Placer (geography)

Placer (Portuguese: parcel or pracel) is a term used by Spanish and Portuguese navigators and cartographers to refer to a certain kind of submerged bank or reef. Commonly the bottom of such a reef is sandy, but there are some where the bottom is muddy or stoney. Although most reefs designated as placer are flat and shallow, exceptionally there are some that do not share those characteristics and are known as placer acantilado. A placer usually provides an anchorage for seagoing vessels.[1]

Carte réduite de lisle de Cube (7537862886) - Parcel
The Placer de los Roques marked as Pracel in a 1762 French map.


Spanish navigator and explorer Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa commented that placer likely originated as a term derived from placer mining in the Antilles, where pearl fishing was done mostly on shallow sandy reefs, which were compared to the sandy grounds in rivers where gold nuggets were found.[1]

Since the word Placer in Spanish means 'pleasure', according to 16th century scientist Juan Pérez de Moya a placer is every dangerous submerged shallow bank. Moya claims that the landforms that received this denomination did so in an ironical manner, for it would be everything but a pleasure to navigate those treacherous waters under the constant risk of running aground. However, other navigators contradict Moya by claiming that such a shallow ground would provide mariners with a much welcome anchorage after a long open sea journey, for in some placeres the waters are not as rough as in the open seas.[1]

Use of the term

The term appears in Spanish nautical charts as placer, although Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa writes it as placel. The Portuguese language equivalent and derived term is pracel or parcel.[2] In present times some of the geographical names used by the Spanish cartographers, such as Placer de los Colorados, Placer de los Estudios, Placer de Playa Grande, Placer de Montechristi, Placer de Quatro Cayos, Placer de la Gallega, Placer de las Tortugas and Placer de los Siete Hermanos have become obsolete or have been superseded by English terms. Still, many other placeres mentioned in 19th-century Spanish Navigation Instruction Manuals were not even named.[3] Not all placeres are in the open sea; the Isla Cangrejos in the Orinoco Delta was described as having a placer that stretched from its NE point composed of ground-coffee coloured hard sand.[4]


Le Pracel - 1708 De L'Isle Map of North America (Covens and Mortier ed.) - Geographicus - AmeriqueSeptentrionale-covensmortier-1708
"Le Pracel" north of Cuba in a 1708 De L'Isle map
Pracel-Nicolaes Visscher Indiae Orientalis
"I. de Pracel" south of Hainan in a 16th-century Nicolaes Visscher II map
Le Paracel-1771 Bonne Map of Tonkin (Vietnam) China, Formosa (Taiwan) and Luzon (Philippines) - Geographicus - Formosa-bonne-1771
"Le Paracel" off the coast of Vietnam in a 1771 Rigobert Bonne Map of Tonkin, China, Formosa and Luzon

See also


  1. ^ a b c Martín Fernández de Navarrete, Diccionario marítimo español, 1831
  2. ^ Dicio = Significado de Parcel
  3. ^ Derrotero de las Islas Antillas, de las costas de tierra firme y de las del Seno Mexicano
  4. ^ Derrotero de las islas Antillas, de las costas de Tierra Firme y de las del Seno Mexicano p. 50
  5. ^ Nguyễn Đại Việt, Paracel and Spratly Islands on Charts and Maps made by Westerners, Hoàng Sa và Trường Sa trên Bản đồ Tây Phương, 2009.
  6. ^ Coral community structure and sedimentation at different distances from the coast of the Abrolhos Bank, Brazil, Brazilian Journal of Oceanography, ISSN 1982-436X, vol.59 no.2, São Paulo 2011
  7. ^ Derrotero de las islas Antillas, de las costas Tierra-Firme, y las del Seno Mejicano, Dirección de Hidrografía, España, Madrid, Imprenta Nacional, 1837. p. 265
  8. ^ a b c Derrotero de las islas Antillas y de las costas orientales de América p. 333
  9. ^ Derrotero de las islas Antillas, de las costas de Tierra Firme y de las del Seno Mexicano p. 420
  10. ^ La Guaira - El Placer de la Guaira
  11. ^ Derrotero de las islas Antillas y de las costas orientales de América p. 95
  12. ^ Pesca Palos - El Placer de las Bóvedas

External links

Abrolhos Archipelago

The Abrolhos Archipelago (Portuguese: Arquipélago de Abrolhos) are a group of 5 small islands with coral reefs off the southern coast of Bahia state in the northeast of Brazil, between 17º25’—18º09’ S and 38º33’—39º05’ W. Caravelas is the nearest town. Their name comes from the Portuguese: abrolho ("Abre Olhos" meaning: Open your eyes), a rock awash or submerged sandbank that is a danger to ships. There is a conspicuous shipwreck in the group.

