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Caribbean Sea, arm of the Atlantic Ocean, partially enclosed on the north and east by the islands of the West Indies, and bounded on the south by South America and Panama, and on the west by Central America. The name of the sea is derived from the Carib people, who inhabited the area when Spanish explorers arrived there in the 15th century. The Caribbean is 2,400 km (1,500 mi) long east and west and 640 to 1,400 km (400 to 1,400 mi) wide. It has an area of 2,718,000 sq km (1,049,000 sq mi). At the northwestern extremity it is connected with the Gulf of Mexico by the Yucatán Channel, a passage 190 km (120 mi) wide between Cuba and the Yucatán Peninsula. The Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti is a major shipping route between the United States and the Panama Canal. Many gulfs and bays indent the coastline of South America, notably the Gulf of Venezuela, which carries tidal waters to Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. With a few exceptions the entire Caribbean Basin is more than 1,830 m (more than 6,000 ft) deep. Large areas of the sea exceed 3,660 m (12,000 ft) in depth; the greatest depth measured thus far is Cayman Trench (7,686 m/25,220 ft) between Jamaica and Cayman Islands. Navigation is open and clear, making the Caribbean a major trade route for Latin American countries. The main oceanic current in the Caribbean Sea is an extension of the North Equatorial and South Equatorial currents, which enter the sea at the southeastern extremity and flow in a generally northwestern direction. A popular resort area, the Caribbean Sea is noted for its mild tropical climate.

Sources

Caribbean Region

Donnell, Alison, and Sarah Lawson, comp. The Routledge Reader in Caribbean Literature. Routledge, 1996. Collection of 20th-century West Indian literature.

Grugel, Jean. Politics and Development in the Caribbean Basin. Indiana University Press, 1995. This historical survey argues that the Caribbean's colonial past has contributed to the underdevelopment of the region.

Manuel, Peter Lamarche. Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae. Temple University Press, 1995. From calypso to reggae, this informative guide explores the region's multifaceted musical heritage.

Morgan, Nina. The Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1997. A basic introduction to the climate, geography, resources, and history of the region; for younger readers.

Pattullo, Polly. Last Resorts: The Cost of Tourism in the Caribbean. Cassell, 1996. Examines the economic and ecological impact of mass tourism on the region.

Reddish, Paul. Spirits of the Jaguar: The Natural History and Ancient Civilizations of the Caribbean and Central America. Parkwest, 1997. Illustrated companion volume to the popular BBC-PBS television series on the natural history of the Caribbean region.

Contributors

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Article key phrases:

Cayman Trench, Carib people, Lake Maracaibo, Gulf of Venezuela, gulfs, Spanish explorers, Latin American countries, Panama Canal, Caribbean Sea, West Indies, Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, bays, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, arm, Central America, United States, flow, extension, century, exceptions, passage, wide, Navigation

 
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