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The West Indies are a
subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth an ...
of
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

North America
, surrounded by the
North Atlantic Ocean
North Atlantic Ocean
and the
Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, Lamè Karayib; jam, Kiaribiyan Sii; nl, Caraïbische Zee; pap, Laman Karibe) is an Americas, American Mediterranean sea (oceanography), mediterranean sea of the Atlantic Ocean ...
that includes 13 independent
island countries An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or citizenship. A country may be an indepen ...
and 18 dependencies and other territories in three major
archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as ...

archipelago
s: the
Greater Antilles The Greater Antilles ( es, Grandes Antillas or Antillas Mayores; french: Grandes Antilles ht, Gwo Zantiy jam, Grieta hAntiliiz) is a grouping of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea, including Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the ...

Greater Antilles
, the
Lesser Antilles The Lesser Antilles ( es, link=no, Antillas Menores; french: link=no, Petites Antilles; pap, Antias Menor; nl, Kleine Antillen) are a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, ...
, and the
Lucayan Archipelago The Lucayan Archipelago (named for the original native Lucayan people The Lucayan () people were the original residents of the Bahamas The Bahamas (), known officially as the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is a country within the Lucayan Ar ...
. The subregion includes all the islands in the
Antilles The Antilles (; gcf, label=Antillean Creole Antillean Creole (Antillean French Creole, Kreyol, Kwéyòl, Patois) is a French-based creole, which is primarily spoken in the Lesser Antilles The Lesser Antilles ( es, link=no, Pequeñas Anti ...

Antilles
, plus
The Bahamas The Bahamas (), known officially as The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is a sovereign country within the of the in the . It takes up 97% of the Lucayan Archipelago's land area and is home to 88% of the archipelago's population. The consists ...
and the
Turks and Caicos Islands The Turks and Caicos Islands (abbreviated TCI; and ) are a British Overseas Territories, British Overseas Territory consisting of the larger Caicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands, two groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago of ...
, which are in the
North Atlantic Ocean
North Atlantic Ocean
. Nowadays, the term West Indies is often interchangeable with the term
Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label=Antillean Creole Antillean Creole (Antillean French Creole, Kreyol, Kwéyòl, Patois) is a French-based creole, which is primarily spoken in the Lesser Antilles ...
, although the latter may also include some Central and South American mainland countries which have Caribbean coastlines, such as
Belize Belize () is a Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label=Antillean Creole, Kawayib; nl, Caraïben; Papiamento: ) is a region of the Americas that comprises the Caribbean Sea, its surroundi ...

Belize
,
Guyana Guyana ( or ), officially the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, is a country on the northern mainland of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be ...

Guyana
,
Suriname Suriname (, sometimes spelled Surinam), officially known as the Republic of Suriname ( nl, Republiek Suriname ), is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. Borders of Suriname, It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the ...

Suriname
and
French Guiana French Guiana ( or ; french: link=no, Guyane ) is an overseas department/region and single territorial collectivity A single territorial collectivity (french: collectivité territoriale ''unique'') is a chartered subdivision of France ...

French Guiana
, and the Atlantic island nations of
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago (, ), officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is the southernmost island country in the Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label=Antillean Creole Antillean C ...

Trinidad and Tobago
and
Bermuda ) , anthem = "God Save the Queen "God Save the Queen", alternatively "God Save the King" (dependent on the gender of the reigning monarch), is the or in most s, their territories, and the British . The author of the tune is unknown, ...

Bermuda
, both of which are geographically distinct from the three main island groups, but culturally related.


Origin and use of the term

In 1492,
Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus * lij, Cristoffa C(or)ombo * es, Cristóbal Colón * pt, Cristóvão Colombo * ca, Cristòfor (or ) * la, Christophorus Columbus. (; born between 25 August and 31 October 1451, died 20 May 1506) was an Italian ...

Christopher Columbus
became the first European to record his arrival at the islands, where he is believed by historians to have first set foot on land in The Bahamas. After the first of the
voyages of Christopher Columbus Between 1492 and 1504, Italian explorer led four maritime expeditions of discovery to the . These voyages led to the widespread knowledge of the . This breakthrough inaugurated the period known as the , which saw the , a related , and . These ...
to the Americas, Europeans began to use the term ''West Indies'' to distinguish this region from both the original ''"Indies''" (i.e.
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...

