Category: 

What Is an Archipelago?

An archipelago, such as Japan, is a cluster of islands.
If volcanic activity remains fairly constant, deposition of volcanic materials may actually expand an island.
The Galapagos Islands are an example of an archipelago.
The Aegean Sea is known as an archipelago because of the many islands that dot its surface, including dramatic Santorini.
Shifting of tectonic plates may result different land masses separating or drifting away, helping to form an archipelago.
Article Details
  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
In ancient Rome, purple dye was made by boiling dead sea snails, taking 10,000 snails for every gram of dye.  more...

November 22 ,  1963 :  US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  more...

An archipelago is a cluster of islands frequently formed by volcanic activity. Examples can be found in the open sea as well as close to large land masses. The former is usually more common than the latter.

In some cases, an archipelago forms because it is above an ocean hotspot. There are about 50 identified hotspots that are defined as having an extended period of active volcanism. One famous cluster is the Hawaiian Islands, which sits atop an ocean hotspot.

Both erosion and sediment deposits can influence how an archipelago forms. For example, when the islands occur near a larger land mass, they may have formerly been connected to that mass. Both erosion and shifting of tectonic plates may have resulted in parts of the land mass drifting away or being separated. This is generally a very lengthy process.

Due to volcanic activity, islands in an archipelago may either reduce or increase in size. If volcanic activity remains fairly constant, deposition of volcanic materials may actually expand an island. Since the island is surrounded by water, it is also subject to relatively continuous erosion. Fierce volcanic activity can completely decimate an island in an archipelago, too. Climate can certainly have an effect on the islands as well. Those located in tropical regions are subject to fierce hurricanes.

Ad

There are many archipelagos in the world, and the definition can refer not only to a group of islands, but also any sea that has a number of small islands. The Aegean Sea is considered an archipelago because of its many land masses. An island group doesn’t necessarily have to be small, nor is it always unstable. The British Isles, for example, are a large and stable cluster, and the Florida Keys includes at least 1,700 small islands extending from the southern tip of Florida. Another large archipelago is the islands that make up New Zealand and New Guinea.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

anon293460
Post 7

What is the climate of an archipelago?

anon148867
Post 6

where is greece's archipelago?

Alchemy
Post 5

Some archipelagos form near continental landmasses because of the way that the earth's tectonic plates work. In subduction zones, water flows underneath the continental plate with the oceanic plate, superheating the subducting rock and creating magma. This magma flows up to the surface within a few hundred miles or less of the continental plate, forming archipelagos that follow the shape of the plate boundaries. The Aleutian Islands, and other island chains in the North Pacific and around the ring of fire, are perfect examples of this process in action.

FrameMaker
Post 4

@ Anon91648- The Philippines are an archipelago because they are a string of islands that make up an island nation. The Philippines are on the southwestern edge of the ring of fire, the volcanically active ring that surrounds the Pacific plate.

anon108135
Post 3

Because they are a chain of islands off the country of china.

anon91648
Post 2

why is the Philippines called an archipelago?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email