Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean Sea (Spanish: Mar Caribe; French: Mer des Caraïbes; Dutch: Caraïbische Zee) is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.

The entire area of the Caribbean Sea, the numerous islands of the West Indies, and adjacent coasts, are collectively known as the Caribbean. The Caribbean Sea is one of the largest seas and has an area of about 2,754,000 km2 (1,063,000 sq mi).[1][2] The sea's deepest point is the Cayman Trough, between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica, at 7,686 m (25,217 ft) below sea level. The Caribbean coastline has many gulfs and bays: the Gulf of Gonâve, Gulf of Venezuela, Gulf of Darién, Golfo de los Mosquitos, Gulf of Paria and Gulf of Honduras.

The Caribbean Sea has the world's second biggest barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. It runs 1,000 km (620 mi) along the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.[3]

Caribbean Sea
Caribbean general map
Coordinates15°N 75°W / 15°N 75°WCoordinates: 15°N 75°W / 15°N 75°W
TypeSea
Surface area2,754,000 km2 (1,063,000 sq mi)
Max. depth7,686 m (25,217 ft)

History

Columbus landing on Hispaniola adj
Christopher Columbus landing on Hispaniola in 1492.

The name "Caribbean" derives from the Caribs, one of the region's dominant Native American groups at the time of European contact during the late 15th century. After Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahamas in 1492, the Spanish term Antillas applied to the lands; stemming from this, "Sea of the Antilles" became a common alternative name for "Caribbean Sea" in various European languages. During the first century of development, Spanish dominance in the region remained undisputed.

From the 16th century, Europeans visiting the Caribbean region identified the "South Sea" (the Pacific Ocean, to the south of the isthmus of Panama) as opposed to the "North Sea" (the Caribbean Sea, to the north of the same isthmus).[4]

Tulum-Seaside-2010
Tulum, Maya city on the coast of the Caribbean in the state of Quintana Roo (Mexico)

The Caribbean Sea had been unknown to the populations of Eurasia until 1492, when Christopher Columbus sailed into Caribbean waters on a quest to find a sea route to Asia. At that time the Western Hemisphere in general was unknown to most Europeans, although it had been discovered between the years 800 and 1000 by the vikings. Following the discovery of the islands by Columbus, the area was quickly colonized by several Western cultures (initially Spain, then later England, the Dutch Republic, France, Courland and Denmark). Following the colonization of the Caribbean islands, the Caribbean Sea became a busy area for European-based marine trading and transports, and this commerce eventually attracted pirates such as Samuel Bellamy and Blackbeard.

As of 2015 the area is home to 22 island territories and borders 12 continental countries.

Extent

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Caribbean Sea as follows:[5]

On the North. In the Windward Channel – a line joining Caleta Point (74°15′W) and Pearl Point (19°40′N) in Haïti. In the Mona Passage – a line joining Cape Engaño and the extreme of Agujereada (18°31′N 67°08′W / 18.517°N 67.133°W) in Puerto Rico.
Anegada Horseshoe Reef
Coral reefs in the British Virgin Islands
Eastern limits. From Point San Diego (Puerto Rico) Northward along the meridian thereof (65°39′W) to the 100-fathom line, thence Eastward and Southward, in such a manner that all islands, shoals and narrow waters of the Lesser Antilles are included in the Caribbean Sea as far as Galera Point (Northeast extremity of the island of Trinidad). From Galera Point through Trinidad to Galeota Point (Southeast extreme) and thence to Baja Point (9°32′N 61°0′W / 9.533°N 61.000°W) in Venezuela.

Note that, although Barbados is an island on the same continental shelf, it is considered to be in the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Caribbean Sea.

Geology

The Caribbean Sea is an oceanic sea largely situated on the Caribbean Plate. The Caribbean Sea is separated from the ocean by several island arcs of various ages. The youngest stretches from the Lesser Antilles to the Virgin Islands to the north east of Trinidad and Tobago off the coast of Venezuela. This arc was formed by the collision of the South American Plate with the Caribbean Plate and includes active and extinct volcanoes such as Mount Pelee, the Quill (volcano) on Sint Eustatius in the Caribbean Netherlands and Morne Trois Pitons on Dominica. The larger islands in the northern part of the sea Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Puerto Rico lie on an older island arc.

The geological age of the Caribbean Sea is estimated to be between 160 and 180 million years and was formed by a horizontal fracture that split the supercontinent called Pangea in the Mesozoic Era.[6] It is assumed the proto-caribbean basin existed in the Devonian period. In the early Carboniferous movement of Gondwana to the north and its convergence with the Euramerica basin decreased in size. The next stage of the Caribbean Sea's formation began in the Triassic. Powerful rifting led to the formation of narrow troughs, stretching from modern Newfoundland to the west coast of the Gulf of Mexico which formed siliciclastic sedimentary rocks. In the early Jurassic due to powerful marine transgression, water broke into the present area of the Gulf of Mexico creating a vast shallow pool. The emergence of deep basins in the Caribbean occurred during the Middle Jurassic rifting. The emergence of these basins marked the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean and contributed to the destruction of Pangaea at the end of the late Jurassic. During the Cretaceous the Caribbean acquired the shape close to that seen today. In the early Paleogene due to Marine regression the Caribbean became separated from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean by the land of Cuba and Haiti. The Caribbean remained like this for most of the Cenozoic until the Holocene when rising water levels of the oceans restored communication with the Atlantic Ocean.

Caribbean Sea Gulf of Mexico shaded relief bathymetry land map
The shaded relief map of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico area.[7][8]

The Caribbean's floor is composed of sub-oceanic sediments of deep red clay in the deep basins and troughs. On continental slopes and ridges calcareous silts are found. Clay minerals likely having been deposited by the mainland river Orinoco and the Magdalena River. Deposits on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico have a thickness of about 1 km (0.62 mi). Upper sedimentary layers relate to the period from the Mesozoic to the Cenozoic (250 million years ago to present) and the lower layers from the Paleozoic to the Mesozoic.

The Caribbean sea floor is divided into five basins separated from each other by underwater ridges and mountain ranges. Atlantic Ocean water enters the Caribbean through the Anegada Passage lying between the Lesser Antilles and Virgin Islands and the Windward Passage located between Cuba and Haiti. The Yucatán Channel between Mexico and Cuba links the Gulf of Mexico with the Caribbean. The deepest points of the sea lie in Cayman Trough with depths reaching approximately 7,686 m (25,220 ft). Despite this, the Caribbean Sea is considered a relatively shallow sea in comparison to other bodies of water.

Caribbean Ocean view from Bodden Town
Caribbean Sea view from Bodden Town, Grand Cayman
Caribbean plate tectonics-en
Caribbean plate tectonics

The pressure of the South American Plate to the east of the Caribbean causes the region of the Lesser Antilles to have high volcanic activity. There was a very serious eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902 which caused many casualties.

The Caribbean sea floor is also home to two oceanic trenches: the Cayman Trench and Puerto Rico Trench, which put the area at a high risk of earthquakes. Underwater earthquakes pose a threat of generating tsunamis which could have a devastating effect on the Caribbean islands. Scientific data reveals that over the last 500 years the area has seen a dozen earthquakes above 7.5 magnitude.[9] Most recently, a 7.1 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010.

Oceanography

The hydrology of the sea has a high level of homogeneity. Annual variations in monthly average water temperatures at the surface do not exceed 3 °C (5.4 °F). Over the past fifty years the Caribbean has gone through three stages: cooling until 1974; a cold phase with peaks during 1974–1976 and 1984–1986 then; a warming phase with an increase in temperature of 0.6 °C (1.1 °F) per year. Virtually all temperature extremes were associated with the phenomena of El Niño and La Niña. The salinity of seawater is about 3.6% and its density is 1,023.5–1,024.0 kg/m3 (63.90–63.93 lb/cu ft). The surface water colour is blue-green to green.

The Caribbean's depth in its wider basins and deep water temperatures are similar to those of the Atlantic. Atlantic deep water is thought to spill into the Caribbean and contribute to the general deep water of its sea.[10] The surface water (30 m; 100 feet) acts as an extension of the northern Atlantic as the Guiana Current and part of the North Equatorial Current enter the sea on the east. On the western side of the sea the trade winds influence a northerly current which causes an upwelling and a rich fishery near Yucatán.[11]

Ecology

The Caribbean is home to about 9% of the world's coral reefs covering about 50,000 km2 (19,000 sq mi), most of which are located off the Caribbean Islands and the Central American coast.[12] Among them stands out the Belize Barrier Reef with an area of 963 km2 (372 sq mi) which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. It forms part of the Great Mayan Reef also known as the MBRS and being over 1,000 km (600 mi) in length is the world's second longest. It runs along the Caribbean coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

