School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

Turneffe Atoll - Location

The fieldwork was carried out on Turneffe Atoll in Belize, Central America. A field base was established at University College Belize's Marine Research Center on Calabash Cay, Turneffe. A boat and logistical support were provided by Coral Cay Conservation.

Belize lies on the Atlantic coast of Central America

Turneffe Atoll is in the Caribbean Sea, 18 kilometres east of the main Belizean Barrier Reef. The reef, the longest in the western hemisphere, is itself 13 kilometres from the coast of mainland Belize.

The position of the present coastline, reef and the atolls is the result of a series of faulted escarpment blocks which trend north-east to south-west, dipping down to the west.
Turneffe lies to the east of mainland Belize

Turneffe Atoll The least well known of Belize's three atolls, the Turneffe complex is 50 kilometres long and 16 kilometres across at it's widest point. It comprises a series of islands that enclose several lagoons. Turneffe Atoll spans an area of approximately 530 square kilometres, of which only 116 kilometres (c. 20%) is land.

The islands, known locally as cays, are formed from sand, shingle, mud or coral rubble. They are low lying - some are only exposed at low-tide. The tallest cays lie to the east, where a sand ridge raises elevations to a maximum of about 20 metres above sea level.

The two lagoons - Northern (or Victor's) Lagoon and Southern Lagoon are both shallow - less than 4 metres deep in most places. The picture below shows an aerial view of part of Northern Lagoon. This area provides a habitat favoured by American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus).

An aerial view of a typical mangrove cay

All maps and photographs are copyright Malcolm Murray or Simon Zisman

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