Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Mexico

Overview
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin
Oceanic basin
Hydrologically, an oceanic basin may be anywhere on Earth that is covered by seawater, but geologically ocean basins are large geologic basins that are below sea level...

 largely surrounded by the North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

n continent and the island of Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States
Gulf Coast of the United States
The Gulf Coast of the United States, sometimes referred to as the Gulf South, South Coast, or 3rd Coast, comprises the coasts of American states that are on the Gulf of Mexico, which includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and are known as the Gulf States...

, on the southwest and south by Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, and on the southeast by Cuba. In Texas and Louisiana it is often called the "Third Coast," in comparison with the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The shape of its basin is roughly oval and is approximately 810 nautical miles (1,500.1 km) wide and filled with sedimentary rocks and debris.
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Encyclopedia
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin
Oceanic basin
Hydrologically, an oceanic basin may be anywhere on Earth that is covered by seawater, but geologically ocean basins are large geologic basins that are below sea level...

 largely surrounded by the North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

n continent and the island of Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States
Gulf Coast of the United States
The Gulf Coast of the United States, sometimes referred to as the Gulf South, South Coast, or 3rd Coast, comprises the coasts of American states that are on the Gulf of Mexico, which includes Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and are known as the Gulf States...

, on the southwest and south by Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, and on the southeast by Cuba. In Texas and Louisiana it is often called the "Third Coast," in comparison with the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The shape of its basin is roughly oval and is approximately 810 nautical miles (1,500.1 km) wide and filled with sedimentary rocks and debris. It is connected to the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 through the Florida Straits between the U.S. and Cuba, and with the Caribbean Sea
Caribbean Sea
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located in the tropics of the Western hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, and to the east by the Lesser Antilles....

 (with which it forms the American Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean sea (oceanography)
In oceanography, a mediterranean sea is a mostly enclosed sea that has limited exchange of water with outer oceans and where the water circulation is dominated by salinity and temperature differences rather than winds....

) via the Yucatan Channel
Yucatán Channel
The Yucatán Channel is a strait between Mexico and Cuba. It connects the Yucatán Basin of the Caribbean Sea with the Gulf of Mexico. The strait is across between Cape Catoche in Mexico and Cape San Antonio, Cuba and reaches a maximum depth of .-References:...

 between Mexico and Cuba. With this narrow connection to the Atlantic, the Gulf experiences very small tidal ranges. The size of the Gulf basin is approximately 615,000 mi² (1.6 million km²). Almost half of the basin is shallow continental shelf waters. At its deepest it is 14,383 ft (4,384 m) at the Sigsbee Deep
Sigsbee Deep
The Sigsbee Deep is the deepest part of the Gulf of Mexico. The actual maximum depth is disputed and estimates range between . The average depth of the Gulf is roughly . The Sigsbee Deep is a trough that extends more than and is often called the "Grand Canyon under the sea." It is located in the...

, an irregular trough more than 300 nautical miles (555.6 km) (550 km) long. The basin contains a volume of roughly 660 quadrillion gallons (2.5 × 106 km3). It was probably formed approximately 300 million years ago as a result of the seafloor sinking.

Extent


The International Hydrographic Organization
International Hydrographic Organization
The International Hydrographic Organization is the inter-governmental organisation representing the hydrographic community. It enjoys observer status at the UN and is the recognised competent authority on hydrographic surveying and nautical charting...

 defines the southeast limit of the Gulf of Mexico as follows:

A line joining Cape Catoche Light (21°37′N 87°04′W) with the Light on Cape San Antonio
Cape San Antonio, Cuba
Cape San Antonio, , is a cape which forms the western extremity of Cuba. It extends into the Yucatán Channel.-References:*Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary, Third Edition. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1997....

 in Cuba, through this island to the meridian of 83°W
83rd meridian west
The meridian 83° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, Central America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and to the Northward along this meridian to the latitude of the South point of the Dry Tortugas
Dry Tortugas
The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands, located at the end of the Florida Keys, USA, about west of Key West, and west of the Marquesas Keys, the closest islands. Still further west is the Tortugas Bank, which is completely submerged. The first Europeans to discover the islands were the...

 (24°35'N), along this parallel Eastward to Rebecca Shoal
Rebecca Shoal Light
The Rebecca Shoal Light was located on a treacherous coral bank, Rebecca Shoal, 10 km west of the Marquesas Keys and 50 km east of the Dry Tortugas. The bank has a least depth of 3.4 meters and is subject to strong currents and rough seas....

 (82°35'W) thence through the shoals and Florida Keys
Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a coral archipelago in southeast United States. They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula, about south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry...

 to the mainland at eastern end of Florida Bay
Florida Bay
Florida Bay is the bay located between the southern end of the Florida mainland and the Florida Keys. Its area is variously stated to be , or , or . Nearly all of Florida Bay is included in Everglades National Park. The southern edge, along the Florida Keys is in the Florida Keys National Marine...

, all the narrow waters between the Dry Tortugas and the mainland being considered to be within the Gulf.