Cay Sal Bank

Cay Sal Bank (Spanish: Placer de los Roques) is the third largest (after Great Bahama Bank and Little Bahama Bank) and the westernmost of the Bahama Banks. It is located between 23º27'N - 24º10'N and 079º25'W – 080º35'W. In a geographical sense, it is separate from the Bahamas proper as it is much closer to Cuba (from which it is separated by Nicholas Channel, at a distance of 50 km (31 mi)) than to the closest Bahamanian island. It is separated by Santaren Channel from the Great Bahama Bank, the western rim of which is 50 km (31 mi) to the east. The Straits of Florida separate it from the United States mainland and the Florida Keys (Key Largo is 100 km (62 mi) to the north).

Administratively, the bank and its islands are part of Bimini district, the main islands of which are 150 km (93 mi) to the north. The closest point of any other named Bahamian land to the bank is Orange Cay (24°56′24″N 79°08′45″W), the southernmost island of the Bimini Chain. The distance between Orange Cay and the nearest dry land of Cay Sal Bank, the Dog Rocks, is 120 km (75 mi). The westernmost tip of Andros is the second closest point of land, approximately 145 km (90 mi) east of Cay Sal Bank.

La Guaira Bank

La Guaira Bank (Spanish: Placer de la Guaira), is a large, completely submerged bank in Venezuela. It is located in the Caribbean Sea 20 km to the NNE off the northern shore of La Guaira.This reef has an excellent reputation for deep-sea angling. Currents create an upwelling of nutrients that attracts large pelagic fish such as sailfish, marlin, yellowfin tuna and mahi-mahi.

Misteriosa Bank

The Misteriosa Bank (Spanish: Placer de la Misteriosa) is a submerged bank or atoll in the Caribbean Sea, located at 18°48′N 83°54′W – approximately equidistant from Mexico (380 km or 210 nmi), Honduras (345 km or 186 nmi) and Cuba (320 km or 170 nmi).

Ocean bank

An ocean bank, sometimes referred to as a fishing bank or simply bank, is a part of the seabed which is shallow compared to its surrounding area, such as a shoal or the top of an underwater hill. Somewhat like continental slopes, ocean banks slopes can upwell as tidal and other flows intercept them, resulting sometimes in nutrient rich currents. Because of this, some large banks, such as Dogger Bank and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, are among the richest fishing grounds in the world.

There are some banks that were reported in the 19th century by navigators, such as Wachusett Reef, whose existence is doubtful.


Parcel may refer to:

Parcel (package), sent through the mail or package delivery

Parcel (consignment), an individual consignment of cargo for shipment

Parcels (band), an Australian modern soul band

Placer (geography), parcel in Portuguese, a type of submerged bank or reef

Fluid parcel, a concept in fluid dynamics

Land lot, a piece of land

an object used in the game Pass the parcel

Parcel.js - JavaScript bundling

Parcel das Paredes

Parcel das Paredes is a large submerged bank in Brazil with an area of about 200 km2. It is a coralline structure located in the Atlantic Ocean off the shore near Caravelas, Bahia State.


Placer may refer to one of the following:

Placer deposit

Placer sheep

Placer mining

Placer (geography), a submerged bank or reef.

Placer, rugby league football role.

Placer, a job title in the Pottery industry.Geographical names:

Placer, Masbate, Philippines

Placer, Surigao del Norte, Philippines

Placer, former name of Loomis, California

Placer County, California, United States


A reef is a bar of rock, sand, coral or similar material, lying beneath the surface of water.

Many reefs result from natural, abiotic processes—deposition of sand, wave erosion planing down rock outcrops, etc.—but the best known reefs are the coral reefs of tropical waters developed through biotic processes dominated by corals and coralline algae.

Artificial reefs (e.g. shipwrecks) sometimes have a role in enhancing the physical complexity of featureless sand bottoms, in order to attract a diverse assemblage of organisms, especially algae and fish.

Earth's largest reef system is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, at a length of over 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles).

Rosalind Bank

Rosalind Bank, also called Rosalinda or Rosa Linda Bank (Spanish: Placer de Rosalinda), is a large, completely submerged bank or atoll that lies with its southern extremity 269 km (1677 mi) northeast of Cabo Gracias a Dios. It is the culmination of an area of coral reef some 300 km (186 mi) long that is stretching out eastward from Cabo Gracias a Dios. The bank area is part of an extensive structure that continues further east through Pedro Bank towards Jamaica and is known as Nicaragua Rise.


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