Bahamas, The

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The Bahamas

Area: 5,382 sq mi (13,940 sq km) / World Rank: 158
Location: Northern and Western Hemispheres; Nort Atlantic Ocean southeast of Florida
Coordinates: 24°15′N, 76°00′W
Borders: No international boundaries Coastline: 2,201 mi (3,542 km)
Territorial Seas: 12 NM (22 km)
Highest Point: Mt. Alvernia, 206 ft (63 m)
Lowest Point: Sea level

Longest Distances: 590 mi (950 km) SE-NW / 185 mi (298 km) NE-SW
Longest River: None
Natural Hazards: Hurricanes and severe tropical storms cause flooding and wind damage
Population: 297,852 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 171
Capital City: Nassau, on New Providence Island in the center of the island group
Largest City: Nassau, 195,000 (2000 est.)

The  Commonwealth  of  the  Bahamas  occupies  an archipelago that lies across the Tropic of Cancer at the northwestern end of the West Indies, about 50 mi (80 km) off the southeast coast of Florida. Roughly 700 islands  are  included  in  the  chain,  as well  as  some 2,000 rock formations, islets, and cays (keys). Nassau, the capital, is located on New Providence, which occupies a central position in the archipelago and is the most densely populated  island. Collectively,  the  rest  of  the  inhabited Bahamas islands are known as the Family Islands. The islands, most of which are long, narrow, and fringed by coral reefs, originated as surface outcroppings of two submerged limestone banks, today known as the Great Bahama Bank and the Little Bahama Bank. The Bahamas lie on the North American Tectonic Plate, and the nation exercises maritime claims over the continental shelf to a depth of 656 ft (200 m).

The terrain of the Bahamas is mostly flat and low, only a few feet above sea level in most places. There are no true mountains, and only a few hills. The tallest point is Mt. Alvernia on Cat Island (206 ft / 63 m).


None of the Bahamas are large enough to support sig- nificant rivers or lakes, although there are many smallstreams  and  ponds.  Coastal  wetlands  and  mangrove swamps are common throughout the archipelago.


Oceans and SeasThe Bahamas  are  spread  over  approximately  90,000 sq mi (233,000 sq km) of water in the southwestern por- tion of the North Atlantic Ocean. They are separated from Florida in the United States by the Straits of Florida. The Mayaguana Passage and the Caicos Passage, respectively north and south of the island of Mayaguana, allow clear sailing from east to west through the chain. A relatively large area of open water in the middle of the archipelago is known as Exuma Sound.

Major Islands
The most important island is New Providence, home to the capital city of Nassau; it has an area of 80 sq mi (207 sq km). Next in importance are Andros (at 1,600 sq mi  /  4,144  sq  km,  the  largest  island), Great Abaco,  and Eleuthera. Other major islands include Grand Bahama, Cat  Island,  San  Salvador,  Long  Island,  Great  Exuma, Crooked  Island,  Acklins  Island, Mayaguana,  and  Great Inagua.

The Coast and Beaches
The  numerous  coral  reefs  on  the  shorelines  of  the Bahamas  combine  with  iron  compounds  found  in  the limestone terrain to produce rare and beautiful colors in the shallow seas surrounding the islands. This, as well as the many coral reefs to be found throughout the archipelago, make  the Bahamas a popular destination  for beach lovers and divers

The Bahamas have a subtropical marine climate moderated by warm breezes from the Gulf Stream and the  Atlantic  Ocean.  Average  temperatures  are  73°F (23°C)  in winter  (December–April)  and  81°F  (27°C)  in summer (May–November).
Rainfall averages 50 in (127 cm) annually, with some variation among  the different  islands. Occasional hurricanes occur between mid-July and mid-November. Hurricanes  can  cause  major  damage  from  winds  and flooding, but their effects are limited since the islands are so widely scattered, with a reduced incidence of risk for any one island.

Commercially  significant minerals  include  salt,  aragonite, and limestone. Other natural resources include fish from the surrounding water, and modest amounts of timber and arable land. However, the Bahamas’ economy relies more heavily on tourism than it does these resources.