India
) and the ''
East Indies 300px, The East Indies (or simply the Indies), is a term used in historical narratives of the Age of Discovery The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration (sometimes also, particularly regionally, Age of Contact or Contact Period), ...
'' of
South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The region consists of the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri La ...

South Asia
and
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the geographical United Nations geoscheme for Asia#South-eastern Asia, southeastern subregion of Asia, consisting of the regions ...

Southeast Asia
. Tulane University professor Rosanne Adderly says:
e phrase "West Indies" distinguished the territories encountered by Columbus or and claimed by Spain from discovery claims by other powers in sia's"East Indies"... The term "West Indies" was eventually used by all European nations to describe their own acquired territories in the continent of America... considering British Caribbean colonies collectively as the "West Indies" had its greatest political importance in the 1950s with the movement to create a federation of those colonies that could ultimately become an independent nation... Despite the collapse of the Federation n the early 1960s.. the West Indies continues to field a joint cricket team for international competition.
The
West Indies cricket team The West Indies cricket team, nicknamed the Windies, is a multi-national men's cricket team representing the mainly Commonwealth Caribbean, English-speaking countries and territories in the Caribbean region and administered by Cricket West I ...
includes participants from
Guyana Guyana ( or ), officially the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, is a country on the northern mainland of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be ...

Guyana
, which is geographically located in
South America South America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continent ...

South America
.


History

Many cultures were indigenous to these islands, with evidence dating some of them back to the mid-6th millennium BCE. In the late sixteenth century, French, English and Dutch merchants and privateers began their operations in the
Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, Lamè Karayib; jam, Kiaribiyan Sii; nl, Caraïbische Zee; pap, Laman Karibe) is an Americas, American Mediterranean sea (oceanography), mediterranean sea of the Atlantic Ocean ...
, attacking Spanish and Portuguese shipping and coastal areas. They often took refuge and refitted their ships in the areas the Spanish could not conquer, including the islands of the Lesser Antilles, the northern coast of South America including the mouth of the
Orinoco The Orinoco () is one of the longest rivers in South America at . Its drainage basin, sometimes known as the Orinoquia, covers , with 76.3 percent of it in Venezuela and the remainder in Colombia. It is the List of rivers by discharge, fourt ...

Orinoco
, and the Atlantic Coast of Central America. In the Lesser Antilles they managed to establish a foothold following the colonisation of
St Kitts Saint Kitts, officially the Saint Christopher Island, is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land ...
in 1624 and
Barbados Barbados is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or c ...

Barbados
in 1626, and when the Sugar Revolution took off in the mid-seventeenth century, they brought in thousands of Africans to work the fields and mills as slave labourers. These Africans wrought a demographic revolution, replacing or joining with either the indigenous Caribs or the European settlers who were there as
indentured servants Indentured servitude is a form of forced labor in which a person (an indenture) is forced to work without salary for a specific number of years for eventual compensation or debt repayment. Historically, it has been used to punish and relocate cap ...
. The struggle between the northern Europeans and the Spanish spread southward in the mid to late seventeenth century, as English, Dutch, French and Spanish colonists, and in many cases their slaves from Africa first entered and then occupied the coast of
The Guianas The Guianas, sometimes called by the Spanish language, Spanish loan-word ''Guayanas'' (''Las Guayanas''), is a region in north-eastern South America which includes the following three territories: * French Guiana, an overseas departments and r ...

The Guianas
(which fell to the French, English and Dutch) and the Orinoco valley, which fell to the Spanish. The Dutch, allied with the Caribs of the Orinoco, would eventually carry the struggles deep into South America, first along the Orinoco and then along the northern reaches of the
Amazon Amazon usually refers to: * Amazons In Greek mythology, the Amazons (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαζόνες ''Amazónes'', singular Ἀμαζών ''Amazōn'') are portrayed in a number of ancient Greek, ancient epic poems and legends, such as the ...

Amazon
. Since no European country had occupied much of Central America, gradually the English of Jamaica established alliances with the
Miskito Kingdom
Miskito Kingdom
of modern-day
Nicaragua Nicaragua (; ), officially the Republic of Nicaragua (), is the largest Sovereign state, country in the Central American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the northwest, the Caribbean Sea, Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and th ...

