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Archipelago is a fancy geographical term for a chain or group of islands scattered across a body of water.
Although archipelagos can be found in large lakes or rivers, they're most often found in the world's oceans.

Several large modern countries are actually archipelagos. Some examples of these include Indonesia, Japan, the
Philippines, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Many of the world's archipelagos consist of oceanic islands that were formed as a result of eruptions
of volcanoes on the ocean floor. Scientists call these types of archipelagos island arcs, since several islands are
often formed in a particular area known as a hot spot."

In these areas, the Earth's crust shifted at some time in the past, but the hot spot" of volcanic activity didn't
move. As a result, volcanic eruptions formed an arc of new islands that reveals the direction the Earth's crust

The Hawaiian Islands are an example of an archipelago that is also an island arc. They sit over an active hot
spot," and the Paci2fic tectonic plate that lies under the area continues to shift northwest. This means there will
continue to be new islands added to the current chain, which now consists of over 130 islands, reefs, and atolls.

Archipelagos can be formed in other ways, too. For example, some archipelagos were formed long ago when the
last ice age ended. Valleys amongst small mountain ranges along some coastlines became flooded when the ice
melted, leaving a string of islands just off the coast of the mainland.

Still other archipelagos were formed as a result of a process known as post-glacial rebound. In these instances,
land that was formerly crushed3 under the weight of massive glaciers began to expand and retake its former shape
when the glaciers melted.

For example, the more than 50,000 islands in the Archipelago Sea in Finland formed this way. The process is still
ongoing and new islands continue to pop up even to this day. Many of the islands in the Archipelago Sea are tiny,
taking up less than an acre.

The Malay Archipelago, which sits between the Pacific and Indian Oceans off the coasts of Indonesia and
Malaysia, is the world's largest archipelago. Its more than 25,000 islands used to be part of mainland Asia and
appeared after glaciers disappeared after the last ice age.

It is defined as all waters, around between and connecting different islands, irrespective of their
width or dimension, are necessary appurtenances of its land territory, forming an integral part of
the national or inland waters, subject to the exclusive sovereignty of the nation.

1 Document: A/CONF.13/18

2 United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea

3 Official Records of the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, Volume I (Preparatory
It emphasizes the unity of the land and waters by defining an archipelago as group of islands
surrounded by waters or a body of waters studded with islands.

To emphasize unity, an imaginary single baseline is drawn around the islands by joining
appropriate points of the outermost islands of the archipelago with straight lines and all islands
and waters enclosed within the baseline form part of its territory.

The main purpose of the archipelago & its doctrine is to protect the territorial interests of an
archipelago, that is, the territorial integrity of the archipelago. Without it, there would be pockets
of high seas between some of our islands and islets, thus foreign vessels would be able to pass
through these pockets of seas and would have no jurisdiction over them. Accordingly, if we
follow the old rule of international law, it is possible that between islands, e.g. Bohol and
Siquijor, due to the more than 24 mile distance between the 2 islands, there may be high seas.
Thus, foreign vessels may just enter anytime at will, posing danger to the security of the State.
However, applying the doctrine, even these bodies of water within the baseline, regardless of
breadth, form part of the archipelago and are thus considered as internal waters.


They are formed a few ways. One of the most common ways an archipelago is formed is through volcanic
activity. As volca5noes erupt under water, they start to form land above the water which is what we call an island.
As the volcanoes shift or a group of volcanoes erupt over years, they start to form a group of islands that we can
call an archipelago.

4 tandfonline.com

5 The Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920

Another way an archipelago is formed is through the evaporation or movement of water. The higher part of land
that was under water is now above water. This can happen in groups which makes the groups of islands.

Erosion can also create the group of islands that we call archipelagos. This can be rare but does occur. Take for
example places that have high and low tides of water (usually in oceans). The raising and lowering of water can
deposit and take away land, which can create islands.


