The Rock of Gibraltar, (Latin: Mons Calpe Arabic: جبل
طَارِق, translit. Jabal Ṭāriq, lit. 'Tariq's
Mountain') is a monolithic limestone promontory located in the
British overseas territory of Gibraltar, near the southwestern tip of
Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. It is 426 m (1,398 ft)
high. The Rock is Crown property of the United Kingdom, and borders
Spain. Most of the Rock's upper area is covered by a nature reserve,
which is home to around 300 Barbary macaques. These macaques, as well
as a labyrinthine network of tunnels, attract a large number of
tourists each year.
The Rock of
Gibraltar was one of the
Pillars of Hercules
Pillars of Hercules and was known
to the Romans as Mons Calpe, the other pillar being Mons Abyla or
Jebel Musa on the African side of the Strait. In ancient times, the
two points marked the limit to the known world, a myth originally
fostered by the
Greeks and the Phoenicians.
Gibraltar is surrounded by the
Mediterranean Sea and has no contact
with the Atlantic Ocean.
2.3 Second World War onwards
3 Nature Reserve
3.1 Flora and fauna
4 See also
Levant cloud forming against the eastern cliffs of the Rock of
The Rock of
Gibraltar is a monolithic promontory. The Main Ridge has a
sharp crest with peaks over 400 m above sea level, formed by Early
Jurassic limestones and dolomites. It is a deeply eroded and highly
faulted limb of an overturned fold. The sedimentary strata composing
the Rock of
Gibraltar are overturned, with the oldest strata overlying
the youngest strata. These strata are the
Gibraltar Limestone, Little Bay
Shale Formation (oldest),
Shale Formation (age unknown). These strata are
noticeably faulted and deformed.
Predominantly of shale, the
Shale Formation also contains
thick units composed of either brown calcareous sandstone, soft shaly
sandstone interbedded with bluish-black limestone, and interlayered
greenish-gray marls and dark gray cherts. The
Catalan Bay Shale
Formation contains unidentifiable echinoid spines and belemnite
fragments and infrequent Early
Jurassic (Middle Lias) ammonites.
Limestone consists of greyish-white or pale-gray
compact, and sometime finely crystalline, medium to thick bedded
limestones and dolomites that locally contain chert seams. This
formation comprises about three quarters of the Rock of Gibraltar.
Geologists have found various poorly preserved and badly eroded and
rolled marine fossils within it. The fossils found in the Gibraltar
Limestone include various brachiopods, corals, echinoid fragments,
gastropods, pelecypods, and stromatolites. These fossils indicate an
Jurassic age (Lower Lias) for the deposition of the Gibraltar
The Little Bay and Dockyard shale formations form a very minor part of
the Rock of Gibraltar. The Little Bay
Shale Formation consists of dark
bluish-gray, unfossiliferous shale, which is interbedded with thin
layers of grit, mudstone, and limestone. It predates the Gibraltar
Limestone. The Dockyard
Shale Formation is an undescribed variegated
shale of unknown age that lies buried beneath the Gibraltar's dockyard
and coastal protection structures.
Although these geological formations were deposited during the early
part of the
Jurassic Period some 175-200 million years ago, their
current appearance is due to far more recent events of about 5 million
years ago. When the African tectonic plate collided tightly with the
Eurasian plate, the Mediterranean became a lake that, over the course
of time, dried up during the Messinian salinity crisis. The Atlantic
Ocean then broke through the Strait of Gibraltar, and the resultant
flooding created the Mediterranean Sea. The Rock forms part of the
Betic Cordillera, a mountain range that dominates south-eastern
The sheer east side of the Rock of Gibraltar
Today, the Rock of
Gibraltar forms a peninsula jutting out into the
Gibraltar from the southern coast of Spain. The promontory
is linked to the continent by means of a sandy tombolo with a maximum
elevation of 3 m (9.8 ft). To the north, the Rock rises
vertically from sea level up to 411.5 m (1,350 ft) at Rock
Gun Battery. The Rock's highest point stands 426 m
(1,398 ft) near the south end above the strait at O'Hara's
Battery. The Rock's central peak, Signal Hill and the top station of
Gibraltar Cable Car, stands at an elevation of 387 m
(1,270 ft). The near-cliffs along the eastern side of the Rock
drop down to a series of wind-blown sand slopes that date to the
glaciations when sea levels were lower than today, and a sandy plain
extended east from the base of the Rock. The western face, where the
Gibraltar is located, is comparatively less steep.