During the past ten years, unusually warm Caribbean waters have been increasingly threatening Caribbean coral reefs. Coral reefs support some of the most diverse marine habitats in the world, but they are fragile ecosystems. When tropical waters become unusually warm for extended periods of time, microscopic plants called zooxanthellae, which are symbiotic partners living within the coral polyp tissues, die off. These plants provide food for the corals, and give them their color. The result of the death and dispersal of these tiny plants is called coral bleaching, and can lead to the devastation of large areas of reef. Over 42% of corals are completely bleached and 95% are experiencing some type of whitening.[13] Historically the Caribbean is thought to contain 14% of the world's coral reefs.[14]

Belize Barrier Reef from space
The Belize Barrier Reef photographed from the International Space Station in 2016

The habitats supported by the reefs are critical to such tourist activities as fishing and diving, and provide an annual economic value to Caribbean nations of US$3.1–4.6 billion. Continued destruction of the reefs could severely damage the region's economy.[15] A Protocol of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region came in effect in 1986 to protect the various endangered marine life of the Caribbean through forbidding human activities that would advance the continued destruction of such marine life in various areas. Currently this protocol has been ratified by 15 countries.[16] Also, several charitable organisations have been formed to preserve the Caribbean marine life, such as Caribbean Conservation Corporation which seeks to study and protect sea turtles while educating others about them.[17]

Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

In connection with the foregoing, the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, conducted a regional study, funded by the Department of Technical Cooperation of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in which specialists from 11 Latin American countries (Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Dominican Republic, Venezuela plus Jamaica) participated. The findings indicate that heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, and lead, have been identified in the coastal zone of the Caribbean Sea. Analysis of toxic metals and hydrocarbons is based on the investigation of coastal sediments that have accumulated less than 50 meters deep during the last hundred and fifty years. The project results were presented in Vienna in the forum "Water Matters", and the 2011 General Conference of said multilateral organization.[18]

Climate

NASA ASMR-E image of average SSTs of Hurricane Katrina
Average sea surface temperatures for the Caribbean Atlantic Ocean (25–27 August 2005).[19] Hurricane Katrina is seen just above Cuba.

The climate of the Caribbean is driven by the low latitude and tropical ocean currents that run through it. The principle ocean current is the North Equatorial Current, which enters the region from the tropical Atlantic. The climate of the area is tropical, varying from tropical rainforest in some areas to tropical savanna in others. There are also some locations that are arid climates with considerable drought in some years.

Rainfall varies with elevation, size and water currents (cool upwelling keep the ABC islands arid). Warm, moist trade winds blow consistently from the east, creating both rain forest and semi arid climates across the region. The tropical rainforest climates include lowland areas near the Caribbean Sea from Costa Rica north to Belize, as well as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, while the more seasonal dry tropical savanna climates are found in Cuba, northern Venezuela, and southern Yucatán, Mexico. Arid climates are found along the extreme southern coast of Venezuela out to the islands including Aruba and Curacao, as well as the northern tip of Yucatán[20]

Tropical cyclones are a threat to the nations that rim the Caribbean Sea. While landfalls are infrequent, the resulting loss of life and property damage makes them significant hazard to life in the Caribbean. Tropical cyclones that impact the Caribbean often develop off the West coast of Africa and make their way west across the Atlantic Ocean toward the Caribbean, while other storms develop in the Caribbean itself. The Caribbean hurricane season as a whole lasts from June through November, with the majority of hurricanes occurring during August and September. On average around 9 tropical storms form each year, with 5 reaching hurricane strength. According to the National Hurricane Center 385 hurricanes occurred in the Caribbean between 1494 and 1900.

Flora and fauna

The region has a high level of biodiversity and many species are endemic to the Caribbean.

Vegetation

The vegetation of the region is mostly tropical but differences in topography, soil and climatic conditions increase species diversity. Where there are porous limestone terraced islands these are generally poor in nutrients. It is estimated that 13,000 species of plants grow in the Caribbean of which 6,500 are endemic. For example, guaiac wood (Guaiacum officinale), the flower of which is the national flower of Jamaica and the Bayahibe rose (Pereskia quisqueyana) which is the national flower of the Dominican Republic and the ceiba which is the national tree of both Puerto Rico and Guatemala. The mahogany is the national tree of the Dominican Republic and Belize. The caimito (Chrysophyllum cainito) grows throughout the Caribbean. In coastal zones there are coconut palms and in lagoons and estuaries are found thick areas of black mangrove and red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle).

