POLL: How Many Continents? Oceans? What Are They?

Inspired by a discussion about Australia’s classification as a continent, island, or both between Ilsa_Lund, Go You Big Red Fire Engine, and myself in the I once mistakenly believed … thread, I am curious as to how people classify the continents.

In American geography, there are normally seven, those being: both Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antartica but it’s not uncommon for there to be six with Eurasia being considered one instead of two. I’ve also read that it’s not uncommon for Europeans to consider the Americas to be one continent as well so it seems “seven, sometimes six” is the norm there as well. But what about other continents and countries?

And, also, since I am already asking for clarification on continents, I’d also like to ask about the world’s oceans. Growing up, I was taught that there were four – the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic – but in the past year, I’ve discovered that there’s a fifth that’s recognized by the International Hydrographic Organization, the Southern Ocean. Does anyone but the members of that community recognize it?

With that in mind, please answer the following:

  1. Your age
  2. Your location

3a. How many continents do you consider there to be?
3b. What continents are those?

4a. How many oceans do you consider there to be?
4b. What oceans are those?

  1. Any further comments or clarification.

  1. 23
  2. United States

3a. Six Continents
3b. North America, South America, Eurasia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica

4a. Four oceans.
4b. Antlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic

  1. I deviate from the more common seven continents that is taught in American schools.
  1. The U.S.

3a. Six.
3b. Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Eurasia, North America and South America.

4a. Five.
4b. Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, Southern.

  1. I’m a geography student at MSU, and these ideas have pretty much been beaten into me (especially the continents).


N. America, S. America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Antarctica, Australia (ever notice how many geograical locations start and end in “A”)

Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic (never heard of Southern)

I guess I’m a traditionalist at heart. I also consider Pluto a planet despite the debate to the contrary.

  1. 40
  2. Australia

3a 7 continents
3b Australia, Antarctica, Asia, Africa, South America, North America, Europe

4a 3 oceans
4b Pacific, Indian, Atlantic

  1. Nineteen.
  2. United States.

3a. Seven.
3b. N. America, S. America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Antarctica, Africa.

4a. Four.
4b. Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic.

  1. No special instruction in geography.

Is that your own interpretation or how it’s taught in Australia? If the former, why do you not consider the Arctic to be an ocean?

  1. 29

  2. US (although I lived in Australia until I was 8)

  3. 7 Continents:
    North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica

  4. This is the tricky one. I immeidately thought “of course there are seven continents and five oceans,” but there was no way I was going to come up the Southern Ocean on my own (and even now it doesn’t really seem right. So, on to my answer.
    5 oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and, uh… the other one.

  1. 20
  2. United States

3a. Seven
3b. North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Antarctica, and Australia/Oceana.

4a. Four
4b. Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.

Billy Ocean perhaps.

And the Caribbean is a Queen.

  1. 35
  2. U.S.

3a. 2
3b. Gondwanaland and Laurasia

4a. 1 1/2
4b. Atlantic Ocean and Tethys Sea

  1. I keed!

3a is really 6.
3b is NA, SA, Eurasia (I was taught that these were separate continents, but they haven’t been separated for at least 225 million years), Africa, Australia and Antarctica. Plus the Indian subcontinent.

4a is really 4.
4b is Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic.

What is the rationale, if I may ask, of combining Asia and Europe into one continent? Is it because they are connected? If this is the case, then should we not have only one continent for the Americas?


Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia, N America, S AMerica, Antarctica

North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, Southern
(The continents are definitiely generally taught that way. I couldn’t tell you whether I was taught the oceans that way, or picked up that grouping some other way.)

The Americas are connected by by the Isthmus of Panama and share a tiny border of 225 km whereas Europe and Asia are not as easily delineated and is more of a cultural construct than a geographical one. If it were simple interconnectedness, there would only be four continents – America, Antarctica, Australia, and Eurafrasia.

  1. 52
  2. California

3a. 6
3b. N. Amer, S.Amer. Afr, Ant., Aust, Eurasia

4a. 4
4b. Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic

  1. Just changed my opinion about Eurasia while reading this thread … I’ve thought of Europe & Asia as two continents which comprise one “land mass” of Eurasia … but that’s a stupid distinction. It’s all one continent.

And since the oceans all run together anyway, setting aside a “Southern Ocean” seems to me at least as arbitrary as separating Europe & Asia.

As Darwin’s Finch nicely illustrated, it’s all temporary anyway …

It’s a long time since I was at school, so I can’t really remember if that’s what I was taught or not. It’s probably a mixture of my own interpretation and the 1970s NSW geography curriculum. I don’t recall the Arctic Ocean ever being mentioned (or the Antarctic / Southern Oceans for that matter). I’ve always just assumed they were the northern and southern extremes of the three main oceans.


NA, SA, Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, Antarctica

Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Indian

That’s what I was always taught…never had any reason to consider doing things any differently, no matter how much sense it makes to lump Europe and Asia. They “feel” separate in my head, so they’ll probably remain so.

Not quite true. Mariners defined it as separate for a very good reason:


7 N. america, S. america, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, Antarctica
4 Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic, Indian,

  1. 27
  2. Sweden

3a. Seven
3b. North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, Antarctica

4a. Four
4b. Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic