Caribbean Sea is one of the most beautiful seas in whole world. It is indeed a true marvel. With picturesque views and azure waters, the islands of the Caribbean are hot tourist destinations. In this article on Caribbean Sea facts, we are going to learn 35 interesting facts about this majestic sea and find out a bit about its geography, its climate, its flora and fauna etc. So, let us begin…
Caribbean Sea Facts: 1-5
1. Caribbean Sea is one of the many seas of Atlantic Ocean. It is present in the tropics of the western hemisphere. It is surrounded by the Lesser Antilles from the east, South America’s north coast from the south, Central America and Mexico from the west and Greater Antilles from the north. According to 2015’s data, there are 22 island territories in Caribbean and it is surrounded by 12 continental countries.
2. Islands of the West Indies, the coasts and Caribbean Sea combined is called as Caribbean. The sea has a surface area of 1,063,000 square miles or 2,754,000 square kilometers. It has an average depth of 7,220 feet or 2,200 meters. Cayman Trough (located between the Jamaica and Cayman Islands) is the deepest point of the Caribbean Sea with a depth of 25,220 feet or 7,686 meters.
3. There are many bays and gulfs along the sea’s coastline. Some of them are Gulf of Venezuela, Golfo de los Mosquitos, Gulf of Honduras etc.
4. The word Caribbean is derived from Caribs, a native American group that lived in the America when Europeans arrived there in the 15th
5. After Cristopher Columbus discovered America, Antillas, a Spanish term was used for the lands present around this sea. From this, Sea of Antilles was used instead of Caribbean Sea in many languages of Europe.
Caribbean Sea Facts: 6-10
6. In 16th century, Europeans started calling Caribbean Sea as the North Sea (as it lies above the isthmus of Panama) and called Pacific Ocean (which lies below the isthmus of Panama) as the South Sea.
7. After the discovery, the area was colonized soon by the Europeans which eventually brought the pirates like Samuel Bellamy and Blackbeard as well.
8. Caribbean Sea is mainly situated on the Caribbean plate. Island arcs (a type of archipelago with a series of volcanoes aligned in an arc shape) separate the sea from the Atlantic Ocean.
9. The youngest of such island arc spreads from Lesser Antilles to the Virgin Islands and to Trinidad and Tobago’s northeast till the coast of Venezuela.
10. This arc was formed when the South American plate collided with the Caribbean plate. It includes extinct and active volcanoes like Quill, Mount Pelee on Sint Eustatius, Morne Trois Pitons in Dominica.
Caribbean Sea Facts: 11-15
11. Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Jamaica lie on the island arc which is older.
12. Caribbean Sea’s age is believed to be somewhere between 160 to 180 million years. It was formed when Pangea, a supercontinent, split because of a horizontal fracture. This event happened in the Mesozoic Era.
13. It is generally believed that in the Devonian period a proto-Caribbean basin was present. It decreased in its size because of the convergence of Gondwana with Euramerica.
14. Then in Triassic period, rifting (lithosphere or land is pulled apart) occurred and many troughs were formed. Marine transgression (flooding of the land which was exposed earlier) took place in early Jurassic and filled the present-day Gulf of Mexico area with water.
15. Further rifting in the middle Jurassic led to the formation of deep basins which ultimately led to the breakup of Pangea and formation of Atlantic Ocean in the late Jurassic period.
Caribbean Sea Facts: 16-20
16. In the Cretaceous period Caribbean Sea nearly reached the shape it is today. In early Paleogene, marine regression (exposure of the submerged lands) took place and the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea was separated from each other. Cuba and Haiti separated Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea.
17. It was in the Holocene period that the water levels increased and exchange of water took place between Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
18. The sea bed of the Caribbean Sea consists of red clay in the troughs and deep basins whereas the calcareous silt is seen where the continental slopes are present.
19. Anegada Passage (present between the Virgin Islands and Lesser Antilles) and Windward Passage (present between Cuba and Haiti) connects Atlantic Ocean to Caribbean Sea.