In shallow water flora and fauna is concentrated around coral reefs where there is little variation in water temperature, purity and salinity. Leeward side of lagoons provide areas of growth for sea grasses. Turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) is common in the Caribbean as is manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme) which can grow together as well as in fields of single species at depths up to 20 m (66 ft). Another type shoal grass (Halodule wrightii) grows on sand and mud surfaces at depths of up to 5 m (16 ft). In brackish water of harbours and estuaries at depths less than 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) widgeongrass (Ruppia maritima) grows. Representatives of three species belonging to the genus Halophila, (Halophila baillonii, Halophila engelmannii and Halophila decipiens) are found at depths of up to 30 m (98 ft) except for Halophila engelmani which does not grow below 5 m (16 ft) and is confined to the Bahamas, Florida, the Greater Antilles and the western part of the Caribbean. Halophila baillonii has been found only in the Lesser Antilles.[21]

Fauna

Marine biota in the region have representatives of both the Indian and Pacific oceans which were caught in the Caribbean before the emergence of the Isthmus of Panama four million years ago.[22] In the Caribbean Sea there are around 1,000 documented species of fish, including sharks (bull shark, tiger shark, silky shark and Caribbean reef shark), flying fish, giant oceanic manta ray, angel fish, spotfin butterflyfish, parrotfish, Atlantic Goliath grouper, tarpon and moray eels. Throughout the Caribbean there is industrial catching of lobster and sardines (off the coast of Yucatán Peninsula).

There are 90 species of mammals in the Caribbean including sperm whales, humpback whales and dolphins. The island of Jamaica is home to seals and manatees. The Caribbean monk seal which lived in the Caribbean is considered extinct. The solenodon is endangered.

There are 500 species of reptiles (94% of which are endemic). Islands are inhabited by some endemic species such as rock iguanas and American crocodile. The blue iguana, endemic to the island of Grand Cayman, is endangered. The green iguana is invasive to Grand Cayman. The Mona ground iguana which inhabits the island of Mona, Puerto Rico, is endangered. The rhinoceros iguana from the island of Hispaniola which is shared between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is also endangered. The region has several types of sea turtle (loggerhead, green turtle, hawksbill, leatherback turtle, Atlantic ridley and olive ridley). Some species are threatened with extinction.[23] Their populations have been greatly reduced since the 17th century – the number of green turtles has declined from 91 million to 300,000 and hawksbill turtles from 11 million to less than 30,000 by 2006.[24]

All 170 species of amphibians that live in the region are endemic. The habitats of almost all members of the toad family, poison dart frogs, tree frogs and leptodactylidae (a type of frog) are limited to only one island.[25] The Golden coqui is in serious threat of extinction.

In the Caribbean 600 species of birds have been recorded of which 163 are endemic such as the tody, Fernandina's flicker and palmchat. The American yellow warbler is found in many areas as is the green heron. Of the endemic species 48 are threatened with extinction including the Puerto Rican amazon, yellow-breasted crake and the Zapata wren. According to Birdlife International in 2006 in Cuba 29 species of bird are in danger of extinction and two species officially extinct.[26] The black-fronted piping guan is endangered as is the plain pigeon. The Antilles along with Central America lie in the flight path of migrating birds from North America so the size of populations is subject to seasonal fluctuations. In the forests are found parrots, bananaquit and toucans. Over the open sea can be seen frigatebirds and tropicbirds.

Economy and human activity

Panorámica de San Andres
A view of San Andrés island, Colombia.

The Caribbean region has seen a significant increase in human activity since the colonization period. The sea is one of the largest oil production areas in the world, producing approximately 170 million tons per year.[27] The area also generates a large fishing industry for the surrounding countries, accounting for 500,000 tonnes (490,000 long tons; 550,000 short tons) of fish a year.[28]

Human activity in the area also accounts for a significant amount of pollution, The Pan American Health Organization estimated in 1993 that only about 10% of the sewage from the Central American and Caribbean Island countries is properly treated before being released into the sea.[27]

The Caribbean region supports a large tourism industry. The Caribbean Tourism Organization calculates that about 12 million people a year visit the area, including (in 1991–1992) about 8 million cruise ship tourists. Tourism based upon scuba diving and snorkeling on coral reefs of many Caribbean islands makes a major contribution to their economies.[29]

In popular culture

The Caribbean is the setting for countless literary efforts often related to piracy acts and swashbuckling, set during the 17th and 18th centuries. One memorable work of pulp fiction has in its title a geographic feature unique in its way to the islands: Fear Cay, the eleventh Doc Savage adventure by Lester Dent. Many James Bond adventures were set there. It is also well known as the location of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, featuring Port Royal. Peter Matthiessen's Far Tortuga (1975) chronicles the adventures of a turtling crew in the late 1960s.

