28-Oct-2006 -- We are already under way from Venezuela, where I was able to visit one of my few Confluences on land, 12N 70E to Searsport in Maine, with 31,000 tons of petroleum coke.
Today our track brings us to the channel between the islands of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. This passage, which takes its name from the Isla de Mona and thus commonly known as "Mona Passage" is one of the major entrances or exits to and from the Caribbean Sea. It has a least width of 61 nautical miles (113 km), and close SW of Mona there is 18N 68W.
Isla de Mona is about 11 km long (E/W) and 7 km wide and lies midway of the passage. The surface of the island is composed by calcareous rock which is covered with scrub and cactus plants. Another small islet is in the vicinity, Isla Monito, a high bare rock and only about 400 metres in diameter.
From the Confluence we clearly see both islands when looking towards NE, and of course the channel between the two islands. Much of the coast of Mona offers steep-to cliffs.
Mona, although located closer to Hispaniola (Dominican Republic), its history has been attached to Puerto Rico. It was discovered by Columbus in 1493, and in 1508 Ponce de León stopped in there. In 1511 the island was ceded to Columbus's younger brother Bartolomé by Columbus's son Diego. Evidence of a long history can be found on this small island. Remains from the Taino village visited by both Columbus and Ponce de León are still to be found, among these remains you will find what appear to be Taino inscriptions, petroglyphs, pictographs, skeletons, bottles, and other relics. The ruins of historic cabins, stone walls, graves, and old trails also are to be found. The highest elevation is about 100 metres above sea level. There are no permanent inhabitants, except by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources (DNR) personnel (resident biologist and rangers).
Mona is often compared to Galápagos. On Mona are living the giant Mona Iguana and the Geco Oriundo, some species of endangered sea turtles, red-footed boobies and countless other sea birds. The waters surrounding the island are home of over 270 species of fish and sea turtles. Some species are so rare or endangered elsewhere that Mona can be considered their last significant refuge. During the winter humpback whales, usually several at a time with their young, are regular visitors. The Mona Iguana found nowhere else in the world, is considered the most spectacular single form of life on the island. It attains four feet in length but is harmless. Their nests, consisting of a tunnel burrowed into the soil, are common on the coastal plain. Their food is vegetable matter.
Unspoiled Mona also offers mangrove forest, coral reefs, 200-foot high cliffs and the world's largest marine-originated cave system. The beaches, some 5 miles in total length, are whiter than those of Puerto Rico. The island is managed by the Department of National Resources (787-722-1726) since 1975. Camping is allowed at Sardinera Beach. Other activities such as: hiking, bird watching, snorkelling, or scuba are allowed and coordinated by the resident biologist. Visitors are welcome, but no more than a hundred visitors can be on the island at any time.
Puerto Rico itself is the smallest and easternmost of the Greater Antilles. In 1493 it was visited by Columbus and in 1508 colonized by Spain to whom it remained a dependency for nearly four centuries. In 1898 it was ceded to the United States, and in 1917 US citizenship and a limited self-government was granted to the population. In 1952 it was proclaimed a Commonwealth in voluntary association with the United States. Its population is about 4 million. Spanish is the official language, but English is required as a subject and preferred in business. Over the past 25 years Puerto Rico has progressed from a predominantly agricultural economy to a manufacturing base.