|Around 70% of the earth's surface is covered by water.
The large land masses are called continents. But how is “continent” actually defined, how many continents
are there on earth and where do the borders run? We present
various possible answers to these questions here. Also the
division of the continents that we use at Marmota Maps.
CONTINENT - DEFINITION
Today's view of the earth's land masses shows us only a
certain section of the earth's history. The continental
plates, or lithospheric plates, move at a speed of about
1-10 centimeters per year. The Pangea
supercontinent, where all of the world's major land masses
were interconnected, collapsed about 150 million years ago.
And in the future, the image of the earth's surface will
slowly change over millions of years due to continental
The term " continent " comes from the Latin. "
Terra continens " can be translated as "
contiguous land ".
However, there is no completely undisputed definition of
what constitutes a continent. The Encyclopędia Britannica is
frequently cited, which in addition to the definition also
gives the number of continents. Accordingly, a continent is
“ one of the larger contiguous land masses, namely
Asia, Africa, North America, South America,
Antarctica, Europe and
Australia, arranged by size. (Europe and
Asia are sometimes viewed as a single
The smallest continent Australia is, in
other definitions as Oceania or
In general it can be said that the tectonic, geological,
geographic, as well as cultural and political criteria are
used to classify the continents.
WHICH CONTINENTS ARE THERE?
The number of continents is usually given as seven, as in
the Encyclopedia Britannica. Depending on your point of
view, other numbers between four and eight are also
ANTARCTICA - THE UNDISPUTED CONTINENT
The Antarctic is the unique case. The
southernmost uninhabited continent of people is considered
by all known definitions as separate continental landmass.
The borders of the Antarctic continent are largely
ONE, TWO OR THREE OF AMERICA?
America can be seen as a single
landmass. A land connection from Alaska and the Arctic
shield in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south has
existed for almost three million years. However, the
division into North America and
South America is usually common. Central
America and the Caribbean are sometimes seen as
another third continent in between.
This division into three roughly corresponds to the
arrangement of the continental plates. Because Central
America lies between Mexico and Colombia together with the
Caribbean islands on the Caribbean plate, between North
American and South American plates. This tripartite division
of America can also make sense culturally and
geopolitically. At Marmota Maps we used it on our world map
of the surfing regions "
Surfing Worldwide " around 2017.
Today, however, we mostly follow the common division of
America into the North American continent,
including Central America, the Caribbean and all of its
islands, as well as the South American continent
that begins on the border between Panama and Colombia. This
demarcation based on the political border is a pragmatic
solution. Geographically, it would also make sense to draw a
border on the Isthmus of Panama, or also on the Panama
Even though Africa is regarded as a
separate continent in almost all counting ways, there are
also arguments for considering Africa
together with Eurasia as a coherent land
mass and thus as a continent. However, it is common to draw
the border along the Mediterranean, Suez Canal and Red Sea.
The eastern part of Egypt with the Sinai Peninsula already
belongs to Asia, even though it is located
on the African continental plate.
EUROPE OR EURASIA?
The fact that Europe is counted as an
independent continent has primarily cultural and
geopolitical reasons. Geologically and geographically, there
is a lot to be said for a Eurasian continent
instead. Described on
Countryaah, the Eurasian continental plate stretches from the
east of Iceland to the south of Japan. Accordingly, the
course of the continental border between Europe
and Asia is probably the most
The Ural Mountains and the river are generally recognized
in the north as the border between the two continents. The
recognized southern border is the Bosphorus, which runs
through the middle of Istanbul, the only city that is
located on two continents. The further course of the border
between the Black Sea and the west of Kazakhstan is
particularly controversial. This is of interest not least
for mountaineers, because whether the highest peaks of the
Caucasus belong to Europe or Asia
has an impact on which mountain is to be regarded as
Europe's highest peak and thus as one of the Seven
Summits. Eberhard Jurgalski is representative here, who
argues that the European-Asian border runs along the
Manytschniederung, north of the Caucasus, making Mont Blanc
the highest mountain in the Alps in Europe. Especially in
mountaineering circles, as well as in the Anglophone and
Francophone area, it is common today to draw the border
between Europe and Asia
along the watersheds of the Caucasus, making the Elbrus in
the Russian part of the Caucasus Europe's highest peak.
The course of the borders of Asia is
controversial not only in the west towards Europe.
The Arabian Peninsula and most of
India each have their own continental plates, which
is shown, among other things, by the fact that the Indian
subcontinent is often spoken of. However, both areas are
almost always considered parts of Asia. The
easternmost part of Russia, as well as the north of Japan
are already on the North American plate. However, for
geopolitical and geographical reasons, it is obvious that
both should still be counted as Asia. In
the southeast, you can finally cross the exact borderline
between Asia and Australia and
Oceania to be debated. Most of the Philippines and
most of Indonesia are considered to be part of Asia.
The island of New Guinea (including the Indonesian part) and
Australia are already part of Australia-Oceania.
AUSTRALIA - OCEANIA - ZEALANDIA
Australia-Oceania is the seventh
continent in our counting. It undoubtedly comprises the
continental main land mass, which largely corresponds to the
national territory of Australia. New Guinea, which is also
on the Australian plate, is mostly considered part of the
Australian continent. However, whether the
Pacific Plate and its islands should be counted among the
continent in addition to the Australian plate is again the
subject of discussion. It is sometimes believed that only
large land masses can be regarded as continents and that the
islands, especially in the Pacific, should be considered as
a separate category, so-called " microcontinents ".
At Marmota Maps, we count Australia-Oceania
as a continent, including the Pacific Islands from Hawaii to
Micronesia to New Zealand.
Since 2014, there has been a debate as to whether
Zealandia, a floe in an area between New Caledonia
and New Zealand, could possibly be seen as another continent
besides Australia. If this perspective
prevails, we may speak of eight continents on Earth in the