1. An archipelago sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection
of islands. The word archipelago is derived from the Greek word arkhi- ("chief") and plagos-("sea").It
is now used to refer to any island group or, sometimes, to a sea containing a small number of scattered
2. A scattered group of islands within the same body of water. The islands are considered part of a larger
land mass. Places such as Hawaii and the Virgin Islands are considered to be archipelagos.
3. An extensive group of islands.
4. A sea or stretch of water having many islands.
5. An Archipelago is a landform that is a group of many islands. Some of the most famous archipelagos of
the world are many of the islands around Japan, Hawaii and the British Islands. Most people think this
type of landform is what you see on movies but that is not necessarily so. Canada has many archipelagos
that are barren because of the cold. They are not known for being as lush as the islands you may think of.
Also, the groups of islands can be from a few to thousands such as the Florida Keys.


Name of the Number of islands, islets, reefs, coral reefs and

cation (total number of islands)
archipelagos cays

rway 240,000[1]

land Archipelago Sea 40,000 (approx.)[2]

Canadian Arctic
nada 36,563

ckholm archipelago, Sweden (34,316[3]) Stockholm archipelago 28,945

6 Oxford Bibliographies

7 WIKIPEDIA-archipelago
dermanland archipelago, Sweden 5,371

lay Archipelago (25,000 30,000) Indonesian Archipelago 17,508 18,306[4]

lippines Philippine Archipelago 7,600 (approx.)[5]

edish East Coast Archipelago (21,628[6]) Smland archipelago 12,740


eden regrund archipelago 9,722

e Bahamas 3,200[7] Lucayan Archipelago 3,200

anese archipelago 6,852[8] Seto Inland Sea 3,000

land Kvarken Archipelago 6,500

tish Isles British Isles 6,289

na (5,000) Zhoushan Archipelago 1,390 (islands)

rea Korean Peninsula 3,579

eensland, Australia Great Barrier Reef 2,900 (reefs), 900 (islands)

le Chile 2,324

ng Ninh Province, Vietnam Ha Long Bay 1,960 2,000

nt Lawrence River, CanadaUnited States border Thousand Islands 1,864

ailand Thailand 1,430

ece Greece 1,200 6,000

atia Dalmatia 1,200

ldives Maldive Islands 1,192 (coral islands)

West Estonian
onia 900[9]

New Zealand
w Zealand 600


The UNCLOS replaces the older and weaker 'freedom of the seas' concept, dating from the 17th century: national rights
were limited to a specified belt of water extending fro 8m a nation's coastlines, usually three nautical miles, according to the
'cannon shot' rule developed by the Dutch jurist Cornelius van Bynkershoek. All waters beyond national boundaries were
considered international waters free to all nations, but belonging to none of them (the mare liberum principle
promulgated by Grotius).

In the early 20th century, some nations expressed their desire to extend national claims: to include mineral resources, to
protect fish stocks, and to provide the means to enforce pollution controls. (The League of Nations called a 1930 conference
at The Hague, but no agreements resulted.) Using the customary international law principle of a nation's right to protect its
natural resources, President Truman in 1945 extended United States control to all the natural resources of its continental
shelf. Other nations were quick to follow suit. Between 1946 and 1950, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador extended their
rights to a distance of 200 nautical miles to cover their Humboldt Current fishing grounds. Other nations extended their
territorial seas to 12 nautical miles.

By 1967, only 25 nations still used the old three-mile limit, while 66 nations had set a 12-mile territorial limit and eight had
set a 200-mile limit. As of May 28, 2008, only two countries still use the three-mile limit: Jordan and Palau. That limit is
also used in certain Australian islands, an area of Belize, some Japanese straits, certain areas of Papua New Guinea, and a
few British Overseas Territories, such as Anguilla.


In 19569, the United Nations held its first Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS I) at Geneva, Switzerland.
UNCLOS I resulted in four treaties concluded in 1958: Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone, entry into
force: 10 September 1964 Convention on the Continental Shelf, entry into force: 10 June 1964 Convention on the High
Seas, entry into force: 30 September 1962 Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas,

8 Unclos-document no.1988378-un

9 1962 Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas
entry into force: 20 March 1966 Although UNCLOS I was considered a success, it left open the important issue of breadth
of territorial waters.

