Portal:North America

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North America is a continent in the Earth's northern hemisphere and western hemisphere. It is bordered on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the North Atlantic Ocean, on the southeast by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by the North Pacific Ocean; South America lies to the southeast. It covers an area of about 24,709,000 square kilometers (9,540,000 square miles), about 4.8% of the planet's surface or about 16.5% of its land area. As of July 2008, its population was estimated at nearly 529 million people. It is the third-largest continent in area, following Asia and Africa, and the fourth in population after Asia, Africa, and Europe. North America and South America are collectively known as the Americas or simply America.

Satellite imagery of North America

North and South America are generally accepted as having been named after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who explored South America between 1497 and 1502, and was the first European to suggest that the Americas were not the East Indies. Scientists have several theories as to the origins of the early human population of North America. The indigenous peoples of North America themselves have many creation myths, by which they assert that they have been present on the land since its creation. Before contact with Europeans, the natives of North America were divided into many different polities, from small bands of a few families to large empires. They lived in several "culture areas", which roughly correspond to geographic and biological zones and give a good indication of the main lifeway or occupation of the people who lived there.

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Territories, dependencies, and subnational entities of a country not located primarily in North America are italicized.

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Featured article

The Panama Canal is a man-made canal in Panama which joins the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, it had an enormous impact on shipping between the two oceans, replacing the long and treacherous route via the Drake Passage and Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America. A ship sailing from New York to San Francisco via the canal travels 9,500 km (6,000 miles), well under half the 22,500 km (14,000 mi) route around Cape Horn. Although the concept of a canal near Panama dates back to the early 16th century, the first attempt to construct a canal began in 1880 under French leadership. After this attempt failed and saw 21,900 workers die, the project of building a canal was attempted and completed by the United States in the early 1900s, with the canal opening in 1914. The building of the 77 km (48 mi) canal was plagued by problems, including disease (particularly malaria and yellow fever) and landslides. By the time the canal was completed, a total of 27,500 workers are estimated to have died in the French and American efforts. Since opening, the canal has been enormously successful, and continues to be a key conduit for international naval trade. The canal can accommodate vessels from small private yachts up to large commercial vessels. The maximum size of vessel that can use the canal is known as Panamax; an increasing number of modern ships exceed this limit, and are known as post-Panamax vessels. A typical passage through the canal by a cargo ship takes around nine hours. 14,011 vessels passed through in 2005, with a total capacity of 278.8 million tons, making an average of almost 40 vessels per day.

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Yellowstone National Park, 1871
Credit: F.V. Hayden, Library of Congress
Map of Yellowstone National Park, 1871. Created one year before the park was formed.

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Circumferentor

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Selected biography

Louis Riel
Louis Riel (/ˈli rˈɛl/; 22 October 1844 – 16 November 1885) was a Canadian politician, a founder of the province of Manitoba, and leader of the Métis people of the Canadian prairies. He led two resistance movements against the Canadian government and its first post-Confederation Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Riel sought to preserve Métis rights and culture as their homelands in the Northwest came progressively under the Canadian sphere of influence. He is regarded by many as a Canadian folk hero today.

The provisional government established by Riel ultimately negotiated the terms under which the modern province of Manitoba entered the Canadian Confederation. Riel was forced into exile in the United States as a result of the controversial execution of Thomas Scott during the rebellion. Despite this, he is frequently referred to as the "Father of Manitoba". While a fugitive, he was elected three times to the Canadian House of Commons, although he never assumed his seat. He married in 1881 while in exile in Montana, and fathered two children.

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Sitting Bull June 19, 1868

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North America categories

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Geography Africa Antarctica Asia Caribbean Europe Oceania Latin America

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North America on Wikinews North America on Wikiquote North America on Wiktionary North America on Wikisource North America on Wikiversity North America on Wikicommons
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