Moorea, an island in French Polynesia There are about 20,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Divided into three groups, Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, they were originally formed by volcanoes erupting from the ocean floor. After repeated eruptions, they grew to rise up above the ocean surface. Many islands are coral atolls. Some Pacific islands are dependencies of other countries, while others are independent states. The Hawaiian Islands are a state of the USA. Pacific islands have a tropical marine climate: hot and humid, but cooled by ocean breezes. Many are at risk from tropical cyclones between November and April.
American Samoa is a territory of the USA, consisting of five volcanic islands to the east of the Samoan island chain, together with two coral atolls. Most people are native Samoans, and live on the largest island, Tutuila. The tuna-canning industry employs more people than anything else: the canned fish is produced mainly for export to the USA.
Between 1946–98, the USA, Britain and France all used the Pacific islands to test nuclear weapons. Some islands still have high levels of radiation, making them unsafe to live on.
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