( ), sometimes called an island group
or island chain
, is a chain, cluster or collection of
, or sometimes a sea containing a small number of scattered islands.
Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Maldives, the British Isles, the Bahamas, Greece, the Florida Keys, Hawaii, Polynesia, the Canary Islands, the Madeira and the Azores are all examples of well-known archipelagos.
The word archipelago
is derived from the Greek language ἄρχι-
, "chief") and πέλαγος
, "sea") through the Italian arcipelago
. In Italian language
, possibly following a tradition of antiquity, the Archipelago
(from medieval Greek *ἀρχιπέλαγος
and medieval Latin archipelagus
) 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).
Archipelagos may be found isolated in large amounts of water or neighbouring a large land mass. For example, Scotland
has more than 700 islands surrounding its mainland which form an archipelago.
Archipelagos are often volcanic, forming along island arcs generated by subduction zones or hotspots, but may also be the result of erosion, deposition, and land elevation. Depending on their geological origin, islands forming archipelagos can be referred to as oceanic islands, continental fragments, and continental islands.
[Whittaker R. J. & Fernández-Palacios J. M. (2007) Island Biogeography: Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation. New York, Oxford University Press]
Oceanic islands are mainly of volcanic origin, and widely separated from any adjacent continent. The Hawai'ian Islands and Easter Island
in the Pacific Ocean
, and Île Amsterdam in the south Indian Ocean
Continental fragments correspond to land masses that have separated from a continental mass due to tectonic
displacement. The Farallon Islands
off the coast of California
are an example.
Sets of islands formed close to the coast of a continent are considered continental archipelagos when they form part of the same continental shelf, when those islands are above-water extensions of the shelf. The islands of the Inside Passage
off the coast of British Columbia
are an example.
The largest archipelagic state in the world by area, and by population, is Indonesia
List of landforms
List of archipelagos by number of islands
List of archipelagos
List of islands