comprising of two main landmasses, the North and South islands, along with many other smaller islands. The island is situated at a distance of 1,500 kilometers from Australia and 1000 kilometers from the Pacific Island nations. On account of its remoteness, this island was the last to be inhabited. It has a unique biodiversity, particularly of the birds. Formerly wool was its main export business, but it has been now taken over by wine and dairy products. In 1970 New Zealand had the highest living standards but things changed after the economic depression. The island is mainly inhabited by the Maori culture.
7. Robben Island
Robben Island is located in Table Bay, at a distance of 6.9 kilometers from Cape Town, South Africa. It is a small island measuring 3.3 kilometers in length and 1.9 kilometers in width. It is only a few meters above the sea level. The Island derived its name from Dutch ‘robben’, meaning ‘seal’, which is the predominantly found animal in the Island. Penguins are also found here and are a tourist attraction. The island is mainly known as a prison of the political leaders. The Nobel laureate and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, served twenty of his thirty years imprisonment on this island. The island has also been used as a leper’s colony. It was enlisted on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1999.
8. Saint Helena
Saint Helena is an island of volcanic origin. It was named after Helena of Constantinople, by the Galician explorer Joao de Nova, who discovered the island on May 21, 1502. It is a small island, measuring 16 meters in length and 6 kilometers in width. Oliver Cromwell authorized the East India Company to govern Saint Helena. Captain John Dutton arrived in the island in 1659 as its first governor, making it the oldest British colony. Napoleon Bonaparte was detained in this island by the British government. He was detained in October 1815 and remained there in the Longwood House until his death on May 5, 1821.
Bali is one of the 34 provinces of Indonesia. It is located at a distance of 3.2 kilometers from Java. It is 153 kilometers long and 112 kilometers wide. It is inhabited mostly by the Hindu minority of Indonesia. The province includes a few other islands in addition to isle of Bali. Its highly developed culture, as reflected in its traditional and modern dances, paintings, music, sculpture, leather work, and metal work, is the largest tourist attraction of the country. Bali was first inhabited by Austronesian settlers who came here in about 2000 B.C. The Bali culture is therefore more associated with the people of Malaysia and Phillipines.
Fiji is an island country, located in the South Pacific Ocean at about 2000 kilometers from the North Island of New Zealand. Fiji is an archipelago comprising of more than 332 islands and 500 islets. Its total land area is about 18,300 square kilometers. Its two main islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu and they accommodate 850,000 inhabitants, which constitute 87% of the total population. The majority of the Fiji Islands were formed from volcanic activity millions of years ago. Up until 1970, it was a British colony. Fiji is one of the strongest economies in the Pacific realm. Being a great tourist attraction, its resources include the tourist industry, in addition to mineral, fish, and sugar exports.
There are many different kinds of islands, including volcanic islands like Iceland, coral reef islands, groups of islands like the Philippines (called an archipelago), and many others. Very small islands are known as islets, while uninhabited islands are called desert islands. Even though there are millions of homeless people in this world, there are a few who even own their own islands. Books like Treasure Island and Coral Island are an integral part of English classics.