Nicaragua
and
Honduras Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a country in Central America. The republic of Honduras is bordered to the west by Guatemala, to the southwest by El Salvador, to the southeast by Nicaragua, to the south by the Pacific Ocean ...

Honduras
, and then began logging on the coast of modern-day
Belize Belize () is a Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label=Antillean Creole, Kawayib; nl, Caraïben; Papiamento: ) is a region of the Americas that comprises the Caribbean Sea, its surroundi ...

Belize
. These interconnected commercial and diplomatic relations made up the Western Caribbean Zone which was in place in the early eighteenth century. In the Miskito Kingdom, the rise to power of the Miskito-Zambos, who originated in the survivors of a rebellion aboard a slave ship in the 1640s and the introduction of African slaves by British settlers within the Miskito area and in Belize, also transformed this area into one with a high percentage of persons of African descent as was found in most of the rest of the Caribbean. From the 17th through the 19th century, the European colonial territories of the West Indies were the
French West Indies The term French West Indies or French Antilles (french: Antilles françaises, ) refers to the part of France located in the Antilles islands of the Caribbean: * The two Overseas department and region of France, overseas departments of: ** Guade ...
,
British West Indies The British West Indies, sometimes abbreviated to the BWI, is a collective term for the British territories The British Overseas Territories (BOTs), also known as United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs), are fourteen dependent territo ...
, the
Danish West Indies The Danish West Indies ( da, Dansk Vestindien) or Danish Antilles or Danish Virgin Islands was a Danish colony in the Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label= Antillean Creole, Kawayib; nl, ...
, the
Netherlands Antilles nl, In vrijheid verenigd"Unified by freedom" , national_anthem = , common_languages = Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belg ...
(Dutch West Indies), and the
Spanish West Indies The Spanish West Indies or the Spanish Antilles (also known as "Las Antillas Occidentales" or simply "Las Antillas Españolas" in Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to ...
. In 1916,
Denmark Denmark ( da, Danmark, ) is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), hu ...

Denmark
sold the Danish West Indies to the United States for US$25 million in gold, per the
Treaty of the Danish West Indies File:The Virgin islands of the United States of America; historical and descriptive, commercial and industrial facts, figures, and resources (1918) (14596880870).jpg, $25,000,000 receipt for the Treaty of the Danish West Indies The Treaty of the ...
. The Danish West Indies became an
insular area In the law of the United States The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act accordi ...
of the U.S., called the
United States Virgin Islands The United States Virgin Islands, officially the Virgin Islands of the United States, are a group of Caribbean The Caribbean (, ; es, Caribe; french: Caraïbes; ht, Karayib; also gcf, label=Antillean Creole Antillean Creole (Antillean ...
. Between 1958 and 1962, the United Kingdom re-organised all their West Indies island territories (except the
British Virgin Islands ) , anthem = "God Save the Queen" , song_type = Territorial song , song = "Oh, Beautiful Virgin Islands" , image_map = British Virgin Islands in United Kingdom.svg , map_caption = , mapsize = 290px , image_map2 = British Virgin Islands ...

British Virgin Islands
and
the Bahamas The Bahamas (), known officially as The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is a sovereign country within the Lucayan Archipelago The Lucayan Archipelago (named for the original native Lucayan people The Lucayan () people were the original resid ...
) into the
West Indies Federation The West Indies Federation, also known as the West Indies, the Federation of the West Indies or the West Indian Federation, was a short-lived political union A political union is a type of political entity A polity is an identifiable politica ...

West Indies Federation
. They hoped that the Federation would coalesce into a single, independent nation. However, the Federation had limited powers, numerous practical problems, and a lack of popular support; consequently, it was dissolved by the British in 1963, with nine provinces eventually becoming independent sovereign states and four becoming current
British Overseas Territories The British Overseas Territories (BOTs), also known as United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs), are fourteen dependent territory, territories all with a constitutional and historical link with the United Kingdom. They are remnants of the B ...

