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Serranilla Bank

Serranilla Bank is an uninhabited reef, with small islets, in the western Caribbean Sea, about 210 miles north-northeast of Nicaragua at 15°50′N 79°50′WCoordinates: 15°50′N 79°50′W.[1]


Geography and topography

Serranilla Bank is a former atoll. It is about 40 km wide and 32 km long, with an area of 1200 km², almost entirely water. Several very small cays emerge above the water to form the Bank's islands. These are West Breaker, Middle Cay, East Cay and Beacon Cay. They are largely barren, with sparse vegetation of bushes and some trees. Most of the reef is drying and hundreds of wrecked ships are located in its vicinity[citation needed].

Beacon Cay is the biggest islet in the Bank. It is completely overbuilt with houses and some military facilities, which were used by U.S. Marines during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962[citation needed]. The station is abandoned today.

There is a lighthouse at 15°48′N, 79°51′W, on a coral ledge in the southwest approach to the Bank. It is a 33 m (108 ft) tall skeletal tower (on top of a 3-story crew residence). The lamp emits a focal plane beam of light as two white flashes every 20 seconds. The lighthouse is inhabited and active today and has been in operation since 1977. Sources are unclear on who operates the lighthouse.

History and Claims

The Serranilla Bank was first shown on Spanish maps in 1510. The United States claimed the Bank under the Guano Islands Act in 1879 and 1880[2]. Colombia (indirectly) and possibly Honduras[3] also claim the Bank. The U.S. ceded claims to several "guano islands" to Colombia in 1981, but Serranilla Bank was not definitely included.

Colombia's position

Colombia has not directly claimed Serranilla Bank but is on record as considering the bank a part of the Providence group in the San Andrés and Providencia Department.

The U.S. claim

The United States considers Serranilla Bank to be an unorganized, unincorporated United States territory. The United States may assert sovereignty over West Breaker, Middle Cay, East Cay and Beacon Cay in particular.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Sailing Directions (Enroute), Caribbean Sea, vol. II (7th ed.), National Imagery and Mapping Agency, 2001, <> , p. 95
  2. ^ Acquisition Process of Insular Areas. U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs. Retrieved on 2008-01-13.
  3. ^ Colombia - Departments - Overview and Index # - Fahnen Flaggen Fahne Flagge Nationalflaggen Nationalflagge Shop Flaggenshop Versand kaufen bestellen
  4. ^ U.S. INSULAR AREAS: Application of the U.S. Constitution. U.S. General Acounting Office (November 1997). Retrieved on 2008-01-13.

Sources & External links

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