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Cayman Islands

Cayman Island map

The islands are generally low-lying, though Cayman Brac has a central bluff that constitutes 90 percent of its landmass. The coasts are iron shore (limestone fringes with numerous marine fossils) interspersed with sandy beaches and enclosed by coral reefs.

Grand Cayman is the largest and most populous island, about 22 miles (35 km) long and 8 miles (13 km) across at its widest, with a total area of 76 square miles (197 square km). It has a 36-square-mile (93-square-km) sound that is a breeding ground for much marine life.

Cayman Brac, about 89 miles (143 km) northeast of Grand Cayman, is the next largest island; it is about 12 miles (19 km) long, averages about 1 mile (1.6 km) in width, and has the highest elevation of the group, rising to 140 feet (42 meters) above sea level. Its total area is 14 square miles (36 square km).

The smallest of the islands, Little Cayman, lies 5 miles (8 km) west of Cayman Brac; it is 10 miles (16 km) long and has a maximum width of 2 miles (3 km) and a total area of 10 square miles (26 square km). There are no rivers.

The Caymans are located on the boundary between two tectonic plates, one moving eastward and one westward; minor tremors resulting from the movement of the plates are sometimes recorded. In December, 2004 an earthquake of greater than usual magnitude was felt on Grand Cayman, although there were no injuries and no damage was caused to property.

A pleasant tropical climate is one of the territory’s main assets, tourism being of primary importance to the economy. Temperatures are moderate throughout the year, averaging about 81 °F (27 °C) annually. The rainy season extends from mid-May through October, and the dry season lasts the balance of the year.

The Caymans are cool from November to March, with temperatures ranging 65–75 °F (18–24 °C). Rainfall at George Town averages 60 inches (about 1,500 mm) annually, although the eastern districts of Grand Cayman and the other islands are drier. Hurricanes can occur from June through November.

Mangrove swamps cover nearly one-third of the land area. A variety of commercially useful plants grow on the islands; among them are coconut palms and breadfruit, banana, mango, and citrus fruit trees. There are also thatch palms and some log wood and mahogany trees.

The only indigenous mammals are agoutis. There are many reptiles, including green sea turtles, which were noted by 
Christopher Columbus when he visited the islands. Iguanas, other lizards, and frogs are also common, and the islands are rich in bird life.

About one-fifth of Caymanians are of European, mainly British, ancestry; another fifth are blacks, the descendants of African slaves; and two-fifths are of mixed African and European ancestry. The remainder of the residents are of other mixed ancestry or are expatriates. English is the official language and the main spoken language, heard in a variety of dialects. Spanish is frequently a second language



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