British Overseas Territories
. ''West Indies'' or ''West India'' was the namesake of several
companies A company, abbreviated as co., is a legal entity In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surround ...
of the 17th and 18th centuries, including the
Danish West India Company The Danish West India Company () or Danish West IndiaGuinea Company (') was a Denmark–Norway, Dano-Norwegian chartered company that operated out of the colonies in the Danish West Indies. History In March 1659 the Danish Africa Company was st ...
, the
Dutch West India Company The Dutch West India Company ( nl, Geoctrooieerde Westindische Compagnie, or GWC; ; en, Chartered West India Company) was a chartered company A chartered company is an association with investors or shareholder A shareholder (also known as ...
, the
French West India CompanyThe French West India Company (french: Compagnie française des Indes occidentales) was a French trading company founded on 28 May 1664, some 3 months before the foundation of its eastern company, by Jean-Baptiste Colbert Jean-Baptiste Colbert (; 2 ...
, and the Swedish West India Company.
West Indian A West Indian is a native Native may refer to: People * Jus soli, citizenship by right of birth * Indigenous peoples, peoples with a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory ** Native Americans (disambigu ...
is the official term used by the U.S. government to refer to people of the West Indies.


Geology

The West Indies are a geologically complex island system consisting of 7,000 islands and
islet An islet is a very small island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atoll An atoll ( ...

islet
s stretching over 3,000 km from the
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geor ...

Florida
peninsula of
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

North America
south-southeast to the northern coast of
Venezuela Venezuela (; ), officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ( es, link=no, República Bolivariana de Venezuela), is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continent A continent is any of several large l ...

Venezuela
. These islands include active
volcano A volcano is a rupture in the crust of a planetary-mass object A planet is an astronomical body orbit In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved trajectory of an physical body, object, such as the trajectory of a planet a ...

volcano
es, low-lying
atoll An atoll (), sometimes known as a coral atoll, is a ring-shaped coral reef, including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon partially or completely. There may be coral islands or cays on the rim. Two different, well-cited models, the subsiden ...

atoll
s, raised
limestone Limestone is a common type of carbonate In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of Salt (chemistry), salts; salt in its na ...

limestone
islands, and large fragments of
continental crust Continental crust is the layer of igneous Igneous rock (derived from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...
containing tall mountains and insular rivers. Each of the three
archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as ...

archipelago
s of the West Indies has a unique origin and geologic composition.


Greater Antilles

The
Greater Antilles The Greater Antilles ( es, Grandes Antillas or Antillas Mayores; french: Grandes Antilles ht, Gwo Zantiy jam, Grieta hAntiliiz) is a grouping of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea, including Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the ...

Greater Antilles
is geologically the oldest of the three
archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as ...

archipelago
s and includes both the largest islands (
Cuba Cuba ( , ), officially the Republic of Cuba ( es, República de Cuba, links=no ), is a country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud Isla de la Juventud (; en, Isle of Youth) is the second-largest Cuban islan ...

Cuba
,
Jamaica Jamaica (; ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or ...

Jamaica
,
Hispaniola Hispaniola (, also ; es, La Española; Latin and french: Hispaniola; ht, Ispayola; tnq, Ayiti) is an island in the Caribbean that is part of the Greater Antilles. Hispaniola is the most populous island in the West Indies, and the region's se ...
, and
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
) and the tallest mountains (
Pico Duarte Pico Duarte is the highest peak in the Dominican Republic The Dominican Republic ( ; es, República Dominicana, ) is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean region. It occupies th ...

Pico Duarte
, Blue Mountain, Pic la Selle,
Pico Turquino Pico Turquino is the highest point in Cuba Cuba ( , ), officially the Republic of Cuba ( es, República de Cuba, links=no ), is a country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor Archipelago, archipel ...
) in the Caribbean. The islands of the Greater Antilles are composed of
strata In geology and related fields, a stratum (plural: strata) is a layer of sedimentary rock or soil, or igneous rock that was formed at the Earth's surface, with internally consistent characteristics that distinguish it from other layers. The "str ...
of different geological ages including
Precambrian The Precambrian (or Pre-Cambrian, sometimes abbreviated pꞒ, or Cryptozoic) is the earliest part of Earth's history, set before the current Phanerozoic The Phanerozoic Eon is the current geologic eon in the geologic time scale The geologi ...