20. Gulf of Mexico is connected to the Caribbean Sea via Yucatán Channel (present between Cuba and Mexico).
Caribbean Sea Facts: 21-25
21. There are five basins in the Caribbean Sea. Two trenches, Puerto Rico trench and Cayman trench are also present in the Caribbean Sea. Because of the presence of two trenches risk of earthquake is extremely high near the Caribbean Sea. High volcanic activity is also seen there.
22. The annual difference in the sea temperature doesn’t vary more than 3 degrees Celsius. From 1986, the sea is experiencing an increase in the temperature of 0.6 degrees Celsius or 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit. El Niño and La Niña are the causes for any extreme temperature differences.
23. Salinity is nearly 3.6%. The waters of the Caribbean Sea appear blue-green to green. Deep waters of the Caribbean have the same temperatures as that of the Atlantic Ocean.
24. 9% of the coral reefs of the world are present in the Caribbean. It has an area of about 19,000 square miles or 50,000 square kilometers.
25. Belize Barrier Reef, one of the many coral reefs of the Caribbean, was declared as the World Heritage Site in 1996. It is a part of MBRS (Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System) or Great Mayan Reef (length is 600 miles or 1000 kilometers) is the world’s second largest reef after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
Caribbean Sea Facts: 26-30
26. Though the coral reefs support marine ecosystem but the increase in temperature in the Caribbean Sea is impacting the coral reefs negatively. When the temperatures increase, zooxanthellae – microscopic plants which are in symbiosis with coral reefs (symbiosis is an interaction between two organisms which live in the same physical environment. It can be positive or negative) die and because of this the coral reefs lose their food and color.
27. With the destruction of these reefs, the dependent activities like diving and fishing are also taking a hit. Many organizations and corporations have come up to do their bit to save the ecology of the Caribbean. It is also seen that toxic materials like mercury, lead, arsenic etc. are accumulated till the depths of 50 meters.
28. Weather is mostly characterized by warm temperatures ranging from 21 to 26 degrees Celsius. Hurricanes and storms are common in the Caribbean area.
29. The region mostly falls under the tropics and has high species diversity. There are nearly 13,000 plant species in the Caribbean. Out of this, 6,500 are endemic (seen only in a particular area and nowhere else). Some of the plants are guaiac wood (this plant’s flower is the national flower of Jamaica), ceiba (the national tree of Guatemala and Puerto Rico) and Bayahibe rose (the national flower of Dominic Republic).
30. Coconut palms in coastal areas and black and red mangroves in the estuaries and lagoons are also seen in the Caribbean.
Caribbean Sea Facts: 31-35
31. In the shallow waters, the species diversity is a bit less and is mainly concentrated around the coral reefs. Some of the species which live nearby shallow waters are turtle grass or manatee grass, shoal grass, widgeongrass etc.
32. There are more than 1,000 fish species like flying fish, tarpons, Atlantic Goliath grouper, spotfin butterflyfish, sharks (silky shark, tiger shark, Caribbean reef shark) etc.
33. Nearly 90 species of mammals are found in Caribbean Sea such as whales, dolphins, manatees, seals etc. 500 species of snakes (nearly 94% of them are endemic), 170 amphibian species and 600 bird species (163 species are endemic) are found there. Many sea turtles are also seen.
34. Many of the species are endangered or are facing extinction. Caribbean monk seal is considered to be extinct. Solenodon (mammal), blue iguana, rhinoceros iguana (reptiles), 48 endemic species of birds are endangered. Golden coqui (amphibian), and 29 endemic species of birds are facing extinction.
35. Fishing is a large business in the Caribbean. The Caribbean Sea is the one of the world’s largest oil producing areas. Caribbean islands are extremely beautiful and attract many tourists. However, with the increase in revenue, pollution is also increasing in the Caribbean Sea because of the excess human activity.
Caribbean Sea Fun Fact:
- There are over 7,000 independent islands in Caribbean archipelago.
- These 7,000+ islands are broken down into three major island groups:
- The Lucayan Archipelago
- The Greater Antilles
- The Lesser Antilles
- Bahamas has the highest number of Caribbean islands. It has nearly 700 islands. Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean Sea with an area of 42,426 square miles.
- Talking about the islands, only 2% of the Caribbean islands are inhabited.