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Australia and Oceania

Main attractions

Wall of Tears, Hawaii
Wall of Tears, Hawai'i / Steve Jurvetson, / CC BY 2.0

The smallest continent of the world and the countless islands in the largest ocean of the world have been pooled together in this part of the world, which, if counted together with water area, is the largest in the world, but, if counted only the land area - the smallest one.

The word "exotic" definitely refers to Australia and Oceania. Here are located many unique and mysterious landmarks, many places here deserve to be called - "One of the most beautiful places in the world". Many places in Oceania and Australia are the most desired destinations for lazy vacationers, newly wed romantics and adventurers and even more are undeservedly unknown.

The highlights of Australia and Oceania are:

  • Unique ecosystems. Both Australia and the islands of Oceania (as well as the depths of Pacific ocean) are rich with unusual ecosystems. Region for most part is located in tropics, the islands are remote - this leads to the development of numerous species of plants and animals met only on one small island, mountaintop or oasis (in Australia). There exist small patches of rainforest (e.g. Mount Purau rainforest in Rapa Iti, French Polynesia), which may contain hundreds of species not met anywhere else in the world.
  • Megalithic monuments. Few specialists realize how rich is the megalithic heritage in Oceania. Here are located the outstanding moai of Easter Island, the largest money in the world - Rai of Yap and - the little known, mysterious megaliths of Melanesian islands (see Nusa Roviana hillfort and shrines in Solomon Islands), the megalithic navigational systems, megalithic observatories, megalithic tatoo workshops... and many more amazing monuments in almost any place of Oceania.
  • Prehistoric rock art. Australia has the world's richest collection of prehistoric rock art. The native people of this continent developed numerous distinct artistic styles and their artwork might be listed among the highest achievements in the history of art. Outstanding cliff paintings are found also in Papua New Guinea and some more island countries.

Natural landmarks

Volcanoes and geothermal fields

Champagne Pool
Champagne Pool, New Zealand / Mehlführer C, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-2.5
  • Benbow lava lakes, Marum lava lakes and Ambrym volcano acid rain - Vanuatu, Malampa, Ambrym island. In these closely located craters very often are observed nearly permanent, violently boiling lava lakes. Benbow crater is spectacular, very deep hole with vertical walls. Acid rain formed by the gases from craters has burned approximately 100 km² large plain in the jungle of Vanuatu. Here live specially adapted organisms - insects, orchids.
  • Kīlauea - Hawaiian Islands, Hawai'i. One of the most active volcanoes of the world, contains one of the few lava lakes in the world.
  • Orakei Korako - New Zealand, Waikato. Geothermal area with unique, colourful sinter terraces and geysers. Largest geyser field in New Zealand with some 35 active geysers. Lower terrace - Emerald Terrace - is the largest sinter terrace in New Zealand. Part of it is flooded by hydropower station, submerging some 200 hot springs and 70 geysers.
  • Wai-O-Tapu - New Zealand, Bay of Plenty. One of the most beautiful geothermal areas worldwide. Besides Lady Knox geyser, mud pools, numerous hot springs and sinter terraces it contains highly unusual hot spring - Champagne Pool, constantly filled with carbon dioxide bubbles. Crater of this spring is 65 m across, depth - approximately 62 m. Along the rim of this spring are deposited bright orange arsenic and antimony salts. Champagne Pool contains several species of endemic microorganisms.

Cliffs and canyons

Moeraki boulders, New Zealand
Moeraki boulders, New Zealand / Eli Duke, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Ball‘s Pyramid – Australia, near Lord Howe Island. Unusual remnant of volcano – 562 metres high and just 200 metres wide cliff rising directly from the sea. Tallest volcanic stack in the world. Up to recent time this was the only place in the world where the up to 15 cm long Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis Montrouzier) was living.
  • Moeraki boulders - New Zealand, Otago. Large, spherical boulders on the beach. Diameter of these spheres reaches 2.2 m. There are similar spheres elsewhere in the world (also Koutu Point Boulders in Northland) but these are not that impressive and that exactly spherical.
  • Uluru (Ayers Rock) – Australia, Northern Territory. One of Australian symbols, enormous and visually very impressive sandstone inselberg, 348 metres high and 9.4 km in circumference. Sacred place to local Aborigenes, contains many springs, waterholes, caves and rock art sites. Endemic plants.
  • Wave Rock – Western Australia. Highly unusual cliff formation which resembles enormous petrified wave. Several more such formations in vicinity.