In 1960, the United Nations held the second Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS II); however, the six-week
Geneva conference did not result in any new agreements. Generally speaking, developing nations and third world countries
participated only as clients, allies, or dependents of United States or the Soviet Union, with no significant voice of their

The issue of varying claims of territorial waters was raised in the UN in 1967 by Arvid Pardo, of Malta, and in 1973 the
Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea was convened in New York. In an attempt to reduce the possibility
of groups of nation-states dominating the negotiations, the conference used a consensus process rather than majority vote.
With more than 160 nations participating, the conference lasted until 1982. The resulting convention came into force on
November 16, 1994, one year after the sixtieth state, Guyana, ratified the treaty.

The convention introduced a number of provisions. The most significant issues covered were setting limits, navigation,
archipelagic status and transit regimes, exclusive economic zones (EEZs), continental shelf jurisdiction, deep seabed
mining, the exploitation regime, protection of the marine environment, scientific research, and settlement of disputes.

The convention set the limit of various areas, measured from a carefully defined baseline. (Normally, a sea baseline follows
the low-water line, but when the coastline is deeply indented, has fringing islands or is highly unstable, straight baselines
may be used.) The areas are as follows:

INTERNAL WATERS: Covers all water and waterways on the landward side of the baseline. The coastal state is free to set
laws, regulate use, and use any resource. Foreign vessels have no right of passage within internal waters.

TERRITORIAL WATERS: Out to 12 nautical miles from the baseline, the coastal state is free to set laws, regulate use, and
use any resource. Vessels were given the right of innocent passage through any territorial waters, with strategic straits
allowing the passage of military craft as transit passage, in that naval vessels are allowed to maintain postures that would be
illegal in territorial waters. "Innocent passage" is defined by the convention as passing through waters in an expeditious and
continuous manner, which is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or the security of the coastal state. Fishing,
polluting, weapons practice, and spying are not innocent", and submarines and other underwater vehicles are required to
navigate on the surface and to show their flag. Nations can also temporarily suspend innocent passage in specific areas of
their territorial seas, if doing so is essential for the protection of its security.

ARCHIPELAGIC WATERS: The convention set the definition of Archipelagic States in Part IV, which also defines how the
state can draw its territorial borders. A baseline is drawn between the outermost points of the outermost islands, subject to
these points being sufficiently close to one another. All waters inside this baseline are designated Archipelagic Waters. The
state has full sovereignty over these waters (like internal waters), but foreign vessels have right of innocent passage through
archipelagic waters (like territorial waters).

CONTIGUOUS ZONE: Beyond the 12 nautical mile limit there was a further 12 nautical miles or 24 nautical miles from
the territorial sea baselines limit, the contiguous zone, in which a state could continue to enforce laws in four specific areas:
pollution, taxation, customs, and immigration.
EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONES (EEZS): Extends from the edge of the territorial sea out to 200 nautical miles from the
baseline. Within this area, the coastal nation has sole exploitation rights over all natural resources. In casual use, the term
may include the territorial sea and even the continental shelf. The EEZs were introduced to halt the increasingly heated
clashes over fishing rights, although oil was also becoming important. The success of an offshore oil platform in the Gulf of
Mexico in 1947 was soon repeated elsewhere in the world, and by 1970 it was technically feasible to operate in waters 4000
metres deep. Foreign nations have the freedom of navigation and overflight, subject to the regulation of the coastal states.
Foreign states may also lay submarine pipes and cables. CONTINENTAL SHELF: The continental shelf is defined as the
natural prolongation of the land territory to the continental margins outer edge, or 200 nautical miles from the coastal
states baseline, whichever is greater. States continental shelf may exceed 200 nautical miles until the natural prolongation
ends. However, it may never exceed 350 nautical miles from the baseline; or it may never exceed 100 nautical miles beyond
the 2,500 meter isobath (the line connecting the depth of 2,500 meters). Coastal states have the right to harvest mineral and
non-living material in the subsoil of its continental shelf, to the exclusion of others. Coastal states also have exclusive
control over living resources "attached" to the continental shelf, but not to creatures living in the water column beyond the
exclusive economic zone. Aside from its provisions defining ocean boundaries, the convention establishes general
obligations for safeguarding the marine environment and protecting freedom of scientific research on the high seas, and also
creates an innovative legal regime for controlling mineral resource exploitation in deep seabed areas beyond national
jurisdiction, through an International Seabed Authority and the Common heritage of mankind principle.Landlocked states
are given a right of access to and from the sea, without taxation of traffic through transit states.


