After a long day at work, who doesn't wish to be lounging their cares away on island somewhere? But would you choose a continental island or an oceanic island? No matter where it occurs, a mass of land that is completely surrounded by water is called an island. They can be very large landmasses, such as Greenland, or they can be very small bits of land that are referred to as islets (these are the ones you're probably picturing yourself on). A group or string of nearby islands and islets is referred to as an archipelago. There are two main types of islands: oceanic (which includes volcanic islands and coral islands) and continental.
Continental islands are large masses of land completely surrounded by water. They are often created by a rise in sea level, which causes low-lying areas to be flooded, creating a water barrier between the original continent and the new island. At other times, a coastal area sinks, allowing water to cover a portion of the land, or the land erodes away, creating a distinct separation between two previously connected landmasses. However, the islands are still part of the adjacent continent, and they are located on the same continental shelf [source: Holzman].
Madagascar, Sri Lanka and the British Isles are probably the most well-known continental islands. The British Isles consist of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as many smaller islands, which are separated from Europe by the English Channel and the North Sea. Great Britain is one of the largest continental islands in the entire world: Its land mass exceeds 88,000 square miles (229 square kilometers).
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