Gallery

Anguilla-aerial view western portion

The Anguilla island.

Jamaica sunrise

Sunrise over the south beach of Jamaica

Scotts Head Dominica

Scotts Head, Dominica

Great Blue Hole

Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize

See also

References

  1. ^ The Caribbean Sea All The Sea. URL last accessed May 7, 2006
  2. ^ "The Caribbean Sea".
  3. ^ "Mesoamerican Reef | Places | WWF". World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2016-10-21.
  4. ^ Gorgas, William C. (1912). "Sanitation at Panama". Journal of the American Medical Association. American Medical Association. 58 (13): 907. doi:10.1001/jama.1912.04260030305001. ISSN 0002-9955. The Pacific Ocean, south of this isthmus [Panama], was known to the early explorers as the South Sea, and the Caribbean, lying to the north, as the North Sea.
  5. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  6. ^ Iturralde-Vinent, Manuel (2004), The first inhabitants of the Caribbean , Cuban Science Network . URL accessed on 28/07/2007
  7. ^ National Geophysical Data Center, 1999. Global Land One-kilometer Base Elevation (GLOBE) v.1. Hastings, D. and P.K. Dunbar. National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA. doi:10.7289/V52R3PMS [access date: 2015-03-16]
  8. ^ Amante, C. and B.W. Eakins, 2009. ETOPO1 1 Arc-Minute Global Relief Model: Procedures, Data Sources and Analysis. NOAA Technical Memorandum NESDIS NGDC-24. National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA. doi:10.7289/V5C8276M [access date: 2015-03-18].
  9. ^ Dawicki, Shelley. "Tsunamis in the Caribbean? It's Possible". Oceanus. Retrieved April 30, 2006.
  10. ^ Pernetta, John. (2004). Guide to the Oceans. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, Inc. p. 178. ISBN 978-1-55297-942-6.
  11. ^ Pernetta, John. (2004). Guide to the Oceans. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, Inc. pp. 177–178. ISBN 978-1-55297-942-6.
  12. ^ Status of coral reefs in the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean Archived June 21, 2006, at the Wayback Machine World Resource Institute. URL accessed on April 29, 2006.
  13. ^ [1] Inter Press Service News Agency – Mesoamerican Coral Reef on the way to becoming a Marine Desert
  14. ^ Elder, Danny and Pernetta, John. (1991). The Random House atlas of the oceans. New York : Random House. p. 124. ISBN 9780679408307.
  15. ^ Alarm sounded for Caribbean coral. BBC News. URL accessed on April 29, 2006.
  16. ^ Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (SPAW) NOAA Fisheries: Office of Protected Resources. URL accessed on April 30, 2006.
  17. ^ Caribbean Conservation Corporation Archived October 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Orion Online. URL last accessed May 1, 2006.
  18. ^ Analysis of Contaminants in the Caribbean Sea over the last 150 years. National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) 2012 (Spa).
  19. ^ "NASA – NASA Satellites Record a Month for the Hurricane History Books". www.nasa.gov.
  20. ^ Silverstein, Alvin (1998) Weather And Climate (Science Concepts); page 17. 21st Century. ISBN 0-7613-3223-5
  21. ^ Caribbean seagrass. Seagrass watch, retrieved April 23, 2009.
  22. ^ Robert James Menzies, John C Ogden. "Caribbean Sea". Britannica Online Encyclopaedia.
  23. ^ Severin Carrell, "Caribbean Sea Turtles Close to Extinction", The Independent, 28 November 2004.
  24. ^ Historic Caribbean Sea Turtle Population falls 99%. Plunge has significant ecological consequences. Mongabay.com (August 1, 2006).
  25. ^ Conservation International Caribbean Islands, Threatened Species.
  26. ^ "Birdlife International" – Red List Cuba.
  27. ^ a b An Overview of Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution Caribbean Environment Programme. URL last accessed May 14, 2006.
  28. ^ LME 12: Caribbean Sea Archived 2006-05-04 at the Wayback Machine NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center Narragansett Laboratory. URL last accessed May 14, 2006.
  29. ^ Reefs at Risk in the Caribbean: Economic Valuation Methodology Archived 2012-02-27 at the Wayback Machine World Resources Institute 2009.

