Lesser Antilles

Last updated
Map of the Caribbean - Lesser Antilles.png
Location within the Caribbean
Coordinates: 14°14′N61°21′W / 14.233°N 61.350°W / 14.233; -61.350 Coordinates: 14°14′N61°21′W / 14.233°N 61.350°W / 14.233; -61.350
Region Caribbean
Island States
Area
  Total14,364 km2 (5,546 sq mi)
Population
 (2009)
  Total3,949,250
  Density274.9/km2 (712/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Lesser Antillean
Time zone UTC−4 (AST)
  Summer (DST) UTC−3 (ADT)

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. [1] 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.

Caribbean Sea A sea of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by North, Central, and South America

The Caribbean Sea 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.

Volcanic arc A chain of volcanoes formed above a subducting plate

A volcanic arc is a chain of volcanoes formed above a subducting plate, positioned in an arc shape as seen from above. Offshore volcanoes form islands, resulting in a volcanic island arc. Generally, volcanic arcs result from the subduction of an oceanic tectonic plate under another tectonic plate, and often parallel an oceanic trench. The oceanic plate is saturated with water, and volatiles such as water drastically lower the melting point of the mantle. As the oceanic plate is subducted, it is subjected to greater and greater pressures with increasing depth. This pressure squeezes water out of the plate and introduces it to the mantle. Here the mantle melts and forms magma at depth under the overriding plate. The magma ascends to form an arc of volcanoes parallel to the subduction zone.

Island arc arc-shaped archipelago

Island arcs are long chains of active volcanoes with intense seismic activity found along convergent tectonic plate boundaries. Most island arcs originate on oceanic crust and have resulted from the descent of the lithosphere into the mantle along the subduction zone. They are the principal way by which continental growth is achieved.

Contents

Geography

The islands of the Lesser Antilles are divided into three groups: the Windward Islands in the south, the Leeward Islands in the north, and the Leeward Antilles in the west.

Windward Islands Islands of the Lesser Antilles, within the West Indies

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 to, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, southward to the north of Trinidad and Tobago and west of Barbados.

Leeward Islands subgroup of islands in the West Indies

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.

Leeward Antilles Islands in the Caribbean

The Leeward Antilles are a chain of islands in the Caribbean – specifically, the southerly islands of the Lesser Antilles 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 to the northeast.

The Windward Islands are so called because they were more windward to sailing ships arriving in the New World than the Leeward Islands, given that the prevailing trade winds blow east to west. The trans-Atlantic currents and winds that provided the fastest route across the ocean brought these ships to the rough dividing line between the Windward and Leeward Islands.

Windward and leeward

Windward is the direction upwind from the point of reference, alternatively the direction from which the wind is coming. Leeward is the direction downwind from the point of reference. The leeward region of mountains generally remains dry as compared to the windward. The side of a ship that is towards the leeward is its lee side. If the vessel is heeling under the pressure of the wind, this will be the "lower side". During the age of sail, the term weather was used as a synonym for windward in some contexts, as in the weather gage.

The Leeward Antilles consist of the Dutch ABC islands just off the coast of Venezuela, plus a group of Venezuelan islands.

Kingdom of the Netherlands Kingdom in Europe and the Caribbean

The Kingdom of the Netherlands, commonly known as the Netherlands, is a sovereign state and constitutional monarchy with the large majority of its territory in Western Europe and with several small island territories in the Caribbean Sea, in the West Indies islands.

ABC islands (Lesser Antilles) Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao

The ABC islands are the three western-most islands of the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean Sea that lie north of Falcón State, Venezuela. In order alphabetically they are Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. All three islands are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, although they remain outside the European Union. Aruba and Curaçao are autonomous, self-governing constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while Bonaire is a special municipality of the Netherlands proper.

Venezuela Republic in northern South America

Venezuela, officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continental landmass and a large number of small islands and islets in the Caribbean Sea. The capital and largest urban agglomeration is the city of Caracas. It has a territorial extension of 916,445 km2. The continental territory is bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Colombia, Brazil on the south, Trinidad and Tobago to the north-east and on the east by Guyana. With this last country, the Venezuelan government maintains a claim for Guayana Esequiba over an area of 159,542 km2. For its maritime areas, it exercises sovereignty over 71,295 km2 of territorial waters, 22,224 km2 in its contiguous zone, 471,507 km2 of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean under the concept of exclusive economic zone, and 99,889 km2 of continental shelf. This marine area borders those of 13 states. The country has extremely high biodiversity and is ranked seventh in the world's list of nations with the most number of species. There are habitats ranging from the Andes Mountains in the west to the Amazon basin rain-forest in the south via extensive llanos plains, the Caribbean coast and the Orinoco River Delta in the east.

Geological formation

The Lesser Antilles more or less coincide with the outer edge of the Caribbean Plate. Many of the islands were formed as a result of the subduction of oceanic crust of the Atlantic Plate under the Caribbean Plate in the Lesser Antilles subduction zone. This process is ongoing and is responsible not only for many of the islands, but also for volcanic and earthquake activity in the region. The islands along the South American coast are largely the result of the interaction of the South American Plate and the Caribbean Plate which is mainly strike-slip, but includes a component of compression.

