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Changing islands

The islands of Belize are ever changing. Composed of sand and coral rubble, not bedrock, and low lying, they are susceptible to extreme weather events, especially hurricanes. Over the years we have observed whole islands disappearing from big storms, and others appearing out of nowhere as huge wave events from storms batter the islands.

Out at Glover’s Reef on our island Long Caye, Belize, we are very exposed to big storms, which can send gigantic waves across the Caribbean to hit our island even though the storm itself may never come close. The ring reef of the atoll does shelter the island from the worst effects of the breaking waves, but when combined with a storm surge from any nearby storm, they can carve away the windward areas of our island. Subsequently, this sand and rubble is often transported to the leeward side of the island and deposited as new land. Sometimes these waves break on our reef and the outwash sweeps right over the whole island!

Here are two photos showing some of the changes to the island we have experienced over the years. Note the complete disappearance of the outlying island that used to be attached to Long Caye. This event was due to the huge waves (30-40’) that Hurricane Mitch sent our way in October 1998, even though the island experienced no wind at all.

Long Caye 1995
Long Caye 1995

 

Long Caye 2007
Long Caye 2007