Caves and sinkholes

Glowworms in one of Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
Glowworms in one of Waitomo Caves, New Zealand / Nick Bramhall, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Benua Cave and sinkhole - Papua New Guinea, Bougainville Autonomous Region. Giant cave at the bottom of impressive, 100 m deep jungle covered sinkhole. Cave consists of single chamber - but this chamber is one of the largest in the world, with volume 4.5 million m³, length 470 m, width 150 m and height 170 m. It would be easy to fly with helicopter inside this cave. Cave contains 18 m tall stalagmite.
  • Kazumura Cave - Hawaiian Islands, Hawai'i. The longest lava tube in world, 65.5 km long and up to 1,102 m deep.
  • Mamo Kananda Cave - Papua New Guinea, Southern Highlands Province. Giant cave with explored passages 55 km long, longest known in Papua New Guinea. Three largest cave chambers have a volume of 1 million m³. Enormous cavity called Space Oddity is located 525 m below the entrance.
  • Minyé sinkhole and cave - Papua New Guinea, East New Britain Province. One of the largest and most impressive tiankengs (giant sinkholes) in world, located in exotic jungle and crossed by powerful underground river. Up to 510 metres deep, 350 metres across, volume - 26 million m³. It continues as a cave system. Explored length of cave passages is 5,421 m, maximum depth - 468 m. Contains one of the largest cave rooms in the world - Tuké room, 240 m long, 200 m wide and 130 m high.
  • Naré sinkhole - Papua New Guinea, East New Britain Province. One of the most spectacular sinkholes in the world, also located in exotic jungle. Up to 310 metres deep, up to 150 metres across, volume - 4.7 million m³. Walls are overhanging, below flows a powerful river. At the top part of sinkhole, inside it often form clouds. Further cave reaches 415 m depth.
  • Selminum Tem - Papua New Guinea, West Sepik Province. Giant cave system, total explored length is 20.5 km. Skeleton of Myocene Sirenia was found here, here live also endemic snails. Cave is very old, with deposits from two glacial periods in it. Contains engravings and other traces of human habitation.
  • Waitomo Glowworm Cave - New Zealand, Waikato. The most accessible glowworm cave adorned with thousands of blue-green glowing Arachnocampa luminosa insects. Glowworms are met in numerous other New Zealand caves as well. In Waitomo area are located more than 300 caves, often with beautiful cave formations.

Waterfalls

  • Olo'upena Falls - Hawaiian Islands, Moloka'i. At 900 metres in height, this is an amazing perennial waterfall. Considered to be the fourth highest waterfall in the world.
  • Sutherland Falls - New Zealand, Southland. Powerful, 580 m tall falls originating from Lake Quill.