Geology



The consensus among geologists who have studied the geology of the Gulf of Mexico is that prior to Late Triassic
Triassic
The Triassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about 250 to 200 Mya . As the first period of the Mesozoic Era, the Triassic follows the Permian and is followed by the Jurassic. Both the start and end of the Triassic are marked by major extinction events...

, the Gulf of Mexico did not exist. Before the Late Triassic, the area now occupied by the Gulf of Mexico consisted of dry land, which included continental crust that now underlies Yucatan
Yucatán
Yucatán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Yucatán is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 106 municipalities and its capital city is Mérida....

, within the middle of the large supercontinent of Pangea. This land lay south of a continuous mountain range that extended from north-central Mexico, through the Marathon Uplift
Marathon Uplift
The Marathon Uplift is a Tertiary-age domal uplift, approximately in diameter, in southwest Texas. The Marathon Basin was created by erosion of Cretaceous and younger strata from the crest of the uplift...

 in West Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 and the Ouachita Mountains
Ouachita Mountains
The Ouachita Mountains are a mountain range in west central Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. The range's subterranean roots may extend as far as central Texas, or beyond it to the current location of the Marathon Uplift. Along with the Ozark Mountains, the Ouachita Mountains form the U.S...

 of Oklahoma
Oklahoma
Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,751,351 residents as of the 2010 census and a land area of 68,667 square miles , Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state...

, and to Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

 where it linked directly to the Appalachian Mountains
Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains #Whether the stressed vowel is or ,#Whether the "ch" is pronounced as a fricative or an affricate , and#Whether the final vowel is the monophthong or the diphthong .), often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians...

. It was created by the collision of continental plates that formed Pangea. As interpreted by Roy Van Arsdale and Randel T. Cox, this mountain range was breached in Late Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

 times by the formation of the Mississippi Embayment
Mississippi embayment
The Mississippi Embayment is a physiographic feature in the south-central United States, part of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. It is essentially a northward continuation of the fluvial sediments of the Mississippi River Delta to its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois. The embayment...

.

Geologists and other Earth scientists agree in general that the present Gulf of Mexico basin originated in Late Triassic time as the result of rifting within Pangea. The rifting was associated with zones of weakness within Pangea, including sutures where the Laurentia
Laurentia
Laurentia is a large area of continental craton, which forms the ancient geological core of the North American continent...

, South American, and African plates collided to create it. First, there was a Late Triassic-Early Jurassic
Jurassic
The Jurassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about Mya to  Mya, that is, from the end of the Triassic to the beginning of the Cretaceous. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic era, also known as the age of reptiles. The start of the period is marked by...

 phase of rifting during which rift valley
Rift valley
A rift valley is a linear-shaped lowland between highlands or mountain ranges created by the action of a geologic rift or fault. This action is manifest as crustal extension, a spreading apart of the surface which is subsequently further deepened by the forces of erosion...

s formed and filled with continental red beds
Red beds
Red beds are sedimentary rocks, which typically consist of sandstone, siltstone, and shale that are predominantly red in color due to the presence of ferric oxides. Frequently, these red-colored sedimentary strata locally contain thin beds of conglomerate, marl, limestone, or some combination of...

. Second, as rifting progressed through Early and Middle Jurassic time, continental crust was stretched and thinned. This thinning created a broad zone of thick transitional crust, which displays modest and uneven thinning with block faulting, and a broad zone of uniformly thinned transitional crust, which is half the typical thickness, 35 kilometers, of normal continental crust. It was at this time that tectonics first created a connection to the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 across central Mexico and later eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. This flooded the subsiding basin created by rifting and crustal thinning to create the Gulf of Mexico. While the Gulf of Mexico was a restricted basin, the subsiding transitional crust was blanketed by the widespread deposition of Louann Salt
Louann Salt
The Louann Salt is a widespread evaporite formation that formed in the Gulf of Mexico during the Callovian in the mid Jurassic. The Louann formed in a rift as the South American and North American Plates separated, from an embayment of the Pacific Ocean...

 and associated anhydrite
Anhydrite
Anhydrite is a mineral – anhydrous calcium sulfate, CaSO4. It is in the orthorhombic crystal system, with three directions of perfect cleavage parallel to the three planes of symmetry. It is not isomorphous with the orthorhombic barium and strontium sulfates, as might be expected from the...

 evaporite
Evaporite
Evaporite is a name for a water-soluble mineral sediment that result from concentration and crystallization by evaporation from an aqueous solution. There are two types of evaporate deposits, marine which can also be described as ocean deposits, and non-marine which are found in standing bodies of...

s. Initially, during the Late Jurassic, continued rifting widened the Gulf of Mexico and progressed to the point that sea-floor spreading and formation of oceanic crust
Oceanic crust
Oceanic crust is the part of Earth's lithosphere that surfaces in the ocean basins. Oceanic crust is primarily composed of mafic rocks, or sima, which is rich in iron and magnesium...

 occurred. At this point, sufficient circulation with the Atlantic Ocean was established that the deposition of Louann Salt ceased.

