ISLAND

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ISLAND ; a portion of land less than a continent, and which is entirely surrounded by water. Islands are of very different extent, surface, &c. There are some so large, that authors have doubted whether they should not be called continents, as New Holland ; this, however, is a mere matter of definition. Borneo, Java, Madagascar, Sumatra, Sicily, Great Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Hay ti, Cuba, Newfoundland, are among the most considerable islands, and are capable of containing powerful states; while others, speaking only of those which are inhabited, are only of a few miles in diameter. They differ not less in form than in extent; some being indented with deep bays, and affording fine harbors, and others presenting an almost unbroken line of coast. A cluster of several islands is called an archipelago, (q. v.) The principal clusters in the Atlantic are the West Indies, the Azores, the Canaries, the Hebrides, Orkneys, Shetlands, &c. But the great world of islands is in the Pacific, and modern writers have considered them as forming a fifth division of the world, including the Eastern Archipelago, Polynesia and Australia, to which they have given the name of Oceanica. (See Oceanica.) A large island is a continent in miniature, with its chains of mountains, its rivers, lakes, and is often surrounded by a train of islets. The rivers of islands are in general little more than streams or torrents, and the smaller islands are often uninhabitable from want of water ; but they serve as haunts and breedingplaces of innumerable seabirds. There are islands in rivers and lakes, as well as in the sea. In rivers, they are often formed by the division of the stream into various branches, and often by accumulations of earth brought down and deposited around a rocky base. Examples are not wanting of floating islands, which are formed by the roots of plants and trees interlacing with each other, and thus constituting a support for deposits of successive layers of earth. Chains of islands m the neighborhood of continents seem .to be otten formed by the action of the waters washing away the less solid parts, which once occupied the spaces between the mountains and rocks which still appear above the surface of the waves. Single islands in the ocean, such as St. Helena, Ascension, &c, and some clusters, as the Canaries, the Azores, &c, appear to owe their origin to the action of submarine fire, which has raised them above the level of the sea. Considerable islands have been known to be suddenly raised from the bed of waters, and soon after to have as suddenly disappeared in the ocean. The Pacific contains a great number of low islands formed of coral reefs, Which are sometimes covered with sand, on which a few plants find nourishment. These reefs are formed by the labors of innumerable zoophytes. Submarine islands, as they have been sometimes called, or immense banks of sand, above which there is no great depth of water, are not unfrequent. It has been remarked that islanders have generally some peculiar traits of character, which distinguish them from the inhabitants of continents: it is true that they have often been distinguished by their commercial activity, and their naval skill; but this trait is common to other inhabitants of countries bordering on the sea. The great commercial powers of ancient times were the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians and continental Greeks; of the middle ages, the Italian republics; and the Normans were the most distinguished naval warriors of their time.A portion of country nearly included between several rivers, is sometimes called an island, as the ancient province of the Isle de France. The Greeks called such a district by the expressive name of Mesopotamia. The Greek word for island is vrjcog, the Latin insula, Italian isola, Spanish isla, French He, Hot, German inset and eiland, Danish oe, and ey, Swedish <g, Russian ostrov.