Cay Sal Bank
Cay Sal Bank (Spanish: Placer de los Roques) is the third largest (after Great Bahama Bank and Little Bahama Bank) and the westernmost of the Bahama Banks. It is located between 23º27'N - 24º10'N and 079º25'W – 080º35'W. In a geographical sense, it is separate from the Bahamas proper as it is much closer to Cuba (from which it is separated by Nicholas Channel, at a distance of 50 km) than to the closest Bahamanian island. It is separated by Santaren Channel from the Great Bahama Bank, the western rim of which is 50 km to the east. The Straits of Florida separate it from the United States mainland and the Florida Keys (Key Largo is 100 km to the north).
Administratively, the bank and its islands are part of Bimini district, the main islands of which are 150 km to the north. The closest point of any other named Bahamian land to the bank is Orange Cay ( ), the southernmost island of the Bimini Chain. The distance between Orange Cay and the nearest dry land of Cay Sal Bank, the Dog Rocks, is 120 km. The westernmost tip of Andros is the second closest point of land, approximately 145 km east of Cay Sal Bank.
Cay Sal Bank is an atoll of roughly triangular shape, with a base along the south rim of 105 km, and a width of 66 km north-south, with islets along its rim, except along the south side facing Nicholas Channel, where it has only numerous rocky coral heads. As such, it is one of the largest atolls of the world. Among the atolls with some land area (i.e. disregarding totally submerged atoll structures), Cay Sal Bank, with a total area of 5,226.73 km², is second only to Great Chagos Bank, while the land area measures only 14,87 km². The lagoonal surface has a depth of 9 to 16 meters. The individual islands (i.e. islets or cays) are 96 in number.
The islands, rocks and reefs along the rim of the atoll are listed clockwise from southwest to southeast:
- Lavenderas (Lavanderas) Rocks, (submerged)
- Cay Sal,
- Rompidas Ledge, (submerged)
- Elbow Cays,
- Crenula Cay
- Double Headed Shot Cays,
- Water Cays (West Water Cay and East Water Cay),
- Marion Rock, (submerged)
- Deadman Cays,
- Muertos Cays, (between east and west island/reef groups)
- Dog Rocks, (northernmost island/reef group)
- Damas Cays, (approximate center of chain)
- North Dangerous Shoals (North Dangerous Rocks),
- South Dangerous Shoal,
- Bellows Cay,
- Anguilla Cays,
Cay Sal, the main island in the southwest, is 1.6 km long, 1.22 km² in area, and is the only inhabited island of Cay Sal Bank. In its interior is a large salt pond commonly replenished by heavy wind-driven seas that broach the islet along its southwest side. It is covered with stunted palm trees and marked by several buildings standing on its west side.
Rompidas Ledge is a submerged coral head 3 km northwest of Cay Sal, about 1 km² in extension and only 6 meters deep. The cargo ship M/V Cork ran aground there in 1983, and position is marked by its wreck.
The Elbow Cays are the westernmost group, running southwest to northeast along the Straits of Florida. The southernmost cays of the group consist of unnamed islets and rocks. Northeast of these are South Elbow Cay (the westernmost named cay of Cay Sal Bank) and North Elbow Cay (sometimes just Elbow Cay). North Elbow Cay, which is the largest and highest of the cays, is marked by a disused conical stone lighthouse, which is 17.7 m high.
The Double Headed Shot Cays are a group of elongated cays that extend northeastward from the Elbow Cays, incorporating the Water Cays and all islets and reefs up to the Deadman Cays. They are in a position on the northwest side of Cay Sal Bank where the Florida Current, in its course east and north through the Straits of Florida, usually sets close offshore at full strength.
Anguilla Cays, near the southeast extremity of Cal Say Bank, consist of several elongated, scrub-covered, sandy islands which are swampy near their southern end, and are marked here and there by stunted palm trees. The northern end of Anguilla Cays is marked by a beacon, 5 m high. Anguilla Cay is the name of the northern and second largest of the Anguilla Cays. Cotton Cay (sometimes just South Anguilla Cay) is the largest and southernmost of the Anguilla Cays. Between the two is the much smaller Middle Cay. There are also a number of smaller, unnamed cays or rocks.
- NOAA Navigational Chart #11013, Atlantic Coast: Straits of Florida and Approaches. 48th Edition, corrected though Feb-12. Available as a NOAA Raster Navigational Chart at the NOAA Office of Coast Survey RNC Downloads website.
- Cay Sal Bank
- NGA Navigational Chart #27087, Cay Sal Bank. 3rd Edition, corrected through Mar-01.
- Atoll Research Bulletin
- Sailing Directions
- 1996 Turtle Symposium
- islets and features, with coordinates
- video of C6ARI DXpedition to Cay Sal Bank, January 2007