Further reading

External links

70th meridian west

The meridian 70° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, South America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole.

The 70th meridian west forms a great circle with the 110th meridian east.

Antilles

The Antilles (; Antilles [ɑ̃.tij] in French; Antillas in Spanish; Antillen in Dutch and Antilhas in Portuguese) is an archipelago bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and west, the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and east.

The Antillean islands are divided into two smaller groupings: the Greater Antilles and the Lesser Antilles. The Greater Antilles includes the larger islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola (subdivided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and the Cayman Islands. The Lesser Antilles contains the northerly Leeward Islands, the southeasterly Windward Islands, and the Leeward Antilles just north of Venezuela. The Lucayan Archipelago (consisting of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands), though part of the West Indies, are generally not included among the Antillean islands.Geographically, the Antillean islands are generally considered a subregion of North America. Culturally speaking, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico – and sometimes the whole of the Antilles – are included in Latin America, although some sources avoid this socio-economic oversimplification by using the phrase "Latin America and the Caribbean" instead (see Latin America, "In Contemporary Usage"). In terms of geology, the Greater Antilles are made up of continental rock, as distinct from the Lesser Antilles, which are mostly young volcanic or coral islands.

Caribbean

The Caribbean (, locally ) is a region of The Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (some surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and some bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean) and the surrounding coasts. The region is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America.

Situated largely on the Caribbean Plate, the region comprises more than 700 islands, islets, reefs and cays. (See the list of Caribbean islands.) These islands generally form island arcs that delineate the eastern and northern edges of the Caribbean Sea. The Caribbean islands, consisting of the Greater Antilles on the north and the Lesser Antilles on the south and east (including the Leeward Antilles), are part of the somewhat larger West Indies grouping, which also includes the Lucayan Archipelago (comprising the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands). The Lucayans and, less commonly, Bermuda, are also sometimes considered Caribbean despite the fact that none of these islands border the Caribbean Sea. In a wider sense, the mainland countries, regions, and territories of Belize, Nicaragua, the Caribbean region of Colombia, Cozumel, the Yucatán Peninsula, Margarita Island, the Guyanas (Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Guayana Region in Venezuela, and Amapá in Brazil), are often included due to their political and cultural ties with the region.Geopolitically, the Caribbean islands are usually regarded as a subregion of North America and are organized into 30 territories including sovereign states, overseas departments, and dependencies. From December 15, 1954, to October 10, 2010, there was a country known as the Netherlands Antilles composed of five states, all of which were Dutch dependencies. From January 3, 1958, to May 31, 1962, there was also a short-lived political union called the West Indies Federation composed of ten English-speaking Caribbean territories, all of which were then British dependencies. The West Indies cricket team continues to represent many of those nations.

Caribbean South America

Caribbean South America is a region of South America consisting of the countries that border the Caribbean Sea, viz. Colombia and Venezuela.

By extension, the Guyanas, while not bordering the Caribbean Sea directly, are commonly reckoned with this region, as well, on account of their close ties with Caribbean countries, e.g. through membership in the Caribbean Community.

German submarine U-615

German submarine U-615 was a Type VIIC U-boat built for Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine for service during World War II.Commissioned in 1942, and commanded by Kptlt. Ralph Kapitzky, she was depth charged and sunk in the Caribbean Sea, north of Porlamar, on 7 August 1943, in position 12°38′N 64°15′W, by US 6 Mariner and 1 Ventura aircraft. It was the largest aircraft hunt ever mounted for a single U-boat. Of her crew 4 (including her captain) were killed, and 43 survived.

Greater Antilles

The Greater Antilles is a grouping of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea: Cuba, Hispaniola (containing Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands.

The Greater Antilles constitute nearly 90% of the land mass of the entire West Indies, as well as over 90% of its population. The remainder of the land belongs to the archipelago of the Lesser Antilles, which is a chain of islands to the east (running north-south and encompassing the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea where it meets the Atlantic Ocean) and south (running east-west off the northern coast of South America).