Precambrian
fragmented remains of the
North American Plate The North American Plate is a tectonic plate This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface Earth is the third planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar evolution#Stellar remnants, stellar remnant th ...
(older than 541 million years),
Jurassic The Jurassic ( ) is a geologic period The geologic time scale (GTS) is a system of chronological dating that classifies Geology, geological strata (stratigraphy) in time. It is used by geologists, paleontology, paleontologists, and other earth ...
aged limestone (201.3-145 million years ago), as well as
island arc Island arcs are long chains of active volcanoes with intense seismic activity found along convergent tectonic plate boundaries (such as the Ring of Fire). Most island arcs originate on oceanic crust and have resulted from the descent of the litho ...

island arc
deposits and
oceanic crust The oceanic crust is the uppermost layer of the oceanic portion of the tectonic plates This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface. Tectonic plates are pieces of Earth's crust 350px, Plates in the crust of Earth Earth's crust i ...
from the
Cretaceous The Cretaceous ( ) is a geological period A geological period is one of the several subdivisions of geologic time enabling cross-referencing of rocks and geologic events from place to place. These periods form elements of a hierarchy of division ...

Cretaceous
(145-66 million years ago). The Greater Antilles originated near the Isthmian region of present day
Central America Central America ( es, América Central, , ''Centroamérica'' ) is a region of the Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North North is one of the four compass points or ...

Central America
in the
Late Cretaceous The Late Cretaceous (100.5–66 Ma) is the younger of two epochs into which the Cretaceous The Cretaceous ( ) is a that lasted from about 145 to 66 (Mya). It is the third and final period of the , as well as the longest. At around 79 millio ...
(commonly referred to as the Proto-Antilles), then drifted eastward arriving in their current location when colliding with the Bahama Platform of the North American Plate ca. 56 million years ago in the late
Paleocene The Paleocene, ( ) or Palaeocene, is a geological epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language bel ...
. This collision caused subduction and volcanism in the Proto-Antillean area and likely resulted in continental uplift of the Bahama Platform and changes in sea level. The Greater Antilles have continuously been exposed since the start of the
Paleocene The Paleocene, ( ) or Palaeocene, is a geological epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language bel ...
or at least since the Middle
Eocene The Eocene ( ) Epoch is a geological epoch In chronology 222px, Joseph Scaliger's ''De emendatione temporum'' (1583) began the modern science of chronology Chronology (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the ...
(66-40 million years ago), but which areas were above sea level throughout the history of the islands remains unresolved. The oldest rocks in the Greater Antilles are located in Cuba. They consist of
metamorphosed Metamorphic rocks arise from the transformation of existing rock Rock most often refers to: * Rock (geology) A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the mineral ...

metamorphosed
graywacke Photomicrograph of a lithic wacke (sandstone). Top image is in plane polarized light (PPL); bottom image is in cross polarized light (XPL). Blue epoxy fills pore spaces. Greywacke or graywacke ( German ''grauwacke'', signifying a grey, earthy r ...

graywacke
,
argillite :''"Argillite" may also refer to Argillite, Kentucky Argillite is an unincorporated community on the Little Sandy River (Kentucky), Little Sandy River in Greenup County, Kentucky, Greenup County, Kentucky, United States. It sits at the southern en ...
,
tuff Tuff is a type of Rock (geology), rock made of volcanic ash ejected from a Volcano, vent during a volcanic eruption. Following ejection and deposition, the ash is lithified into a solid rock. Rock that contains greater than 75% ash is consider ...

tuff
,
mafic A mafic mineral or rock is a silicate mineral Silicate minerals are rock-forming mineral In geology and mineralogy, a mineral or mineral species is, broadly speaking, a solid chemical compound with a fairly well-defined chemical composit ...
igneous Igneous rock (derived from the Latin word ''ignis'' meaning fire), or magmatic rock, is one of the three main The three types of rocks, rock types, the others being Sedimentary rock, sedimentary and metamorphic rock, metamorphic. Igneous rock i ...
extrusive flows, and
carbonate rock 250px, Carbonate ooids on the surface of a limestone; Carmel Formation (Middle Jurassic) of southern Utah, USA. Largest is 1.0 mm in diameter. Carbonate rocks are a class of sedimentary rocks composed primarily of carbonate minerals. The two major ...
. It is estimated that nearly 70% of Cuba consists of
karst Karst is a topography Topography is the study of the forms and features of land surfaces. The topography of an area could refer to the surface forms and features themselves, or a description (especially their depiction in maps). Topography ...