Ecosystems

Daintree Rainforest, Australia
The Daintree Rainforest, Australia / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Central Savai'i Rainforest - Samoa, mainly in Palauli. Forest with 72,699 ha area, the largest remaining rainforest in Polynesia. In this exotic forest are located more than 100 volcanic craters, some with recent lava fields. Amazing cloud forests constantly covered with fog. Numerous endemic species of plants (e.g. trees Abutilon whistleri, Metrosideros gregoryi, Syzygium christophersenii, Syzygium graeffei, Syzygium vaupelii, Psychotria bristolii, Reynoldsia pleiosperma, blueberry Vaccinium whitmeei and many others) and animals, new ones still are discovered. Magnificent scenery with tall waterfalls, cliffs.
  • Christmas Island subtropical forest and red crabs - Australia, Christmas Island, all over the island. Forest of Christmas Island is unique in the world due to dominant species - some 50 - 100 million red crabs (Gecarcoidea natalis Pocock) - clearing the forest floor of leaves and other organic matter. These crabs are endemic to Christmas Island. Once per year they migrate to the sea to lay their eggs, on the way blocking the roads and paths. It is considered that their population increased due to the extinction of the endemic Maclear's rat (Rattus macleari) in 1903.
  • The Daintree Rainforest – Australia, Queensland. Possibly the oldest rainforest in the world, growing 135 million years. Largest continuous rainforest in Australia, 1,200 square kilometres large, extremely high biodiversity. Contains unique, endemic primitive flowering plants.
  • Ecosystem of Henderson Island - Pitcairn Islands, Henderson Island. The only forested atoll with intact ecosystem in the world. Endemic species - 9 species of plants and all 4 species of landbirds. Numerous invertebrates are endemic, although they are poorly researched. Island is unwalkable - covered with thicket and rugged limestone peaks.
  • Jellyfish Lake (Ongeim'l Tketau) - Palau, Eil Malk in Rock Islands. Unique, marine lake, 5 ha in size, with an underground connection to the sea. Stratified in two layers which do not mix. Isolated from the sea for 12,000 years and contains a distinct population of two species of jellyfish - endemic Mastigias cf. papua etpisoni and another species of Aurelia which also most likely is living only here. Millions of these jellyfishes make strict daily migration around the lake. Four more marine lakes with jellyfish in the nearby islands but Jellyfish Lake is the only one open to tourists. Number of jellyfish has reached up to 31 millions (January 2005), currently some 5 millions.
  • Lord Howe Island – Australia, Lord Howe island. This remote, 56 square kilometres large island has its own ecoregion where half of plants and some birds and other animals are endemic. Unique characteristics is diverse glowing mushrooms in the forest, some bright enough to be used for reading in night. Endemic kentia palms are popular beautiful houseplants.
  • Mount Bosavi crater - Papua New Guinea, Southern Highlands Province. Crater in extinct volcano, some 4 km wide and 1 km deep. In 2009 here were discovered 40 new, endemic species, including the 82 cm long Bosavi Wooly Rat.
  • Norfolk Island subtropical rainforest - Norfolk Island. The last remnant (5 km²) of the unique Norfolk Island rainforest. Many unique endemic plants including the tallest tree fern of the world (Cyathea brownii, up to 20 m tall) and last natural stands of Norfolk pine (Araucaria heterophylla).
  • Palm Valley – Australia, Northern Territory, near Alice Springs. Oasis in the middle of enormous desert, the only place in the central part of Australia where grow palms: the rare Livistona mariae as well as other rare plants. Ecosystem is fed by spring water. It is likely that palms were brought here by people some 15 - 30 thousand years ago.
  • Waipoua Forest - New Zealand, Northland. The largest remaining New Zealand kauri forest.

Trees

Tāne Mahuta, Northland, New Zealand
Tāne Mahuta, New Zealand / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Banyan trees of Tanna - Vanuatu, Tafea, Tanna island. Many historical villages of Tanna island have giant banyan trees which are located in the centre of local culture - dancing place (nasara). Diameter of such trees reportedly reaches 50 m. Banyan of Yakel village has a house built on top - this house is used for circumcision of local boys. Kaluas is considered by locals to be the largest banyan tree in the world. Tree is extremely large, unfortunately no data about its size found.
  • Centurion - Australia, Tasmania. Highest known mountain ash and eucalypt (Eucalyptus regnans F.Muell.) in the world, making this the second tallest tree species in the world. Height 99.8 m, diameter 4.05 m (girth 13.7 m), volume 268 m3. Has been at least 103 m tall but the top is broken.
  • Rullah Longatyle (Strong Girl) - Australia, Tasmania. The largest eucalypt and largest Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus Labill.) in the world. Volume 368 m3. Height 82.3 m, diameter 5.54 m.
  • Tāne Mahuta - New Zealand, Northland. A kauri tree (Agathis australis) with a girth 13.77 metres and a height of 51.2 metres.

