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The Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean Sea is located at 9-22 degree N and 89 to 60 degree W. The Caribbean Sea is a body of water adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, south of the Gulf of Mexico. It is bounded on the south by Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama, to the west by Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, to the north by the Greater Antilles islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico, and to the east by the Lesser Antilles. The entire area of the Caribbean Sea, especially the numerous islands in the sea, is known as just the Caribbean.

The extent of the Caribbean is about 1,063,000 square miles or 2,754,000 square kilometers. The Caribbean's greatest depth is called the Cayman Trench, between Cuba and Jamaica. It is about 25,216 feet or 1,686 meters below sea level.

Geology and Climate of the Caribbean Sea:
Geologically, the Caribbean Sea consists of two main basins separated by a broad, submarine plateau. The Caribbean's water is clear, warm (75 deg. F/24 deg. C), and less salty than the Atlantic; the basin has a very low tidal range (c.1 ft/.3 m). The Caribbean Sea has a counterclockwise current; water enters through the Lesser Antilles, is warmed, and exits via the Yucatan Channel, where it forms the Gulf Stream. Volcanic activity and earthquakes are common in the Caribbean, as are destructive hurricanes that originate over the sea or in the Atlantic. Due to such geology climate, its a hot Caribbean holidays location.

After Christopher Columbus visited the Caribbean in 1493, Spain claimed the area, and its ships searched for treasure. With the Spanish discovery of the Pacific Ocean in 1513 the Caribbean became the main route of their expeditions and, later, of convoys. Pirates and warships of rival powers preyed on Spanish ships in the Caribbean. Although Spain controlled most of the sea, Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Denmark established colonies on the islands along the eastern fringe. The 1800s brought U.S. ships into the Caribbean, especially after 1848, when many gold-seekers crossed the sea to reach California via Panama.

After unsuccessful French attempts in the late 1800s to build a canal across Panama, the United States, in 1903, assumed control of the project. The 1914 opening of the Panama Canal paved the way for increased U.S. interest and involvement in this strategic sea, sometimes called the "American Mediterranean." Several Caribbean islands have U.S. military bases, many of which were established during World War II as support bases to protect the Panama Canal. The naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (est. 1899) is the oldest U.S. Caribbean base.

U.S. policy since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 has been to exclude foreign powers from the Caribbean; however, in 1959, Cuba became the first country to come under strong foreign (Soviet) influence. U.S. intervention in the affairs of Caribbean countries, such as the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, the landing of U.S. marines at Santo Domingo in 1965 and at Grenada in 1983, and the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989, reflects the region's importance in U.S. eyes.

Economy of the Islands in the Caribbean Sea:
Petroleum, iron ore, bauxite, sugar, coffee, and bananas are the main local products traded on the sea. Economically, the region is dependent on U.S. and European patronage and a large tourism industry. The Caribbean Sea has also acted as a barrier, isolating the islands and preventing the mingling of peoples on the scale characteristic of Latin America. In the 1990s, however, the increased need for labor due to the growth of tourism attracted immigrants to some of the islands.

List of Islands in the Caribbean Sea:

  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles)
  • Cuba
  • Isla de la Juventud
  • Curacao (Netherlands Antilles)
  • Dominica
  • Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre (Guadeloupe, France)
  • Hispaniola
  • Jamaica
  • Martinique (France)
  • Puerto Rico
  • Vieques
  • Saint Barthelemy (Guadeloupe, France)
  • Saint Martin (Guadeloupe, France, and Netherlands Antilles)
  • Saint Lucia
  • Tobago (smaller island of Trinidad and Tobago)
  • Trinidad (larger island of Trinidad and Tobago)

Caribbean Map