karst
limestone Limestone is a common type of carbonate In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of Salt (chemistry), salts; salt in its na ...

limestone
. The Blue Mountains of Jamaica are a
granite Granite () is a coarse-grained (phanerite, phaneritic) intrusive rock, intrusive igneous rock composed mostly of quartz, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase. It forms from magma with a high content of silica and alkali metal oxides that slowly cool ...

granite
outcrop rising over 2,000 meters, while the rest of the island to the west consists mainly of karst limestone. Much of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands were formed by the collision of the Caribbean Plate with the North American Plate and consist of 12
island arc Island arcs are long chains of active volcanoes with intense seismic activity found along convergent tectonic plate boundaries (such as the Ring of Fire). Most island arcs originate on oceanic crust and have resulted from the descent of the litho ...

island arc
h
terrane In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the processes ...
s. These terranes consist of
oceanic crust The oceanic crust is the uppermost layer of the oceanic portion of the tectonic plates This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface. Tectonic plates are pieces of Earth's crust 350px, Plates in the crust of Earth Earth's crust i ...
, volcanic and
plutonic rock , an igneous ''intrusion'' exposed when the surrounding softer rock eroded away Intrusive rock is formed when magma penetrates existing rock, crystallizes, and solidifies underground to form ''Igneous intrusion, intrusions'', such as batholiths, ...

plutonic rock
.


Lesser Antilles

The
Lesser Antilles The Lesser Antilles ( es, link=no, Antillas Menores; french: link=no, Petites Antilles; pap, Antias Menor; nl, Kleine Antillen) are a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, ...
is a volcanic
island arc Island arcs are long chains of active volcanoes with intense seismic activity found along convergent tectonic plate boundaries (such as the Ring of Fire). Most island arcs originate on oceanic crust and have resulted from the descent of the litho ...

island arc
rising along the leading edge of the
Caribbean Plate The Caribbean Plate is a mostly oceanic tectonic plate This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface. Tectonic plates are pieces of Earth's crust and uppermost mantle, together referred to as the lithosphere. The plates are around ...
due to the subduction of the Atlantic seafloor of the North American and
South American plates South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...
. Major islands of the Lesser Antilles likely emerged less than 20 Ma, during the
Miocene The Miocene ( ) is the first geological epoch In geochronology, an epoch is a subdivision of the geologic timescale that is longer than an age (geology), age but shorter than a period (geology), period. The current epoch is the Holocene Epoch of ...
. The volcanic activity that formed these islands began in the Paleogene, after a period of
volcanism Volcanism (or volcanicity) is the phenomenon of eruption of molten rock (magma) onto the Earth#Surface, surface of the Earth or a solid-surface planet or moon, where lava, pyroclastics and volcanic gases erupt through a break in the surface called ...
in the Greater Antilles ended, and continues today. The main arc of the Lesser Antilles runs north from the coast of
Venezuela Venezuela (; ), officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ( es, link=no, República Bolivariana de Venezuela), is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continent A continent is any of several large l ...

Venezuela
to the Anegada Passage, a
strait A strait is a naturally formed, narrowing, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. The surface water generally flows at the same elevation on both sides and through the strait in either direction. Most commonly i ...

strait
separating them from the Greater Antilles, and includes 19 active volcanoes.


Lucayan Archipelago

The
Lucayan Archipelago The Lucayan Archipelago (named for the original native Lucayan people The Lucayan () people were the original residents of the Bahamas The Bahamas (), known officially as the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is a country within the Lucayan Ar ...
includes
The Bahamas The Bahamas (), known officially as The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is a sovereign country within the of the in the . It takes up 97% of the Lucayan Archipelago's land area and is home to 88% of the archipelago's population. The consists ...
and the
Turks and Caicos Islands The Turks and Caicos Islands (abbreviated TCI; and ) are a British Overseas Territories, British Overseas Territory consisting of the larger Caicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands, two groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago of ...
, a chain of
barrier reefs A coral reef is an underwater ecosystems, ecosystem characterized by reef-building corals. Reefs are formed of Colony (biology), colonies of coral polyp (zoology), polyps held together by calcium carbonate. Most coral reefs are built from stony ...

barrier reefs
and low islands atop the Bahama Platform. The Bahama Platform is a carbonate block formed of marine sediments and fixed to the North American Plate. The emergent islands of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos likely formed from accumulated deposits of wind-blown sediments during
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological Epoch (geology), epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the earth’s most recent period of repeated glaciations. Before a change finally ...
glacial periods of lower sea level.


