There are five underwater ridges off the coast of Belize, formed by fault lines resulting when the Yucatan and Nicaraguan “blocks” (limestone plateaus) separated and rotated on the axis of the Central American “spine” of mountains, part of the chain running from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.
The most developed of the five is also the one that interests us here at Slickrock because it is the basis of the southern part of the Barrier Reef, Glover’s Reef, and Lighthouse Caye.The underwater ridge gives the atolls of Belize their conspicuous NE-SW orientation. The coral reef grows on top of these underwater features.
This aerial photograph of Long Caye shows the top of the Glover’s Reef atoll
The ancient coastline of Belize used to be where the Barrier Reef is now. As the area sank slowly, the coral growing along the coast and around the island continued to grow toward the surface of the water.
Coral needs light to exist and grows rapidly if necessary to stay within 30 feet of the surface.
The Barrier Reef is on the edge of the continental shelf with Glover’s Atoll being beyond the edge of the shelf.
The trench outside of Glover’s Reef descends to 9000’ within five miles of Long Caye.