Geology of Cuba

About 70% of this big island is covered by limestone. The location, close to the equator, is the reason why this limestone is developed as ExplainTower Karst. The high amount of solution results in karstified limestone mountains all over the island.

Of course there are other interesting geologic features on Cuba, for example the famous Iridium anomaly which is connected with an meteor which hit nearby. This happened at the border between the Creataceous and the Tertiary, right the time when the dinosaurs disappeared. The meteor theory is one of several, trying to explain this mass extinction.

Cuba, land of limestone and caves is one of the largest islands in the Antilles, 1250 km long and between 191 and 31 km wide. It is a country about the size of England where limestone forms 66% of the landscape, much of which is well developed mogote and cone karst. The longest caves are found in the western province of Pinar del Río, where the Organos and Rosario mountains are steep and afforested, separated by deep dolines and broad poljes. The finest limestone towers of the Sierra Organos, near Viñales contain many large caves, including the Gran Caverna de San Tomós with a length of 47 km.

The Sierra Maestre, eastern Cuba, is a classic karst area with many deep gorges and dolines. The island's deepest cave the Cueva Jibara -246 m is found here.

The Matanzas karst to the east of Havana has some remarkable caves. The Cueva del Gato Jibaro is 11 km long. Whilst the Cueva de Bellamar has some fabulous calcite crystals over 50 cm long. The Cueva Santa Catalina is renown for its cave mushrooms which are over a metre in height. They are composed of fragments of calcite 'ice' which forms on the gours pools.

There is a spectacular deep cone karst in the Camaguey region, which because of the difficulties of exploration, is virtually unexplored. Caves are known in many other regions, both on the mainland and on the smaller islands, for instance, the small island of Cayo Caguanes has over 12 km of surveyed caves.

Text by Tony Oldham (2003). With kind permission.