Did you often wonder why Barbados is referred to as the “coral island”? Well, it’s not just because we have the beautiful coral stone on the island or because the other Caribbean islands are volcanic and we are coral-based.
Geologically, Barbados is one of the most fascinating formations known to man. Barbados geological development is the result of a collision between the Atlantic plate and the Caribbean plate. Our island, over the period of about a million years, was born of the gradual accretion of the oceanic sediments and regular tectonic uplifts caused by the Atlantic plate being pushed under the Caribbean plate which literally forced Barbados to ‘pop’ out of the ocean.
The island however, did not take its present shape all at once. Barbados presented as a gradual rising (over some 500,000 years) when coral reefs were created in clear, shallow waters which surrounded the exposed part of the Barbados ridge. At different intervals between 500,000 to 120,000 years ago, Barbados became enlarged by tectonic uplifts which pushed these reefs out of the water. These sea reefs are now ‘inland reefs’ which present as terraces and cliffs that can be seen as you drive around the island.
The unique activity of Barbados' geology also explains why we have so many caves, the most fascinating and beautiful of which is the popular Harrison’s Caves. Very simply put, the caves came about as a result of continued rain and ground water eroding the surface and structure of underground coral beds. The porosity of coral limestone bedrock also acts as a natural filter for rain water which is tapped in reservoirs and pumped throughout the island as excellent potable water to Barbadians.