Other natural landmarks

  • Ediacara Fossil Site – South Australia. Find of fossils of global importance – contains unique fossils of extremely ancient soft-bodied animals who lived 630 – 542 million years ago. Geological period named after the site – Ediacaran Period.
  • Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier - New Zealand, West Coast. Unique glaciers whose descent is so steep that the ice ends up close to the rainforest.
  • Magnetic termite mounds – Australia, Northern Territory, Lithcfield National Park. Unique landscape formed by multiple flat termite mound formations oriented in north-south direction in order to control the temperature inside the mounds.
  • Mayang Spring - Papua New Guinea, East New Britain. Extremely powerful spring with a discharge of some 20,000 l/s. Source of Galowe River.
  • Morning Glory of Carpentaria Gulf - Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory. Unique phenomenon, characteristic for region at the southern part of Carpentaria Gulf. Here in September - November early in the morning often form up to 1000 km long roll clouds, providing unique sight.
  • Northern Malaita diamond pipes - Solomon Islands, Malaita. Unique find of rare rock compositions (alnoite, lharzburgite) - possibly the first known diamond pipes in oceanic crust in the world. Found garnets and microdiamonds and there are expectations that diamonds will be found here as well.
  • Wolfe Creek crater – Australia, Western Australia. Visually expressive meteorite impact crater, 875 metres in diameter, 60 metres deep. Created some 300,000 years ago.

Man made landmarks

Ancient shrines

Ahu Tongariki - megaliths in Rapa Nui, Pacific
Some of Ahu Tongariki statues, Easter Island / Rivi, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0
  • Ahu Tongariki - Easter Island. The largest ahu with unusual history - its moai possibly were toppled during the civil wars and swept inland by some 100 metres by a tidal wave in 1960. In 1955 - 1996 it was gradually restored and all 15 moai again face the sunset during the summer solstice. The largest standing moai of Easter Island is on Ahu Tongariki - it weighs 86 tons. One moai has also pukao on its head. This ahu is 220 m long.
  • Ahu Vinapu - Easter Island, east from Hanga Roa. Group of impressive ahus. The most impressive part of one of ahus (Ahu Tahiri) is the base of it - it is made of enormous (average weight - 7 tons), perfectly fitted basalt slabs made in different way than other ahus on island. This belongs to one of impressive achievements of megalithic cultures worldwide and poses a puzzle to archaeologists who sometimes (if looking superficially) suppose that this ahu has been influenced by Inca architecture. Tahiri most likely had some 6 moais erected on top of it.
  • Marae Taputapuatea – French Polynesia, Leeward Islands, Raiatea. A unique complex of marae, one of important sacred complexes of Polynesians. Established around 1000 AD and expanded significantly since then, used as a learning centre for priests and navigators. Includes multiple stone structures and sculptures. This unique archaeological monument is partly restored.
  • Me'ae Iipona – French Polynesia, Marquesas, Hiva Oa. An impressive ceremonial site with the largest prehistoric stone statues (tiki) in French Polynesia, up to 2.6 m high. Restored in 1991.
  • Nusa Roviana hillfort and shrines - Solomon Islands, Nusa Roviana island, Western Province. Impressive settlement complex - 600 m long hillfort with 3 m high, 2 m wide and 500 m long wall made of stone rubble. Settlement has 24 terraces for growing taro. Here are located 13 skull shrines filled with skulls of deceased chiefs. Many stones are adorned with beautiful carvings. Small terraced area in the highest place of island contains one of the most important shrines in Roviana - Tiola or dog shrine with a stone carving - dog's head. According to legends this statue is turning towards the direction where danger to Roviana is coming. Site was developed before the 19th century, dated finds from the 14th and 17th century. Fortress was destroyed in 1892.
  • Peter-ihi ceremonial dancing ground and Norohure ceremonial dancing ground - Vanuatu, Vao at Malakula. Unique monument - megalithic ceremonial dancing ground with ancestral slit drums. Nearby - enormous banyan tree. At Norohure dancing ground are placed large stone sculptures - faces. There are more interesting megalithic monuments in Malakula and Vao islands.
  • Vonavona Skull Island (Kindu, Kundu Hite) - Solomon Islands, Western Province. Impressive archaeological monument - tent shaped wooden shrine with decorated stone slab - door. This shrine sits on the top of corall mound and is filled with skulls of deceased chiefs. It is possible that in the front of other skulls is located the skull of feared head hunter - chief Higova (Ingova) who died in 1906. Around the shrine are broken shell rings - offerings.

