Caja de Muertos
Isla Caja de Muertos, Ponce Puerto Rico, looking Southeast from Puerto Rico's mainland southern shore
|Location||Ponce, Puerto Rico|
|Area||1.54 km2 (0.595 sq mi)|
|Length||2.75 km (1.709 mi)|
|Width||0.86 km (0.534 mi)|
|Highest elevation||52 m (171 ft)|
|Density||0 /km2 (0 /sq mi)|
|Part of a series on|
|Tourism in Puerto Rico|
|Cays and islets|
Caja de Muertos (English: Coffin Island or Dead Man's Chest) is an uninhabited island off the southern coast of Puerto Rico, in the municipality of Ponce. The island is protected by the Reserva Natural Caja de Muertos natural reserve, because of its native turtle traffic. Hikers and beachgoers are often seen in the island, which can be reached by ferry from the La Guancha Boardwalk sector of Ponce Playa. Together with Cardona, Ratones, Morrillito, Isla del Frio, Gatas, and Isla de Jueyes, Caja de Muertos is one of seven islands ascribed to the municipality of Ponce.
Geography and climate 
The island measures 2.75 km long northeast-southwest, and up to 860 meters wide (560 meters on the average). It has an area of 1.54 km². Close by are Morrillito Key (180 m off the southwest point, 0.04 km²) and Berbería Key (6.2 km to the northeast, 0.30 km²), both part of the Caja de Muertos Natural Reserve. Berbería Key belongs to Rio Canas Abajo barrio of Juana Diaz municipality.
The climate is dry and the island supports dry forest. A still-functioning lighthouse, Caja de Muertos Light, established in 1887 and automated in 1945, sits atop the highest hill on the island. This 170 feet high hill is located at the southwest extreme of the island.
The island has four beaches: Pelicano, Playa Larga, Carrucho, and Coast Guard. The island also possesses fauna and flora not found anywhere else in the world. The island has no permanent residents, but the Government of Puerto Rico maintains Department of Natural Resources staff and security personnel there. In 1899, it registered a permanent population of 64 residents, but it since declined to zero.
Though there is no consensus on how the island got its name, one story given by Kurt Pitzer and Tara Stevens is that of a Portuguese pirate, Jose Almeida. A former merchant sailor, Almeida fell in love with a Basque lady in Curaçao, married her in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands and took her pirating with him around the Caribbean. On the first raid, however she was killed by a stray bullet. Distraught, Almeida had her embalmed and placed in a glass box inside a copper coffin. He buried her in a cave in a deserted island near Ponce. He would come every month to gaze over her preserved body and leave half of his treasure in her grave. Almeida, however, was caught in the Puerto Rico mainland, tried, and executed in El Morro in 1832. Many years later, a Spanish engineer discovered the glass and copper coffin, and identifying the cay on a map gave it its present name. The treasure found, if any, was kept secret.
Another possibility is that the island got its name because it resembles someone lying down when seen from the main island. Caja de Muertos can be translated into English as "Coffin" or "Dead Man's Chest".
In 1901, it was suggested by one A. W. Van Buren of Yale University that the island's name may be related to the sea shanty "Dead man's chest", first written by Robert Louis Stevenson for his novel Treasure Island, however no scholar since Van Buren has made this connection nor is there any evidence to support such a claim. Further, Van Buren says that Stevenson did not write the song "Dead man's chest" himself, that he "picked it up somewhere", which is another baseless claim (see "Dead man's chest" for more information on the fakelore surrounding this song).
The official version of the origin of the name, as given by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, and under whose care the island is currently entrusted, is as follows: "Its name is attributed to the 18th century French writer Jean Baptist Labat who called it Coffre A’morr (Caja de Muertos), making reference to the fact that when the island is seen from certain places in southern Puerto Rico, it gives the impression of seeing a dead person laying on a plateau."
Since 1511, the island has been called by different names including Isla Abeiranas, Abairianay, Antías, Jutías, Yautías, Utías, Abeianay, Angulo, Isla Bestia, and Isla del Tesoro, in addition to the translations as Coffre A’morr, Deadman’s Chest, and Coffin Island.
Natural reserve 
The island was designated as a nature reserve in 1980 after a meeting was held in Puerto Rico by the Puerto Rico Planning Board wherein they considered the recommendation set forth by the Coastal Management Zone Program to turn the island into a protected wilderness area. The island has remained a protected area ever since. The protection is mainly due to its heavy turtle traffic which is an endangered species.
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- Puerto Rico.com: The Puerto Rico Channel. Visiting Caja de Muertos Island Nature Reserve.