The Intriguing Mona Passage

Separating the islands of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, the Mona Passage connects the Caribbean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, forming a vital shipping route between the Atlantic Ocean and the Panama Canal. The Mona Passage also has the reputation for being one of the most treacherous routes in the Caribbean, especially for small watercraft. The eighty mile stretch of sea is prone to unusual and unpredictable currents created by sandbanks stretching out from both islands, as well as the position of the islands themselves.

There are three islands situated in the water of the Mona Passage. Lying almost exactly in the middle of the Mona Passage is Mona Island, a dependency of the USA, with the smaller Monito Island lying five kilometers northwest. Monita Island is uninhabited and inaccessible. Mona Island, on the other hand, has resident rangers from the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico who see to visitors on the island as well as participating in research projects. Even though the Mona Passage has a reputation for being unpredictable and possibly dangerous, the area around Mona Island particularly is very popular with scuba divers and snorkelers. The underwater terrain is considered to be some of the best in the Caribbean.

The third island situated in the Mona Passage is Desecheo Island. This uninhabited island lies around twenty-one kilometers off the west coast of Puerto Rico and was used as a bombing range by the Unites States Armed Forces during World War II. Due to the possible danger of unexploded ordnance, visits to Desecheo Island are forbidden, but scuba diving in the waters surrounding the island is popular

Interestingly, the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program recorded a 2.9 magnitude earthquake in the Mona Passage on 31 July 2008 at 22h15 at a depth of 15 kilometers. Although the earthquake was felt as a tremor in Mayaguez, no damage was reported. This is not the first earthquake to be recorded in the area, and most likely won’t be the last. However, the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, which was established in 2000, uses sophisticated equipment such as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) receiver at Mayaguez to monitor activity in the area, and they have a Tsunami Evacuation Plan in place should that need ever arise.

Puerto Rico is an extremely popular tourist destination, and for good reason. It is reassuring for visitors and locals to know that safety is a high priority on this beautiful island.