Calcite, the mineral that makes up limestone, dissolves slowly in
rainwater. Over time, this process can form caves. For this reason the
Gibraltar contains over 100 caves. St. Michael's Cave, located
halfway up the western slope of the Rock, is the most prominent and is
a popular tourist attraction.
Fossils of Neanderthals have been found at several sites in Gibraltar.
In 1848, a Neanderthal woman's skull was found at Forbes' Quarry,
located on the north face of the Rock. However, its significance was
not recognized until after the 1856 discovery of the type specimen in
the Neander Valley. Excavations in Gorham's Cave, located near sea
level on the eastern side of the Rock, found evidence it was used by
Neanderthals, and plant and animal remains in the cave gave evidence
of Neanderthals' highly varied diet.
Moorish Castle is a relic of
Moorish rule over Gibraltar, which
lasted for 710 years. It was built in the year A.D. 711, when the
Tariq ibn-Ziyad first landed on the rock that still
bears his name. The 17th-century Muslim historian Al-Maqqari wrote
that upon landing, Tariq burned his ships.
The principal building that remains is the Tower of Homage, a massive
building of brick and very hard concrete called tapia. The upper part
of the tower housed the former occupants' living apartments and
The Rock of Gibraltar's North Front cliff face from Bayside (c.1810)
showing the embrasures in the Rock.
Prudential Financial logo of the Rock in 1948
A unique feature of the Rock is its system of underground passages,
known as the Galleries or the Great
The first of these was dug towards the end of the Great
Gibraltar, which lasted from 1779 to 1783. General Elliot, afterwards
Lord Heathfield, who commanded the garrison throughout the siege, was
anxious to bring flanking fire on the Spanish batteries in the plain
below the North face of the Rock. On the suggestion of Sergeant-Major
Henry Ince of the Royal Engineers, he had a tunnel bored from a point
above Willis's Battery to communicate with the Notch, a natural
projection from the North face. The plan was to mount a battery there.
There was no intention at first of making embrasures in this tunnel,
but an opening was found necessary for ventilation; as soon as it had
been made a gun was mounted in it. By the end of the siege, the
British had constructed six such embrasures, and mounted four guns.
The Galleries, which tourists may visit, were a later development of
the same idea and were finished in 1797. They consist of a whole
system of halls, embrasures, and passages, of a total length of nearly
304 m (997 ft). From them, one may see a series of unique
views of the Bay of Gibraltar, the isthmus, and Spain.
Second World War onwards
Main article: Military history of
Gibraltar during World War II
World War II
World War II broke out in 1939, the authorities evacuated the
civilian population to Morocco, the United Kingdom, Jamaica, and
Madeira so that the military could fortify
Gibraltar against a
possible German attack. By 1942 there were over 30,000 British
soldiers, sailors, and airmen on the Rock. They expanded the tunnel
system and made the Rock a keystone in the defence of shipping routes
to the Mediterranean.
In February 1997, it was revealed the British had a secret plan called
Operation Tracer to conceal service men in tunnels beneath the Rock in
case the Germans captured it. The team in the rock would have radio
equipment with which to report enemy movements. A six-man team waited
under cover at
Gibraltar for two and half years. The Germans never got
close to capturing the rock and so the men were never sealed inside.
The team was disbanded to resume civilian life when the war ended.
The saying "solid as the Rock of Gibraltar" is used to describe an
entity that is very safe or firm.
The motto of the Royal
Gibraltar Regiment and
Gibraltar itself is
Nulli Expugnabilis Hosti (
Latin for "No Enemy Shall Expel Us").
Barbary macaque feeding her young at Mediterranean Steps, on
the Rock of Gibraltar.
Gibraltar Nature Reserve
Approximately 40% of Gibraltar's land area was declared a nature
reserve in 1993.
