Coral Reefs

Page 113


This part of the coast (north of the space coloured blue on the map) is fronted by an irregularly shelving bank, from about ten to thirty fathoms deep; numerous little reefs, some of which have the most singular shapes, rise from this bank. It may be observed, respecting one of them, in latitude 23 deg 10', that if the promontory in latitude 24 deg were worn down to the level of the sea, and coated with corals, a very similar and grotesquely formed reef would be produced. Many of the reefs on this part of the coast may thus have originated; but there are some sickle, and almost atoll-formed reefs lying in deep water off the promontory in latitude 24 deg, which lead me to suppose that all these reefs are more probably allied to the barrier or atoll classes. I have not, however, ventured to colour this portion of coast. ON THE WEST COAST FROM LATITUDE 19 DEG TO 17 DEG (south of space coloured blue on the map), there are many low islets of very small dimensions, not much elongated, and rising out of great depths at a distance from the coast; these cannot be classed either with atolls, or barrier- or fringing-reefs. I may here remark that the outlying reefs on the west coast, between latitude 19 deg and 24 deg, are the only ones in the Red Sea, which approach in structure to the true atolls of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but they present only imperfect miniature likenesses of them.


I have felt the greatest doubt about colouring any portion of this coast, north of the fringing-reefs round the Farsan Islands in 16 deg 10'. There are many small outlying coral-reefs along the whole line of coast; but as the greater number rise from banks not very deeply submerged (the formation of which has been shown to be only secondarily connected with the growth of coral), their origin may be due simply to the growth of knolls of corals, from an irregular foundation situated within a limited depth. But between latitude 18 deg and 20 deg, there are so many linear, elliptic, and extremely small reefs, rising abruptly out of profound depths, that the same reasons, which led me to colour blue a portion of the west coast, have induced me to do the same in this part. There exist some small outlying reefs rising from deep water, north of latitude 20 deg (the northern limit coloured blue), on the east coast; but as they are not very numerous and scarcely any of them linear, I have thought it right to leave them uncoloured.

In the SOUTHERN PARTS of the Red Sea, considerable spaces of the mainland, and of some of the Dhalac islands, are skirted by reefs, which, as I am informed by Captain Moresby, are of living coral, and have all the characters of the fringing class. As in these latitudes, there are no outlying linear or sickle-formed reefs, rising out of unfathomable depths, I have coloured these parts of the coast red. On similar grounds, I have coloured red the NORTHERN PARTS OF THE WESTERN COAST (north of latitude 24 deg 30'), and likewise the shores of the chief part of the GULF OF SUEZ. In the GULF OF ACABA, as I am informed by Captain Moresby there are no coral-reefs, and the water is profoundly deep.


My information regarding the reefs of this area, is derived from various sources, and from an examination of numerous charts; especially of those lately executed during the survey under Captain Owen, R.N. I lay under particular obligation to Captain Bird Allen, R.N., one of the members of the late survey, for many personal communications on this subject. As in the case of the Red Sea, it is necessary to make some preliminary remarks on the submerged banks of the West Indies, which are in some degree connected with coral-reefs, and cause considerable doubts in their classification. That large accumulations of sediment are in progress on the West Indian shores, will be evident to any one who examines the charts of that sea, especially of the portion north of a line joining Yucutan and Florida.

Charles Darwin

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