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Oceania was first explored by Europeans from the 16th century onward.Portuguese navigators, between 15, reached the Tanimbar Islands, some of the Caroline Islands and west Papua New Guinea.Around 1200, Tahitian explorers found and began settling the area.

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On his first voyage in the 18th century, James Cook, who later founded the Hawaiian Islands, went to Tahiti and followed the east coast of Australia for the first time.

The Pacific front saw major action during the Second World War, mainly between the belligerents the United States, its ally Australia, and Japan.

Micronesia began to be settled several millennia ago, although there are competing theories about the origin and arrival of the first settlers.

There are numerous difficulties with conducting archaeological excavations in the islands, due to their size, settlement patterns and storm damage.

There is evidence of genetic and linguistic interchange between Australians in the far north and the Austronesian peoples of modern-day New Guinea and the islands, but this may be the result of recent trade and intermarriage.