Countries and territories by subregion and archipelago


Caribbean


Antilles


= Greater Antilles

= * ' (
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
) * * * ' (
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
) * ' (
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
) *
Hispaniola Hispaniola (, also ; es, La Española; Latin and french: Hispaniola; ht, Ispayola; tnq, Ayiti) is an island in the Caribbean that is part of the Greater Antilles. Hispaniola is the most populous island in the West Indies, and the region's se ...
** **


= Lesser Antilles

=


Leeward Antilles

* '' ABC islands'' ** ' (Kingdom of the Netherlands, Netherlands) ** ''*'' (Netherlands) ** ' (Kingdom of the Netherlands, Netherlands) * ' (
Venezuela Venezuela (; ), officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ( es, link=no, República Bolivariana de Venezuela), is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continent A continent is any of several large l ...

Venezuela
) * ' (
Venezuela Venezuela (; ), officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ( es, link=no, República Bolivariana de Venezuela), is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continent A continent is any of several large l ...

Venezuela
)


Leeward Islands

* ' (
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
) * * '' Isla de Aves, Aves Island'' (
Venezuela Venezuela (; ), officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ( es, link=no, República Bolivariana de Venezuela), is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continent A continent is any of several large l ...

Venezuela
) * ' (French Fifth Republic, France) ** '' La Désirade'' ** '' Îles des Saintes, Les Saintes'' ** '' Marie-Galante'' * ' (
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
) * ' (France) * * ' (France) * '' SSS islands'' ** ''*'' (Netherlands) ** ''*'' (Netherlands) ** ' (Kingdom of the Netherlands, Netherlands) * ' ** ' (
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
) ** '' Spanish Virgin Islands'' (''
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
'') ** ' (
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
)


Windward Islands

* * ** ' * ' (French Fifth Republic, France) * *


Isolated islands in the Lesser Antilles

* *


Scattered islands in the Caribbean

* ''~'' * ' (Colombia) * ''~''


Lucayan Archipelago

* * ' (
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
)


Central America

* * * * * * * ' (Mexico^) * ' (Mexico^)


Northern America

* ''#'' (
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
)


South America

* * ' (French Fifth Republic, France) * * * N.B.: Territories in ''italics'' are parts of transregional sovereign states or non-sovereign dependencies. * These three Dutch Caribbean territories form the Caribbean Netherlands, BES islands. Physical geography, Physiographically, these are Island#Continental islands, continental islands not part of the volcanic Windward Islands arc. However, based on proximity, these islands are sometimes grouped with the Windward Islands culturally and politically. ~ Territorial dispute, Disputed territories administered by Colombia. ^ The United Nations geoscheme, UN includes Mexico in
Central America Central America ( es, América Central, , ''Centroamérica'' ) is a region of the Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North North is one of the four compass points or ...

Central America
.UNSD Methodology – Standard country or area codes for statistical use (M49)
/ref> # Physiographically,
Bermuda ) , anthem = "God Save the Queen "God Save the Queen", alternatively "God Save the King" (dependent on the gender of the reigning monarch), is the or in most s, their territories, and the British . The author of the tune is unknown, ...

Bermuda
is an isolated Island#Oceanic islands, oceanic island in the , not a part of the Caribbean, West Indies, North American continent or South American continent. Usually grouped with Northern American countries based on proximity; sometimes grouped with the West Indies culturally.


See also

* Caribbean Basin Initiative * Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act * Caribbean Community * History of the British West Indies * Spanish colonization of the Americas


References


Further reading

* Cromwell, Jesse. "More than Slaves and Sugar: Recent Historiography of the Trans-imperial Caribbean and Its Sinew Populations." ''History Compass'' (2014) 12#10 pp 770–783. * Higman, Barry W. ''A Concise History of the Caribbean.'' (2011) * * Martin, Tony, ''Caribbean History: From Pre-colonial Origins to the Present'' (2011) {{Authority control West Indies, Historical regions