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Physical Features of the World

Updated on November 6, 2014


The land mass of the world is subdivided into 7 continents. They are Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Australia and Antarctica.


Asia is the largest continent and stretches from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south. It covers one third of the world’s total land area.

Pamir Knot, the highest plateau of the world, is situated right in the center of Asia where the boundaries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, China, and Russia meet. It is also called the Roof of the world. Around the Pamirs are some of the highest mountains of the world, such as the Hindukush, Karakorum, and the Himalayas. Some of the largest rivers of south Asia, such as the Indus, Jhelum, Ravi, Chenab, Sutlej, Beas, Ganges, Jamuna, and Brahmaputra start from these mountains. The plains of these rivers are very fertile.

Deserts are also spread throughout Asia in regions of arid climate. Some of the most well known deserts are the desert of Saudi Arabia, Dasht e Lut (Iran), Thar or Rajasthan (India and Pakistan), and the Gobi (China and Mongolia). Several islands stretch in the east and southeast of Asia including Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and many others.


Africa is the second largest continent of the world and was once known as the Dark Continent; because only the northern portions of the landmass were known to the outside world, while the rest remained hidden like a mystery in the thick jungles that were impossible to explore.

The continent is covered with mountains on both sides, including the higher western mountains in the west, such as the Atlas Mountains, and the lower mountains in the east. The vast middle portion consists of two plateaus, one of which is in the north and includes the Sahara, the largest desert in the world.

Famous jungles of Africa mostly form a belt across the middle of the continent; in the southwest is another desert, known as the Kalahari Desert.

The eastern part of the continent has many lakes, including the famous Lakes Victoria, which is the second largest freshwater lake of the world.


Although Europe is considered a continent, actually Asia and Europe both are parts of a single huge land mass that is called Eurasia. It is the second smallest continent.

Most of the mountains of Europe lie in the northwestern part (mostly in the UK, Norway and Sweden), but the Alps, the highest mountains, are in the south.

Most of the rivers of Europe start from the center of the continent. The longest is the Volga; other major rivers include Thames, Rhine, Seine, Somme, and Danube.

North America

North America is the third largest continent and mainly includes Canada, the United States, Greenland and Mexico. A narrow strip of mountains, called the Continental Divide (also the Great Divide), passes across the continent from north to south.

The part of the continent towards the east of the Continental Divide can be dividing into parts: a northern plateau and a coastal plain. The plateau is a dry rocky region while the coastal plain has fertile soil, and forms the most densely populated region of the United States including Washington D.C. and New York City. The coastal plain stretches further below and includes parts of Mexico too.

Major rivers on the western side of the Continental Divide are the Missouri, the longest river of the continent, the Mississippi and the Mackenzie.

South America

South America is the fourth largest continent, and is situated to the south of North America, between the Atlantic, pacific and Antarctic oceans. The largest country of the continent is Brazil, while the most densely populated country is Argentina and the longest river is the Amazon.

The northwest and west of the continent is covered mostly with the high Andes Mountains, it travels through Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela. Amazon is the second longest river of the world, but carries the greatest volume of water of any river in the world.


Australia is the smallest continent of the world. It consists of the islands of Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and some other smaller islands. It lies in the Southern Hemisphere, which means that its seasons follow the opposite cycle to that of the Northern Hemisphere for instance; it is summer in Australia from September to March.

Australia is famous for producing cheese and other dairy products. The Great Sandy Desert is situated in this part of the continent. The variety of wildlife found here is quite different from the one found in the Northern Hemisphere. Strange animals such as the kangaroo and kiwi are found in this region and are famous around the world.


Antarctica is the fifth largest continent, but it was the last to be discovered.

Antarctica is entirely covered with snow and does not have human population. The famous residents of the continent are the penguin and seals, which can survive the extreme cold. Many nations of the world claim various portions of this continent, but the world realizes that this continent must be open to everyone for the purpose of scientific research.


There are five oceans in the world. In order of size (from the largest to the smallest) they are the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic and the Antarctic.

The Pacific Ocean

This is the largest ocean of the world. According to one theory, the moon came out of this part of the earth, and left the deep hollow that is now filled by the Pacific. The ocean is egg shaped. The eastern coasts of Asia and Australia are washed by the Pacific Ocean while the western coasts of North America and South America touch the pacific on the other side.

The deepest known point in the Pacific Ocean is near the Philippines. This is also the deepest point in any ocean of the world. The pacific does not have many seaports because of the shape of its coast. Famous harbours around the ocean include Sydney (Australia), Tokyo (Japan), Shanghai (China), Manila (Philippines) and Honolulu (Hawaiian Islands).

The Atlantic Ocean

This is the second largest ocean of the world. The ocean is egg shaped and is surrounded by North America and South America on the west, while Europe and Africa are on the east.

The shores of this ocean are well cut, unlike the rough shores of the pacific and therefore, establishing a port on this ocean is easier. Famous harbours around the ocean include Dakar (Senegal), Lagos (Nigeria), Lisbon (Portugal), Kardez (Spain), and south Hampton (UK) in the east and New York (USA), Boston (USA) and Rio de Janerio (Brazil) in the west.

Glaciers from the Arctic Ocean in the north sometimes drift into the Atlantic, offering a major hazard for ships in that region. The most famous incident was the sinking of the Titanic, one of the biggest ships of the world in 1911.

The Indian Ocean

This is the third largest ocean of the world and bordered by Africa and the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Pacific Ocean in the east. Its largest island is Australia, which lies in the south. The Arabian Sea, which washes the coasts of Pakistan, India, the Arabian Peninsula and many countries of Africa, is also a part of this ocean.

The shores of the Indian Ocean are not well cut, and it is not easy to make a harbour here. However, the most famous harbours include Nairobi (Kenya), Darussalam (Tanzania), Aden (Yemen), Karachi (Pakistan), Mumbai (India), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Rangoon (Burma) and Bangkok (Thailand).

The route followed by most ships from Asia to Europe passes through the Arabian Sea before they cross the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean is also known as the Arctic Sea. It is a great mass of water around the North Pole and remains frozen for most of the year, and therefore, ordinary ships cannot navigate it. Towards the south the three continents that touch it are Asia, Europe and North America.

The most interesting thing about the Arctic Ocean is that the North Pole is located here. The north poles of all magnets in the world point in this direction, and therefore, it helps us to find directions in the world.

The Antarctic Ocean

The Atlantic, pacific and the Indian oceans meet in the Antarctic region near the South Pole.

The Antarctic Ocean is formed by the junction of these three oceans. It forms a kind of circle that surrounds the Antarctic continent, and remains frozen for most parts of the year.

Ocean currents

The seas and the oceans seem calm and peaceful from far away, but they are always in motion. There are waves striking against the shores and there are great winds blowing on the surface of the oceans, making huge waves, some of which look like mountains of water moving on the surface of deep seas.

Ocean currents are like rivers of water flowing inside the oceans. This means that if the rest of the ocean is standing still a narrow strip inside it, or a current, will still be moving at a great speed, like a river. If a ship runs into this current it can take advantage of this speedy flow, and sail on for miles using very little of its own fuel just as boats do in the rivers.


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