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Los Roques, geography.
The average depth of the Archipelago is between 8 to 10 meters, with a maximum of 50 meters. Similar to La Orchila and the Las Aves Archipelago, Los Roques is separated from the continental platform by channels which are over 1.000 meters deep and only 2 or 3 kilometers away from the archipelago. The majority of the keys are rather small in area. Cayo Grande 15.1 square km. is the largest in area and Visqui or Pulguita with 0.001square km. are among the smallest.
Many of the smaller keys are in a state of formation and they are seen as sand banks lacking in vegetation, this is why they are considered sand banks. Other keys are widely covered by mangrove and inside lagoons such as Espenqui and many of them have extensive beaches of white sand on the leeward side (contrary to the wind) like for example Carenero or Cayo Agua.
The waters which surround the archipelago are very clear and lacking in nutrients; the different shades of blue is due to the type of bottom where they are at. The transparency of the water is due to two fundamental reasons: the first one is the distance between the mainland and the archipelago which prevents it from being affected by the sediment flows of rivers, which provide to great amount of silt and organic responsible for the darker shades of water around the Terra Firme coast line of Venezuela. The second reason is the waters of the archipelago have low productivity and a low level of nutrients, in contrast with the waters of the Venezuelan east where the organic matter deposited in the bottom of the sea gets mixed with the water in the surface making it thus much more rich and productive, but at the sane time colder and not as clear. The "poverty" of the waters of Los Roques contrasts sharply with large extensions of coral reef, considered the communities of greater biodiversity on the globe.
The dry climate of Los Roques is a result of the influence of trade winds which blow from east to northeast and frequently from east to southeast, with an annual speed of 21,8 km/hr minimum of 19km/hr in November and a maximum of 25.2 km/hr in June with maximum rates of up to 47 km/hr. The relative humidity is 83% annual and rain takes place in the form of brief showers with an average of 256.6 millimeters; minimum 6,6 millimeters in April and a maximum of 52,2mm. in November. The average annual temperature is 27,7°C with a minimum of 26,2°C in June / January and a maximum of 28,2 ° in September. Winds east – west are predominant; average visibility is approximately 21 kilometers. Water temperatures are between 25 and 30° C with minimum records between January and February and maximum between June and October. Heatstroke is very high and the yearly average is 8,6 hours/day. Together with a steady and intense breeze and the high temperature (27°C) gives way to an intense evaporation.
Los Roques, Formation of the archipelago.
In order to understand how the archipelago was formed it must be analyzed in the first place its geology. Studies show that all keys have an igneous metamorphic rock base completely covered by Carbonatic rocks and silt with the exception of Gran Roque. There it can be observed a springing of igneous Metaphorphic rock in three small hills that have a maximum height of 130 meters. The base of igneous rock was originated by a tectonic process which produced the springing of a great block or platform of igneous tock from the bottom of the sea. This emerging platform rose from depths close to 1000 meters. Evidence of this vertical movement of the bottom is the existence of abrupt slopes around the archipelago which at less than 3 kilometers from the coast are over 1.000 meters deep. Rocks and Carbonatic sediment which cover the platform comes from corals, coralline algae, mollusks and other organism that have skeletons with external support formed by carbonate compounds (calcium carbonate). When the igneous rock platform reached depths between 0 and 45 meters, the sediments began to grow over it in a massive way, vertically as well as horizontally. One of the conditions which corals need to grow massively and form coral reefs is the presence of sun light. So only when the platform emerged from the bottom and placed itself between 1 and 40 to 50 meters from the surface, the reefs began to develop themselves. While the corals died by natural means or by exposure outside the water, the calcareous residue of their skeletons remained deposited. These began to degrade through different physical and chemical processes and gave way to the Carbonatic rocks and sediment which now make up the outer layers the archipelago keys. This process occurred during the ice age.
Almost all the keys of Los Roques have a similar structure where the presence of two contrasting areas is outstanding: the first one is arid, grey made up by rocks of dead coral and mollusks shells which turn from white to grey due to the sun light and the tide. This area is known as the storm terrace and it is located on the windward side or open sea. Generally it is quite close to a coral reef where all the rock material is dragged by the waves. On the other side protected from the wind (leeward) or towards the inside part of the archipelago, the keys show a colorful and soft landscape, with bays of still water and areas where the mangrove has developed (Isla Larga, Cayo Sal) or extensive beaches of white sands as in Cayo Carenero. This last area stretches all the way into the sea with a soft slope, generally covered by prairies of marine herbs which can go 10 to 12 meters in depth. The structure of the Caribbean coralline key is also present in many of the keys of Los Roques. The coral reefs protect form the surf and the currents the space there is between them and the keys. This gives rise to a special make up of sediments which allow a quick invasion by marine herbs, mainly Thalassia Testudinum which needs still waters and stable sediments. Along the coast these same conditions are suitable for the colonization of red mangrove that can keep its roots in the water and compact sediments and organic residue in order to gain land from the sea.