Caribbean Plate A mostly oceanic tectonic plate including part of Central America and the Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean Plate is a mostly oceanic tectonic plate underlying Central America and the Caribbean Sea off the north coast of South America.

Subduction A geological process at convergent tectonic plate boundaries where one plate moves under the other

Subduction is a geological process that takes place at convergent boundaries of tectonic plates where one plate moves under another and is forced to sink due to gravity into the mantle. Regions where this process occurs are known as subduction zones. Rates of subduction are typically in centimeters per year, with the average rate of convergence being approximately two to eight centimeters per year along most plate boundaries.

The Lesser Antilles subduction zone is a convergent plate boundary on the seafloor along the eastern margin of the Lesser Antilles island arc. In this subduction zone, oceanic crust of the South American Plate is being subducted under the Caribbean Plate.

Political divisions

The Lesser Antilles are divided into eight independent nations and numerous dependent and non-sovereign states (which are politically associated with the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and the United States). Over one third of the total area and population of the Lesser Antilles lies within Trinidad and Tobago, a sovereign nation comprising the two southernmost islands of the Windward Island chain.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands, also commonly known as Holland, is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

Sovereign states

Name Subdivisions Area
(km²)
Population
(1 July 2005 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Capital
Antigua and Barbuda Parishes 44085,632195 St. John's
Barbuda 1611,3709.65 Codrington
Redonda 200 n/a
Barbados Parishes 431284,589660 Bridgetown
Dominica Parishes 75472,66096.3 Roseau
Grenada Parishes 344110,000319.8 St. George’s
Saint Kitts and Nevis Parishes 26142,696163.5 Basseterre
Nevis 9312,106130.1 Charlestown
Saint Lucia Quarters 616173,765282 Castries
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Parishes 389110,000283 Kingstown
Trinidad and Tobago Regional corporations 5,1311,299,953253.3 Port of Spain
Tobago 30054,000180 Scarborough
Total8,3672,179,295260.5

Non-sovereign states/countries and territories

Name Sovereign State Subdivisions Area
(km²)
Population
(1 July 2005 est.)
Population density
(per km²)
Capital
Aruba Netherlands Districts193103,065534 Oranjestad
Anguilla UK Districts9113,600132 The Valley
Bonaire Netherlands28814,006246.3 Kralendijk
British Virgin Islands UK Districts 15327,000260 Road Town
Curaçao NetherlandsDistricts444180,592406.7 Willemstad
Guadeloupe France Arrondissements 1,780440,000249.1 Basse-Terre
Martinique France Arrondissements 1,128400,000340 Fort-de-France
Montserrat UKParishes1204,65538.8 Brades
Saba Netherlands131,424109.5 The Bottom
Saint Barthélemy FranceParoisses (parishes)217,448354.6 Gustavia
Saint-Martin France5335,000675 Marigot
Sint Eustatius Netherlands343,100147.6 Oranjestad
Sint Maarten Netherlands3440,9171,704 Philipsburg
United States Virgin Islands United States Districts 346108,448313.1 Charlotte Amalie
Nueva Esparta Venezuela Municipalities1,150491,610402.15 La Asunción
Federal Dependencies of Venezuela VenezuelaFederal dependencies3422,1556 Gran Roque
Total5,9971,769,955303

Several islands along the north coast of Venezuela and politically part of that country are also occasionally considered part of the Lesser Antilles. These are listed in the section below.

Islands

The main Lesser Antilles are (from north to south to west):

Leeward Islands

Windward Islands

Leeward Antilles

Map of the Leeward Antilles SouthernCaribbeanIslands.PNG
Map of the Leeward Antilles

Islands north of the Venezuelan coast (from west to east):

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 "West Indies." Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary, 3rd ed. 2001. ( ISBN   0-87779-546-0) Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., p. 1298.
  2. "Windward Islands | islands, West Indies". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
  3. Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "The Scotland District of Barbados". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
  4. "The Windward Islands and Barbados". countrystudies.us. Retrieved 2019-01-18.
  5. Cohen, Saul B., ed. "West Indies" Archived 2006-08-16 at the Wayback Machine The Columbia Gazetteer of North America. Archived 2006-08-20 at the Wayback Machine New York: Columbia University Press – Bartleby. Accessed: 19 September 2006
  6. ARBITRAL TRIBUNAL CONSTITUTED PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 287, AND IN ACCORDANCE WITH ANNEX VII, OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF THE SEA IN THE MATTER OF AN ARBITRATION BETWEEN: BARBADOS - AND - THE REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Archived 2008-12-17 at the Wayback Machine - The Hague, 11 April 2006 (Pages 15-16)

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References

Wiktionary-logo-en-v2.svg The dictionary definition of Lesser Antilles at Wiktionary