Cay Sal Bank

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Cay Sal Bank
Placer de los Roques
Carbonate platform
Cay Sal Bank overview map
Cay Sal Bank overview map
Cay Sal Bank just south of Florida and a little north of Cuba, with Bermuda to the West
Cay Sal Bank just south of Florida and a little north of Cuba, with Bermuda to the West
Country The Bahamas
Region Bahama Banks
District Bimini
 • Total 5,226.73 km2 (2,018.05 sq mi)
 • Official English
Time zone EST (UTC−5)
Cay Sal with Lavanderas Rocks below right center

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 (31 mi)) 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 (31 mi) to the east. The Straits of Florida separate it from the United States mainland and the Florida Keys (Key Largo is 100 km (62 mi) to the north).

Administratively, the bank and its islands are part of Bimini district, the main islands of which are 150 km (93 mi) to the north. The closest point of any other named Bahamian land to the bank is Orange Cay (24°56′24″N 79°08′45″W / 24.94000°N 79.14583°W / 24.94000; -79.14583 (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 (75 mi).[1] The westernmost tip of Andros is the second closest point of land, approximately 145 km (90 mi) 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 (65 mi), and a width of 66 km (41 mi) 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 square kilometres (2,018.05 sq mi), is second only to Great Chagos Bank, while the land area measures only 1,487 km2 (574.13 sq mi). The lagoonal surface has a depth of 9 to 16 metres (30 to 52 ft). The individual islands (i.e. islets or cays) are 96 in number.[2]


The islands, rocks and reefs along the rim of the atoll are listed clockwise from southwest to southeast. There are also a number of smaller, unnamed cays or rocks.

  1. Lavenderas Rocks (Spanish: Lavanderas), 23°40′38″N 80°20′57″W / 23.67722°N 80.34917°W / 23.67722; -80.34917 (Lavenderas Rocks). It is a submerged reef to the ESE of Cay Sal Island.[3]
  2. Cay Sal, 23°41′20″N 80°23′26″W / 23.68889°N 80.39056°W / 23.68889; -80.39056 (Cay Sal). Cay Sal, the main island in the southwest, is 1.6 km (1.0 mi), 1.22 km2 (0.47 sq mi) in area, and is no longer inhabited. 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 dilapidated buildings standing on its west side.
  3. Rompidas Ledge, 23°46′N 80°27′W / 23.767°N 80.450°W / 23.767; -80.450 (Rompidas Ledge) (submerged). Rompidas Ledge is a submerged coral head 3 km (2 mi) northwest of Cay Sal, about 1 square kilometre (0.4 sq mi) in extension and only 6 metres (20 ft) deep. The cargo ship M/V Cork ran aground there in 1983, and position is marked by its wreck.
  4. Elbow Cays, 23°57′04″N 80°27′27″W / 23.95111°N 80.45750°W / 23.95111; -80.45750 (Elbow Cays). 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).[4] North Elbow Cay, which is the largest and highest of the cays, is marked by a disused conical stone lighthouse, which is 17.7 metres (58 ft) high.
  5. Crenula Cay 23°58′40″N 80°21′52″W / 23.97778°N 80.36444°W / 23.97778; -80.36444 (Crenula Cay)
  6. Double Headed Shot Cays, 23°59′50″N 80°19′15″W / 23.99722°N 80.32083°W / 23.99722; -80.32083 (Double Headed Shot Cays). 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.[1] 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.
  7. Water Cays (West Water Cay and East Water Cay), 23°59′26″N 80°20′26″W / 23.99056°N 80.34056°W / 23.99056; -80.34056 (Water Cays)
  8. Marion Rock, 24°01′30″N 80°20′30″W / 24.02500°N 80.34167°W / 24.02500; -80.34167 (Marion Rock) (submerged)
  9. Deadman Cays, 24°00′45″N 80°15′14″W / 24.01250°N 80.25389°W / 24.01250; -80.25389 (Deadman Cays)
  10. Muertos Cays, 24°02′07″N 80°08′34″W / 24.03528°N 80.14278°W / 24.03528; -80.14278 (Muertos Cays) (between east and west island/reef groups)
  11. Dog Rocks, 24°03′27″N 79°52′14″W / 24.05750°N 79.87056°W / 24.05750; -79.87056 (Dog Rocks) (northernmost island/reef group)
  12. Damas Cays, 23°52′22″N 79°46′24″W / 23.87278°N 79.77333°W / 23.87278; -79.77333 (Damas Cays) (approximate center of chain)
  13. North Dangerous Shoals (North Dangerous Rocks), 23°48′53″N 79°44′22″W / 23.81472°N 79.73944°W / 23.81472; -79.73944 (North Dangerous Shoals)
  14. South Dangerous Shoal, 23°44′13″N 79°41′49″W / 23.73694°N 79.69694°W / 23.73694; -79.69694 (South Dangerous Shoal)
  15. Bellows Cay, 23°41′15″N 79°40′15″W / 23.68750°N 79.67083°W / 23.68750; -79.67083 (Bellows Cay)
  16. Anguilla Cays, 23°30′01″N 79°32′30″W / 23.50028°N 79.54167°W / 23.50028; -79.54167 (Anguilla Cays). 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)[4] is the largest and southernmost of the Anguilla Cays. Between the two is the much smaller Middle Cay.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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.
  2. ^ Cay Sal Bank
  3. ^ Las Bahamas : Recursos Orográficos
  4. ^ a b NGA Navigational Chart #27087, Cay Sal Bank. 3rd Edition, corrected through Mar-01.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 23°50′N 80°05′W / 23.833°N 80.083°W / 23.833; -80.083