Other megalithic monuments

Stone money of Yap in Gachpar village
Stone money of Yap in Gachpar village / E.Guinther, , CC-BY-SA-3.0
  • Badrulchau - Palau, Ngarchelong (Babeldoab Island). 52 (now 37) mysterious stone monoliths, six have rough faces hewn. Location of former bai - men's clubhouse, built as early as around 161 AD.
  • Ha'amonga 'a Maui (Trilithon) – Tonga, Tongatapu. Amazing megalith – a trilithon of three limestone slabs, located in the second capital of Tonga (established around the 10th century AD). Each stone weighs some 20 tons and is some 6 m high. Built in the beginning of the 13th century, possibly as a royal gateway. Nearby is large upright stone slab – Maka Fa'akinanga – a legendary throne of the king.
  • House of Taga latte stones – Northern Mariana Islands, Tinian. Currently the largest latte stones – megalithic construction (house foundation) of two stones, characteristic for Marianas. The only standing latte stone here is 4.6 m tall and was a part of the house of mythological chief Taga. Other latte stones have fallen.
  • Nan Madol – Federated States of Micronesia, Pohnpei. Unique archaeological monument in this part of the world – ruins of prehistoric city. Consists of nearly 100 artificial islets with massive stone walls, with the largest stones weighing up to 50 tons. A capital of Saudeleur dynasty. The megalithic structures were built in the 12th – 13th century and inhabited until the early 14th century.
  • Rai of Yap - Federated States of Micronesia, Yap Island. Limestone discs with a hole in the middle, diameter up to 3 metres, used as money over the last 500 years. In 1929 there were registered 13,281 stone discs all over the island, now many have been looted and some thousands remain. The largest "coins" are on Rumung Island – one "coin" here has a diameter of 3.6 m.
  • Rano Raraku quarry - Easter Island. One of the visually most impressive megalithic monuments of the world. Rano Raraku served as a mine of moai, used around 1200 - 1700 AD. Here in the comparatively soft volcanic tuff were hewn moai sculptures for further transport to different parts of island. Numerous - 397 - sculptures are still located in situ, half-made or left on the way to their destinations. Very impressive are the semi-completed moai still standing in the vertical cliff face. Not less imposing are the moai dotting the slope and partly subsided in the ground. Rano Raraku serves as a great place to research the evolution of moai. Here is located the largest moai weighing 270 tons and 21.6 m tall, many times larger than any transported moai. Here nearby is located also Tukuturi - unusual sitting sculpture made of red stone from Puna Pau quarry.

Petroglyphs and rock art

Ubirr rock art, Australia
Ubirr, turtle in X-ray style / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Awim Cave art - Papua New Guinea, East Sepik Province. Several caves here contain up to 60 m wide panels covered with numerous paintings, some contain up to 500 figures. Figures are colored with white clay, coal and red ochre. Often color has been sprinkled, leaving negative images of objects - hands, feet and casssowary feet, leaves. In many caves of Upper Karawaru river in this area have been found numerous cave paintings. Some of these caves contain beautifully carved, up to 400 years old wooden figures made by Ewa people.
  • Hapupu dendroglyphs - Chatham Islands, north-east Rehoa. The richest find of the unique dendroglyphs left by the ancient Moriori people. In 1998 here were found 92 kopi trees (Corynocarpus laevigata) with ancient signs cut by Moriori people centuries ago. There are five groups of dendroglyphs on the islands, where 147 trees with carvings were found in 1998. These locations are - Te Waroa (8), Taia (21), Lake Kairae (16) and New Barker Bros Ltd Block (22). In 1950s there were known some 1,400 trees with dendroglyphs, in earlier times dendroglyphs were reported also on Pitt Island. It is possible that these markings are linked to the cult of dead or to burial rituals.
  • Kalumburu Gwion Gwion – northern tip of Western Australia. Excellent samples of Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) style – sophisticated silhouettes of humans and other beings, often mythical ones. At least 17,000 years old.
  • Koonalda Cave – South Australia, Nullarbor Plain. A cave richly decorated with approximately 20,000 years old drawings over area of thousands of square meters. Part of the cave flooded as the sea level rised.
  • Murujuga cliff art – Western Australia, Dampier archipelago. Over one million diverse petroglyphs, often showing also extinct animals such as the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus Harris). Largest collection of cliff art in Australia.
  • Orongo petroglyphs - Easter Island. One of the most significant petroglyph sites worldwide with 1,274 valuable carvings documented. Large blocks of vulcanic tuff around Orongo village are adorned with beautiful carved reliefs which show mainly birdman.
  • Ubirr (Obiri) – Northern Australia, Kakadu National Park. Some of the best galleries of Aboriginal X-ray style drawings, some are up to 40,000 years old. Three galleries are accessible to visitors.
  • Yalo Cave and Apialo Cave - Vanuatu, Malampa, Malakula island. Caves of the spirits of deceased people who lived in this area. Yalo Cave (120 m long) contains some 750 rock paintings and engravings and Apialo Cave (smaller) - 1500 rock paintings and engravings. Many of these paintings are hand stencils, also drawings of faces. Initially - some 3,000 years ago - caves were inhabited. Many living traditions of local people are linked to these caves. Another important monument is stone of Navet'itiet located in another cave which also is adorned with engravings. According to the legends this stone is used by deceased ones to file off their noses.

