Australia is both a country and a continent. It is the world’s sixth largest country and the smallest continent. Scientists think that Australia’s first people, called Aborigines, arrived more than 50,000 years ago, probably from Southeast Asia. They lived by hunting and gathering plants.
In 1770, Britain claimed the land. European settlement in Australia began in 1787 when British prisoners were sent from overcrowded British prisons. After their release, many prisoners stayed. Other British settlers came for land on which to raise sheep and grow wheat. Many Aborigines died from European diseases or weapons. Their number declined from 300,000 in the 1700s to only about 50,000 today. After World War II, immi- grants came from Greece, Italy, and other parts of Europe. Today, many come from Southeast Asia, drawn by Australia’s high standard of living.
Australia’s harsh climate has greatly affected where people live. The interior is very hot and dry. Most people live along the eastern and southeastern coasts, where the climate is moist.
Most of Australia west of the Great Dividing Range is arid plain or dry plateau. This harsh wilderness region is known as the outback. The Aborigines were the first to live there. European set- tlers found gold and other minerals. Some built farms and huge ranches for sheep and cattle. Australian sheep supply meat and merino wool.


According to scientists, who were the first Australians?
Map Skills What are Australia’s seven state capitals?


Many tiny islands dot the vast Pacific Ocean. Two of the larger islands, called North Island and South Island, make up the country of New Zealand. North Island is narrow and hilly, with a central plateau and active volcanoes. There are many geysers, hot springs that shoot out jets of steam and hot water into the air. South Island has New Zealand’s high- est mountains. The Maori were the first people to live in New Zealand. Europeans arrived in
1769. In 1840, the Maori accept- ed British rule in exchange for land rights. Today, the Maori number less than 10 percent of the population.
New Zealand is an agricultural country with dairy cows and sheep. Yet a majority of people live in large cities along the coast. Many Pacific islands, called high islands, are the tops of underwater mountains. Low islands, called atolls, can also be found in the Pacific. An atoll is a ring-shaped coral island surrounding a lagoon. The Pacific Islands are divided into three groups: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Farming, fishing, and tourism are the islands’ main economic activities. After World War II, the Pacific Islands were divided into trust territories, or territories supervised by other nations. Most Pacific islands became independent in the 1960s and 1970s.

Who are the Maori?
Chart Skills What Pacific country has the largest population after Australia and New Zealand?


Antarctica is a frozen continent, with no permanent human set- tlers. Few plants and animals can survive in its icy conditions. Antarctica has many different kinds of ice. Scientists from many countries spend time doing research in Antarctica.Antarctica was the last of the world’s continents to be explored. It was first seen by sailors from Russia, Great Britain, and the United States. Humans did not set foot on the continent until 1895. Some nations tried to claim parts of Antarctica, but claims were not recog- nized because no country had perma- nent settlers there. Antarctica’s greatest resource is its wealth of scientific infor- mation. Scientists worked to convince the world that the continent should remain open to all countries that wanted to con- duct research there. In 1961, twelve nations signed the Antarctic Treaty for peaceful use of the continent and sharing of scientific research. These nations and twenty-eight others renewed the treaty in 1989.


Why did countries refuse to recognize claims to Antarctica?
Chart Skills What activities are forbidden under the Antarctic Treaty?