The word Antilles originated in the period before the European conquest of the New World - Europeans used the term Antillia as one of the mysterious lands featured on medieval charts, sometimes as an archipelago, sometimes as continuous land of greater or lesser extent, its location fluctuating in mid-ocean between the Canary Islands and Eurasia.

The Lucayan Archipelago is not considered to be a part of the Antilles archipelagos but rather of the North Atlantic.

Gulf of Paria

The Gulf of Paria (Spanish: Golfo de Paria) is a 7,800 km2 (3,000 sq mi) shallow (180m at its deepest) semi-enclosed inland sea located between the island of Trinidad (Republic of Trinidad and Tobago) and the east coast of Venezuela. It separates the two countries by as little as 15 km at its narrowest and 120 km at its widest points.The tides within the Gulf are semi-diurnal in nature with a range of approximately 1m. The Gulf of Paria is considered to be one of the best natural harbours on the Atlantic coast of the Americas. The jurisdiction of the Gulf of Paria is split between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela with Trinidad and Tobago having control over approximately 2,940 km2 (1,140 sq mi)(37.7%) and Venezuela the remainder(62.3%).It was originally named the Gulf of the Whale (Spanish: Golfo de la Ballena) by Christopher Columbus, but the 19th Century whaling industry eliminated whales from the area and populations have never recovered. Cartographic sources of the late 18th century repeatedly refer to it as the Sad Gulf (Spanish: Golfo Triste).

In the north, the gulf is connected to the Caribbean Sea through the Dragons' Mouths (Spanish: Bocas del Dragón) between the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela and the Chaguaramas Peninsula of Trinidad. In the south, the gulf is connected to the Atlantic through the Columbus Channel, also known as the Serpent's Mouth (Spanish: Boca del Serpiente), between the Cedros Peninsula and the Orinoco Delta.

Leeward Antilles

The Leeward Antilles (Dutch: Benedenwindse Eilanden) are a chain of islands in the Caribbean – specifically, the southerly islands of the Lesser Antilles (and, in turn, the Antilles and the West Indies) along the southeastern fringe of the Caribbean Sea, just north of the Venezuelan coast of the South American mainland. The Leeward Antilles, while among the Lesser Antilles, are not to be confused with the Leeward Islands (also of the Lesser Antilles) to the northeast.

Largely lacking in volcanic activity, the Leeward Antilles island arc occurs along the deformed southern edge of the Caribbean Plate and was formed by the plate's subduction under the South American Plate. Recent studies indicate that the Leeward Antilles are accreting to South America.

Leeward Islands

The Leeward Islands are a group of islands situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. Starting with the Virgin Islands east of Puerto Rico, they extend southeast to Guadeloupe and its dependencies. In English, the term Leeward Islands refers to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. The more southerly part of this chain, starting with Dominica, is called the Windward Islands. Dominica was originally considered part of the Leeward Islands, but was transferred from the British Leeward Islands to the British Windward Islands in 1940.

Lesser Antilles

The Lesser Antilles is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most form a long, partly volcanic island arc between the Greater Antilles to the north-west and the continent of South America. The islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Together, the Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles compose the Antilles (or the Caribbean in its narrowest definition). When combined with the Lucayan Archipelago, all three are known as the West Indies.

List of Caribbean islands

A list of islands in the Caribbean Sea, in alphabetical order by country of ownership and/or those with full independence and autonomy.

List of elevation extremes by country

The following sortable table lists land surface elevation extremes by country.

Topographic elevation is the vertical distance above the reference geoid, a mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface.

Puerto Rico Trench

The Puerto Rico Trench is located on the boundary between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The oceanic trench is associated with a complex transition between the Lesser Antilles subduction zone to the south and the major transform fault zone or plate boundary, which extends west between Cuba and Hispaniola through the Cayman Trough to the coast of Central America. The trench is 800 kilometres (497 mi) long and has a maximum depth of 8,376 metres (27,480 ft) or 5.20 miles in the Brownson Deep, which is the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean and the deepest point not in the Pacific Ocean. On December 19, 2018, its deepest point was identified by the DSSV Pressure Drop using a state-of-the-art Kongsberg EM124 multibeam sonar and then directly visited and its depth verified by the manned submersible DSV Limiting Factor.Scientific studies have concluded that an earthquake occurring along this fault zone could generate a significant tsunami. The island of Puerto Rico, which lies immediately to the south of the fault zone and the trench, suffered a destructive tsunami soon after the 1918 San Fermín earthquake.