Flora and fauna
See also: Barbary macaques in Gibraltar, List of mammals in Gibraltar,
and List of reptiles and amphibians in Gibraltar
The flora and fauna of the
Gibraltar Nature Reserve are of
conservation interest and are protected by law. Within it is a
range of animals and plants, but the highlights are the Barbary
macaques (the famous Rock apes), the Barbary partridges, and flowers
such as Gibraltar's own Chickweed,
Thyme and the Gibraltar
Candytuft. The Barbary macaques may have originated
from an escape of North African animals transported to Spain; it is
also possible that the original
Gibraltar macaques are a remnant of
populations that are known to have spread throughout Southern Europe
during the Pliocene, up to 5.5 million years ago. Some animals
of the Rock have been reintroduced by the Alameda Wildlife
Conservation Park who have three Barbary macaques.
Main article: List of birds of Gibraltar
The Rock of Gibraltar, at the head of the Strait, is a prominent
headland, which accumulates migrating birds during the passage
periods. The vegetation on the Rock, unique in southern Iberia,
provides a temporary home for many species of migratory birds that
stop to rest and feed before continuing migration for their crossing
over the sea and desert. In spring, they return to replenish before
continuing their journeys to Western Europe, journeys which may take
them as far as
Greenland or Russia.
The Rock has been identified as an
Important Bird Area
Important Bird Area by BirdLife
International, because it is a migratory bottleneck, or choke point,
for an estimated 250,000 raptors that cross the Strait annually, and
because it supports breeding populations of Barbary partridges and
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rock of Gibraltar.
Disputed status of the isthmus between
Gibraltar and Spain
Gibraltar Cable Car
List of famous rocks
Google (5 March 2018). "Peak: Highest Point" (Map).
Google. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
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^ a b Welcome To The Rock of Gibraltar! by costarsure.com
^ "Pillars of Hercules". The
Gibraltar Museum. Archived from the
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^ Rodríguez Vidal, J.; et al. "Neotectonics and shoreline history of
the Rock of Gibraltar, southern Iberia". researchgate.net. Elsevier
(2004). Retrieved 23 June 2016.
^ a b c d e Rose, E. P. F. & M. S. Rosenbaum (1991). A Field Guide
to the Geology of Gibraltar. Gibraltar: The Gilbraltar Museum.
^ "1El relieve kárstico de
Gibraltar como registro morfosedimentario
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Gibraltar and Surroundings". Earlham College. Retrieved 5 July
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^ Charles Perez & Keith Bensusan (2005). "A Guide to The Upper
Rock Nature Reserve" (PDF). The
Gibraltar Ornithologicaland Natural
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^ C. Michael Hogan (19 December 2008). "Barbary Macaque: Macaca
sylvanus". Globaltwitcher. Archived from the original on 19 April
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^ "Important Bird Areas factsheet: Rock of Gibraltar". BirdLife
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Gibraltar (1931). "Gibraltar". Gibraltar: the Travel Key
to the Mediterranean: 5–12.
Neanderthals of Gibraltar
Pillars of Hercules
Siege of Gibraltar
Battle of Gibraltar
Capture of Gibraltar
Treaty of Utrecht
Siege of Gibraltar
George Augustus Eliott
Gibraltar real (currency)
World War II
Genoese in Gibraltar
Maltese in Gibraltar
Explosion of the RFA Bedenham
Operation Flavius (Death on the Rock)
New Flame incident
Gibraltar Transform Fault
Reptiles and amphibians
Candytuft (Iberis gibraltarica)
Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS)
Bay of Gibraltar
Rock of Gibraltar
St. Michael's Cave
Strait of Gibraltar
King George V Hospital
The Rock Hotel
St. Bernard's Hospital
Political development in modern Gibraltar
Black Swan Project
Black Swan Project controversy
European Union (Referendum) Act 2016 (Gibraltar)
British Forces Gibraltar
Gibraltar Defence Police
Napier of Magdala Battery
.gi (Internet domain)
Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation
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Postage stamps and history
Shipping in Gibraltar
Vehicle registration plates
Bayside Comprehensive School
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Llévame Donde Nací
Scouting and Guiding in Gibraltar
in the UK
Diocese in Europe
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Records in athletics
Coat of arms