Body of water off the Atlantic Ocean bordered approximately by Central America on the west, South America on the south, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico on the north, and the Windward and Leeward Islands on the east.

The Caribbean Sea (enunciations on second or third syllables are regarded equally) is the roughly 970,000 mi2 arm of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a tropical body, bordered on the North and East by the West Indies Archipalego, on the South by the northern coast of South America, and on the West by the Central American Isthmus. It is linked to the Atlantic by many straits (Windward Channel and Mona Passage are the most important) and to the Pacific by the Panama Canal.

The sea floor consists mainly of two large basins cut by a large submerged plateau. The deepest point in the sea is in the Cayman Trench at roughly 25,000 feet. The sea's water is known for its clarity and warmth; it is also less salty than that of the Atlantic. Earthquakes and volcanic activity are common here. This is also a place where many hurricanes originate.

After the Caribbean was visited by Columbus c. 1493, it was claimed by Spain and searched for treasure. The Spaniards subsequently discovered the Pacific; the Caribbean then became a route for their expeditions to the great new sea. Pirates and other European nations frequently claimed Spanish vessels. American ships found their way in during the nineteenth century.

In parting the Central American Isthmus, America gained control of the Caribbean as a strategic area. Because of this the sea is sometimes called the "American Mediterranean"--the base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is the oldest (c. 1899) U.S. Military establishment in the area.

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