Cayo Largo del Sur, also known simply as Cayo Largo, is a
little island no more than 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) long and 3
kilometers (1.9 miles) wide. It is the second-biggest island in
Cuba’s Canarreos Archipelago. Christopher Columbus is said to have
visited the island on his second expedition in 1494, and Sir Francis Drake
may have also stopped on the island during his circumnavigation of the
globe. Pirates also likely used the island as a base. Today, pristine
beaches, scuba diving, and wildlife draw tourists to the island, but no
people live there permanently; locals who work in the hotels stay for
about 20 days, then return to their families on nearby islands.
Shallow water surrounds Cayo Largo, evidenced by the lighter shade of
blue around the island’s perimeter. While the water south of the
island appears clear enough to reveal the underlying ocean floor,
the water on the north side of the island is cloudy. This cloudy water
indicates that sediment is washing off the land surface and into the
water or is being stirred up from the shallow sea floor.
Cayo Largo is a limestone island, formed over millions of years from
the remains of marine organisms, such as the ones that build coral reefs.
Living coral reefs form one more attraction for tourists on this island,
bleaching has stressed some reef communities in the Caribbean. The
northern coast of Cayo Largo consists largely of mangroves and salt
ISS012-E-8962 was acquired November 24, 2005, with a Kodak 760C
digital camera using an 180 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth
Observations experiment and the Image Science & Analysis Group, Johnson
Space Center. The International Space
Station Program supports the laboratory to help astronauts take
pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the
public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet.
Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the
NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut
Photography of Earth.
Named Isla de Aves in Spanish, (meaning “Island of the Birds”) Aves Island lies west of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. It provides a nesting site to green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) and, of course, birds. Because the abundant bird droppings, known as guano, could be used in fertilizer and gunpowder, guano miners worked on the island until they depleted the supply. Since its discovery by Europeans, likely in the late 16th century, Aves Island was subsequently claimed by several European nations. The island is currently claimed by Venezuela, although disputes about ownership of the island, and the surrounding exclusive economic zone in the Caribbean, continue today.
Scattered like turquoise and emeralds across the dark blue waters of the Coral and Solomon Seas, the coral reefs and forested islands of the Louisiade Archipelago stretch southeastward from the tip of Papua New Guinea for over 350 kilometers.