The Caribbean is a term attributed to both a geographical area and a sea which is officially part of the Atlantic Ocean. Although geopolitically considered part of the North American continent, the area of the Caribbean actually sits of it's own tectonic plate, which borders four other plates, which between them cause intense seismic activity in the area, which has seen many earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and some tsunamis.
The Caribbean Sea covers an area of 2,754,000 sq km, of which 239,681 sq kms is land mass, made up of around 7,000 islands from five main island groups.The sea is linked to the Atlantic Ocean to it's east by way of the Anegada and Windward Passages and linked to the Gulf of Mexico to it's west by way of the Yucatan Channel.
It's sea bed is covered by trenches and underwater mountain ranges, making the area susceptable to earthquakes, while it's warm, dry climate is dominated by the effects of the Gulf Stream and the Humboldt Currents, making the area also susceptable to North Atlantic hurricanes, which occur from June to November every year.
The Caribbean is also home to 32,186 sq km of coral reef, which is in crisis due to the effects of hurricanes.
Most of the Caribbean Islands are colonies or dependent territories of either the U.K, the U.S.A, the Netherlands or France, there are also six independent, island nations.
The area has for centuries been known as the West Indies, after explorer Christopher Columbus thought he had found the west coast of the Indian Sub Continent, when he arrived there in 1492.
Fifteen of the Caribbean nations make up an organisation known as the Caribbean Community - CARICOM - which was formed in 1978 to promote economic integration within the area, as well as the South American countries of French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname, all situated on the Atlantic Coast, and El Salvador in Central America, situated on the Pacific Coast.
The name Caribbean comes from the Carib Tribe, who were the dominant tribe of people living on the islands when European explorers first arrived there.
The largest island in the Caribbean is Cuba, at 110,806 sq kms, with it's capital city Havana, also the largest city in the Caribbean, with a population of 2.3 million people.
The Caribbean Islands have various landscapes and terrains, with the area's highest point situated in the Dominican Republic on the Island of Hispaniola, at the site of Pico Durante at 3,175 metres high.
Below is a list of Caribbean Islands, by island group, followed by a list of the five largest Caribbean Islands, and a list of countries - not islands - which have coastlines situated on the Caribbean Sea.
MAIN ISLAND GROUPS OF THE CARIBBEAN SEA
THE LUCAYAN ARCHIPELAGO consists of the islands of -
The Bahamas - British Overseas Territory, capital city Nassau.
Turks and Caicos Islands - British Overseas Territory, capital city Cockburn Town.
The Lucayen Archipelago is actually situated in the Atlantic Ocean, but it's islands have always been considered part of the Caribbean Community.
THE GREATER ANTILLES consists of the islands of -
Cuba - Independent Republic, capital city Havana.
Hispaniola - 36% The Republic of Haiti, capital city Port au Prince / 64% the Dominican Republic, capital city Santo Domingo.
Jamaica - Constitutional monarchy, capital city Kingston.
Puerto Rico - Territory of the U.S.A, capital city San Juan.
THE LESSER ANTILLES & LEEWARD ISLANDS consists of the islands of -
Anguilla - British overseas territory, capital city The Valley.
Antigua and Barbuda - Constitutional monarchy, capital city St John's
British Virgin Islands - British overseas territory which comprises of the islands of Anegada, Jost Van Dyke, Tortola and Virgin Gorda.
Cayman Islands - British overseas territory, capital city George Town.
Guadeloupe - Territory of France, capital city Point a Pitre.
Monserrat - British overseas territory, capital city Plymouth.
Saba - Territory of the Netherlands, capital city The Bottom.
Saint Barthelemy - Territory of the Netherlands, capital city Gustavia.
Saint Kitts and Nevis - British overseas territory, capital city Basseterre.
Saint Martin - 61% Territory of France, capital city Merigot / 39% Territory of The Netherlands, capital city, Phillipsburg.See map below.
Sint Eustatius - Territory of the Netherlands, capital city Oranjestad.
U.S Virgin Islands - Territory of the U.S.A which comprises of the islands of St Croix, St John, St Thomas and Water Island.
THE WINDWARD ISLANDS consists of the islands of -
Barbados - Constitutional monarchy, capital city Bridgetown.
Dominica - Independent Republic, capital city Roseau.
Grenada - Constitutional monarchy, capital city St George's.
Martinique - Territory of France, capital city Fort de France.
Saint Lucia - Constitutional monarchy, capital city Castries.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - Constitutional monarchy, capital city Kingstown.
Trinidad and Tobago - Independent Republic, capital city Port of Spain.
THE LEEWARD ISLANDS formerly known as the NETHERLAND ANTILLES OR THE DUTCH ABC ISLANDS,consists of the islands of -
Aruba - Territory of the Netherlands, capital city, Oranjestad.
Bonaire - Territory of the Netherlands, capital city, Kralendijk.
Curacao - Territory of the Netherlands, capital city Willemstad.
FIVE LARGEST ISLANDS OF THE CARIBBEAN
Cuba - 110,806 sq km - Independent republic, capital city Havana.See map above.
Hispaniola - 76,480 sq km - 36% the Republic of Haiti, capital city, Port au Prince / 64% the Dominican Republic, capital city, Santo Domingo.
Jamaica - 10,991 sq km - Commonwealth realm, capital city, Kingston.
Puerto Rico - 9,104 sq km - Territory of the U.S.A, capital city, San Juan.
Trinidad - 5,128 sq km - Independent republic, capital city, Port of Spain.
COUNTRIES WITH A CARIBBEAN COASTLINE
Belize - Central America - 386 km.
Colombia - South America - 1,760 km.
Guatamala - Central America.
Honduras - Central America - 750 km.
Mexico - Central America - This coastline applies to a 133 km coastline situated on Mexico's Yutacan Peninsula.
Nicaragua - Central America.
Panama - Central America.
Venezuela - South America - 2,800 km.
THE CARIBBEAN PLATE
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