Prior to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, there was no recognition of the special characteristics and
consequently the particular legal rights and obligations of archipelagic States. As can be gleaned from historical writings
about the growth of the Law of the Sea in to a single codified instrument, the whole process actually spanned the length of
twenty four (24) years. This period includes the First and Second Conferences or UNCLOS I and II. There have been so
many contentious issues as well as States conflicting claims and interest for which it took time for everyone to at least find
some middle ground or compromise that more or less satisfies all parties involved. The special issue of archipelagos has
much more suffered not only rejection from the traditional maritime States but also the lack of interest given by most
delegates to the matter except perhaps only its two major proponents during UNCLOS I and UNLOS II. The principal
opposition at UNCLOS I to a special regime for archipelagos came from the major maritime states. They feared that such a
regime would result in areas which had previously been high seas or territorial seas becoming internal waters, with the
consequent loss of navigational rights for both their naval and commercial vessels, especially in the case of archipelagos
such as the Bahamas, Fiji, Indonesia and the Philippines, which straddle important shipping routes. State practice with
regard to the establishment of straight baselines around archipelagic nations was not considered to be part of customary
international law prior to UNCLOS. Until UNCLOS III these maritime States consistently took the view that the normal
regime of islands should apply to mid-ocean archipelagos, thus leaving territorial sea or high-seas routes between most
islands. Such protests reflected a conflict between competing interests; archipelagic States, on the one hand trying to
maximize their jurisdiction of maritime space that traditionally had been seen as part of the high seas, and the interests of
developed countries, on the other hand, who wanted to ensure freedom of navigation for military and commercial purposes.
As evinced by records of the first two Conferences, the traditional maritime States have been successful in their bid to
oppose the consideration of the archipelagic principle. In UNCLOS I and UNCLOS II, the principle of archipelago was not
even a topic on the table for discussion but was only mentioned incidentally in the discussion on traditional waters. The
main issue is that there were only two States actively campaigning in favour of it while those in opposition were the
traditional maritime States who were not only developed States but also powerful ones. These situations though have
changed in the UNCLOS III where there was an increase of support from other developing States so that it was finally
tabled for discussion. Since 1958 many archipelagic States in the Caribbean and Indian and Pacific Oceans have become
independent, and this increased the pressure for the adoption of a special regime for mid-ocean archipelagos to meet the
interests of archipelagic States. One other major development that happened after the first two Conferences was the creation
on 8 August 1967 of the Association of the South-East Asian Nations better known as the ASEAN. The members of the
ASEAN have their own differing claims and even have overlapping territorial claims. However, through the mechanism of
the ASEAN, the members were able to amicably settle and agreement about their conflicting claims regionally and decided
to support the claim put forth by the Philippines and Indonesia.The Philippines in the 1950s campaigned for the
international recognition of its special geographical circumstances that in its note of 12, December, 1955 to the Secretariat
of the United Nations indicated that The Position of the Philippine Government in the matter is that all waters around,
between and connecting the different islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago are necessary appurtenances of its
land territory, forming an integral part of the national or inland waters subject to the exclusive sovereignty of the
Philippines.In the same way, Indonesia issued what is known as the Djuanda Declaration in December 1957, calling for the
use of straight baselines joining together the outermost seaward points of the islands in the archipelago to outline the
territorial limits of Indonesia including both islands and water. In said Declaration it stated that if each of Indonesias
component islands were to have its own territorial sea, the exercise of more effective control would be made extremely
difficult emphasizing on the importance of the archipelagic baselines to the definition of its nationhood. While this
declaration had no legal effect, even for Indonesia domestically, it generated protests from France, the United States, the
United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Japan. These States were concerned with the effect that an
archipelagic baselines that encloses all the seas between and around the islands of an archipelago would have on trade
routes and maritime commerce.

