The Cayman Islands are located in the Caribbean Sea south of Cuba,
from which they are separated at the closest point by about 240
kilometers (see fig. 19). The three islands are an outcropping of
the Cayman Ridge, a submarine mountain range that extends west from
the Sierra Maestra mountain range in Cuba. Grand Cayman is the
largest of the islands with a total area of 195 square kilometers.
Cayman Brac, 142 kilometers northeast of Grand Cayman, is only 20
kilometers long by 2 kilometers wide. Little Cayman, eight
kilometers west of Cayman Brac, is sixteen kilometers by two
kilometers in size. The total land area of the three islands is 260
square kilometers, or approximately that of Austin, Texas.
All three islands are low lying and are composed of limestone
and consolidated coral. A seventeen-meter hill at the northwest tip
of Grand Cayman is its highest point. The highest point on Little
Cayman is only twelve meters in elevation. Cayman Brac is
distinguished by a forty-three-meter limestone cliff that rises
from the sea on its eastern tip. Vegetation is largely scrub with
mangrove swamps covering about a third of all the islands' area.
The climate is tropical, tempered by the northeasterly trade
winds. Temperatures are fairly constant, ranging from summer
maximums of 30°C to winter minimums of 20°C. The rainy
extends from mid-May through October; the remaining months are
relatively dry. Hurricanes pose a threat from midsummer until
November, although no hurricane has struck the islands directly
Located 920 kilometers southeast of Miami and about 50
kilometers southeast of the Bahamian island of Mayaguana, the Turks
and Caicos are a group of 8 major islands and more than 40 small
islets and cays (see Glossary). The islands are made up of two
groups separated by the thirty-five-kilometer-wide Turks Island
Passage: the westernmost Caicos Islands, including six of the major
islands, and the easternmost Turks Islands with the remaining two
major islands (see fig. 20). The islands have a total land area of
430 square kilometers, about the size of San Josť, California.
Geologically, the islands are a part of the Bahamas
archipelago, which rises above a shallow submarine platform. All
are low lying, with the highest point barely fifteen meters above
sea level. Soils are poor, shallow, and infertile. Low scrub covers
most of the islands, although several of the larger Caicos Islands
have stands of pine. Mangrove swamps fringe coastal areas. No
streams are found on the islands, but a few have brackish ponds.
The climate is tropical with distinct wet and dry seasons.
Annual precipitation varies from 100 to 150 centimeters. Rain falls
in heavy brief showers, almost entirely in the period from May to
October. Temperatures average 27°C in summer and 21°C in
Maximums and minimums seldom exceed 32°C or
16°C. In summer, trade
winds blow from the southeast, whereas in winter the northeast
trades predominate. Hurricanes occasionally affect the islands in
late summer or fall.
Data as of November 1987