Other archaeological monuments

  • Agaiambo Swamp - Papua New Guinea, Northern Province. Large swamp, last refuge of uncontacted pygmy people with very short legs, most likely extinct by now.
  • Kuk Swamp - Papua New Guinea, Simbu Province. Papua New Guinea is one of the few locations in the world where developed indigenous agriculture. Kuk Swamp is good representative of this ancient local agriculture. It has been cultivated for 7 - 10 thousand years and up to this day there are well visible ancient ditches and drains.
  • Omedokel Cave - Palau, Rock Islands. 2,300 - 1,400 years old burial site of the early inhabitants of islands and around 1000 years old burials of newer inhabitants. Older burials belong to extinct dwarf people, possibly weighing just 28 - 47 kg.
  • Pulemelei Mound (Tia Seu Mound) – Samoa, Palauli. The largest man-made mound in Pacific. This pyramid shaped mound is made of stone, up to 12 m high, with 65 x 60 m long sides. Built around 1100 – 1400 AD.

Architecture monuments

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House, Australia / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
  • Art Deco architecture in Napier - New Zealand, Hawke's Bay. The town at Hawke's Bay was destroyed by earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt in the architectonic style of the time. Thus Napier represents one of the best Art Deco architecture complexes worldwide.
  • Sydney Opera House - Australia, New South Wales. One of the iconic buildings representing not only Australia but the 20th century architecture in general, built in 1973.
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge - Australia, New South Wales. Renowned arch bridge, built in 1932, with 139 metres high arch.

Countries and territories of Australia and Oceania

Australia and Oceania here are divided in 41 territory which are listed by sub-regions - Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.

Australasia

Country, territoryNo. of landmarks
Ashmore and Cartier islands (Australia)0
Australia11
Christmas Island (Australia)4
Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Australia)0

Melanesia

Coral Sea Islands Territory (Australia)0
Fiji1
New Caledonia (France)2
Norfolk Island (Australia)1
Papua New Guinea7
Solomon Islands2
Vanuatu2

Micronesia

Federated States of Micronesia1
Guam (United States)1
Kiribati1
Marshall Islands0
Nauru1
Northern Mariana Islands (United States)2
Palau5
Wake Island (United States)0

Polynesia

American Samoa (United States)1
Baker Island (United States)0
Chatham Islands (New Zealand)3
Cook Islands (associated with New Zealand)2
Easter Island (Rapa Nui) (Chile)0
French Polynesia (France)6
Hawaii (part of the United States)19
Howland Island (United States)0
Jarvis Island (United States)0
Johnston Atoll (United States)0
Kermadec Islands (New Zealand)0
Kingman Reef (United States)0
Midway Atoll (United States)0
New Zealand4
Niue (associated with New Zealand)1
Palmyra Atoll (United States)0
Pitcairn Islands (United Kingdom)1
Samoa1
Tokelau (administred by New Zealand)0
Tonga1
Tuvalu1
Wallis and Futuna (France)1

Map of Australia and Oceania

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