Such protests reflected a conflict between competing interests; archipelagic States, on the one hand trying to maximize their
jurisdiction of maritime space that traditionally had been seen as part of the high seas, and the interests of developed
countries, on the other hand, who wanted to ensure freedom of navigation for military and commercial purposes.These
protests and oppositions have been influential enough that it took time for the principle itself to even be discussed officially
or placed on the table for discussion. However, the proponents gained support from States who found themselves similarly
situated that the clamour for it to be given the attention it needed grew. The need for compromise and concessions in order
to incorporate the interests of archipelagic States and other States was a major point in the negotiations at the United
Nations Conferences on the Law of the Sea. Several proposals and counter-proposals were submitted by different States.
The United Kingdom for its part submitted a mathematical formula that archipelagic States will follow if they are to use
archipelagic baselines. Aside from the maximum permissible length of baselines that differ so much from one another, there
emerged from the British draft articles for archipelagos the mathematical formula of land to water ratio or the ratio of the
enclosed land to the water. Subsequently, a balance was reflected in the substantive provisions of UNCLOS dealing with the
definition of the archipelagic concept and the condition under which straight baselines can be constructed around an
archipelagic State.


Without a precise definition of the term archipelago, it would be difficult to ascertain the number of States which would be
able to take advantage of the legal regime specifically related to archipelagic States. In the case of archipelagos, the
constituent islands are considered as forming a whole and the width of territorial sea shall be measured from the islands
most distant from the centre of the archipelago. In general terms, the concept of archipelagos merely refers to a grouping of

One of the early definitions given on archipelagos was by the International Court of Justice in the Anglo-Norwegian
Fisheries Case. In relation to the unity of the island fringe with the mainland the Court stated the coast of the mainland
does not constitute, as it does in practically all countries, a clear dividing line between land and sea. What really
constitutes the Norwegian coastline is the outer line of the skjaergaard. This skaergaard was said to constitute a whole with
the mainland, and the Court noted that it is the land which confers upon the coastal State a right to the waters off its coasts.
While this case specifically dealt with the particular circumstances of a coastal archipelago, it has been argued that the need
for geographic cohesiveness extends to mid-ocean archipelagos as well. This need for geographic specificity plays a critical
role and is arguably the basis and starting point for the archipelagic concept.

Nevertheless, there is quite a marked divergence within this notion. There are coastal archipelagos as noted above, mid-
ocean archipelagos and archipelagos with one or more dominating main islands. Mid-ocean archipelagos usually involve
the consolidation of the island grouping into a single unit by a system of straight baselines.

As far as the UNCLOS is concerned, definition for archipelago is now incorporated and can be found in Article 46 which
provides that it is a group of islands, including parts of islands, interconnecting waters and other natural features which are
so closely inter- related that such islands, waters and other natural features form an intrinsic geographical economic and
political entity or which historically have been regarded as such. After several views and definitions as well as criteria
proposed during the three Conferences, this single definition has been adopted by State Parties. This definition though silent
and does not use either term of coastal or mid-ocean archipelagos definitely shows that it more or less describes the
later. According to Clive R. Symmons, the definition given in UNCLOS gave rise to several points:

(i) An archipelago is deemed to include not just insular terra firma, but also non-insular natural formations (e.g.,
reefs) and the areas of the sea around them; as such they constructively form a single physical and economic
(ii) There must be a close interrelationship of all these featuresit is clear that the geographical condition must be
satisfied namely that the two or more islands must be so situated so as to be capable to being geographically
considered as a whole unit.
(iii) The factor of historic claim is alternative to, rather than additional to, geographical, economic and political

The essence of the archipelagic claim is that the waters between and around the islands that are inside the straight baselines,
connecting the outermost islands of the archipelago, are considered national or internal waters, as is the case with waters
landward of baselines in other circumstances. Where islands are grouped so as to form an archipelago, the Law of the Sea
Convention provides that, in addition to any baselines drawn along individual islands to delimit internal waters, straight
lines may be drawn around the outermost points of the archipelago itself (archipelagic baselines).