Saba

Saba (; Dutch pronunciation: [ˈsaːbaː]) is a Caribbean island which is the smallest special municipality (officially “public body”) of the Netherlands. It consists largely of the potentially active volcano Mount Scenery, at 887 metres (2,910 ft) the highest point of the entire Netherlands.

Saba has a land area of 13 square kilometres (5.0 sq mi). As of January 2013, the population was 1,991 inhabitants, with a population density of 150 inhabitants per square kilometre (390/sq mi). It is the smallest territory or sovereign state by permanent population in the Americas. Its towns and major settlements are The Bottom (the capital), Windwardside, Hell's Gate and St. Johns.

Sea Frontier

Sea Frontiers were several, now disestablished, commands of the United States Navy existing from 1 July 1941 during World War II as areas of defense against enemy vessels, especially submarines, along the American coasts. Sea Frontiers generally started at the shore of the United States and extended outwards into the sea for a nominal distance of two hundred miles.

As early as 1927 the Navy's plans for the coastal defense of the United States and its Territories and possessions provided for the establishment of Naval Coastal Frontiers that would be larger operational commands than the individual Naval Districts. On 1 July 1941, the Chief of Naval Operations formally established several Naval Coastal Frontiers; on 6 February 1942, these were renamed Sea Frontiers. Each Frontier was a geographic area, usually comprising a number of Naval Districts but including in addition the outer shipping lanes in its sea area. The land areas of the Frontiers corresponded roughly to the Army's Defense Commands, but the boundaries were not identical. The Frontier Commander was usually also the commandant of a Naval District within the Frontier. The chief responsibilities of the Sea Frontiers during World War II were operational; Frontier forces engaged actively in scouting for enemy forces, particularly submarines, and in attack on any enemy units within their boundaries. Toward the end of the war the Frontiers were assigned administrative and logistic functions in addition to their operational responsibilities.

Navy General Order No. 143, issued on 3 February 1941, stated that Commandants of United States naval districts and Commanders of Naval Coastal Frontiers have administrative responsibility direct to the Navy Department for local and coastal forces; but Commanders of Naval Coastal Frontiers have task responsibility to the Chief of Naval Operations for Naval Coastal Frontier Forces. (Source Eastern Sea Frontier history, HyperWar)

In addition to the Sea Frontiers under the cognizance of U.S. military authorities, the Canadian Coastal Zone was the responsibility of the Royal Canadian Navy. This formation was very active since the majority of trans-Atlantic convoys originated or terminated in Canadian waters.

USS Scuffle (AM-298)

USS Scuffle (AM-298) was an Admirable-class minesweeper built for the United States Navy during World War II. She was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and five battle stars for service in the Pacific during World War II. She was decommissioned in June 1946 and placed in reserve. While remaining in reserve, Scuffle was reclassified as MSF-298 in February 1955, but never reactivated. In October 1962, she was sold to the Mexican Navy and renamed ARM DM-05. In 1994, she was renamed ARM General Felipe Xicoténcatl (C53). She was sunk as an artificial reef and dive attraction off of Cozumel in 1999, and was stricken from the rolls of the Mexican Navy in 2000.

USS Stockham (DD-683)

USS Stockham (DD-683), a Fletcher-class destroyer, was a ship of the United States Navy named for Gy.Sgt. Fred W. Stockham, USMC (1881–1918).

Stockham (DD-683) was laid down on 19 December 1942 by the Bethlehem Steel Co. at San Francisco, California; launched on 25 June 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Melba Mattingly; and commissioned on 11 February 1944, Commander E. P. Holmes in command.

West Indies

The West Indies is a region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean that includes the island countries and surrounding waters of three major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the Lucayan Archipelago.The region includes all the islands in or bordering the Caribbean Sea, plus The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, which are in the Atlantic Ocean. Depending on the context, some references to the West Indies may include some nations of northern South America that share the history and culture of the West Indian islands.

Windward Islands

The Windward Islands, also known as the Islands of Barlovento, are the southern, generally larger islands of the Lesser Antilles, within the West Indies. They lie south of the Leeward Islands, approximately between latitudes 10° and 16° N and longitudes 60° and 62° W. As a group they start from Dominica and reach southward to the north of Trinidad and Tobago and west of Barbados.

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