During the Late Jurassic through Early Cretaceous, the basin occupied by the Gulf of Mexico experience a period of cooling and subsidence of the crust underlying it. The subsidence was the result of a combination of crustal stretching, cooling, and loading. Initially, the combination of crustal stretching and cooling caused about 5–7 km of tectonic subsidence of the central thin transitional and oceanic crust. Because subsidence occurred faster than sediment could fill it, the Gulf of Mexico expanded and deepened.

Later, loading of the crust within the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent coastal plain by the accumulation of kilometers of sediments during the rest of the Mesozoic and all of the Cenozoic further depressed the underlying crust to its current position about 10–20 km below sea level. Particularly during the Cenozoic
Cenozoic
The Cenozoic era is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras and covers the period from 65.5 mya to the present. The era began in the wake of the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous that saw the demise of the last non-avian dinosaurs and...

, thick clastic wedge
Clastic wedge
In geology, clastic wedge usually refers to a thick assemblage of sediments--often lens-shaped in profile--eroded and deposited landward of a mountain chain; they begin at the mountain front, thicken considerably landwards of it to a peak depth, and progressively thin with increasing distance inland...

s built out the continental shelf along the northwestern and northern margins of the Gulf of Mexico.

To the east, the stable Florida platform
Florida Platform
The Florida Platform is a flat geological feature with the emergent portion being the Florida peninsula.-Structure:The platform forms a rampart between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The platform's western edge, or Florida Escarpment, is normally defined with water depths at 300 feet...

 was not covered by the sea until the latest Jurassic or the beginning of Cretaceous time. The Yucatan platform was emergent until the mid-Cretaceous. After both platforms were submerged, the formation of carbonates
Carbonate rock
Carbonate rocks are a class of sedimentary rocks composed primarily of carbonate minerals. The two major types are limestone, which is composed of calcite or aragonite and dolostone, which is composed of the mineral dolomite .Calcite can be either dissolved by groundwater or precipitated by...

 and evaporites has characterized the geologic history of these two stable areas. Most of the basin was rimmed during the Early Cretaceous by carbonate platforms, and its western flank was involved during the latest Cretaceous and early Tertiary
Tertiary
The Tertiary is a deprecated term for a geologic period 65 million to 2.6 million years ago. The Tertiary covered the time span between the superseded Secondary period and the Quaternary...

 in a compressive deformation episode, the Laramide Orogeny
Laramide orogeny
The Laramide orogeny was a period of mountain building in western North America, which started in the Late Cretaceous, 70 to 80 million years ago, and ended 35 to 55 million years ago. The exact duration and ages of beginning and end of the orogeny are in dispute, as is the cause. The Laramide...

, which created the Sierra Madre Oriental
Sierra Madre Oriental
The Sierra Madre Oriental is a mountain range in northeastern Mexico.-Setting:Spanning the Sierra Madre Oriental runs from Coahuila south through Nuevo León, southwest Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, and Hidalgo to northern Puebla, where it joins with the east-west running Eje Volcánico...

 of eastern Mexico.

In 2002 geologist Michael Stanton published a speculative essay suggesting an impact origin
Impact event
An impact event is the collision of a large meteorite, asteroid, comet, or other celestial object with the Earth or another planet. Throughout recorded history, hundreds of minor impact events have been reported, with some occurrences causing deaths, injuries, property damage or other significant...

 for the Gulf of Mexico at the close of the Permian
Permian
The PermianThe term "Permian" was introduced into geology in 1841 by Sir Sir R. I. Murchison, president of the Geological Society of London, who identified typical strata in extensive Russian explorations undertaken with Edouard de Verneuil; Murchison asserted in 1841 that he named his "Permian...

, which could have caused the Permian–Triassic extinction event. However, Gulf Coast geologists do not regard this hypothesis as having any credibility. Instead they overwhelmingly accept plate tectonics, not an asteroid impact, as having created the Gulf of Mexico as illustrated by papers authored by Kevin Mickus and others. This hypothesis is not to be confused with the Chicxulub Crater
Chicxulub Crater
The Chicxulub crater is an ancient impact crater buried underneath the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Its center is located near the town of Chicxulub, after which the crater is named...

, a large impact crater on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Today, there are 7 main areas of the gulf:
  • Gulf of Mexico Basin, which contains the Sigsbee Deep and can be further divided into the continental rise, the Sigsbee Abyssal Plain, and the Mississippi Cone.
  • Northeast Gulf of Mexico, which extends from just east of the Mississippi Delta
    Mississippi Delta
    The Mississippi Delta is the distinctive northwest section of the U.S. state of Mississippi that lies between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers. The region has been called "The Most Southern Place on Earth" because of its unique racial, cultural, and economic history...

     near Biloxi to the eastern side of Apalachee Bay
    Apalachee Bay
    Apalachee Bay is a bay in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico occupying an indentation of the Florida coast to the west of where the Florida peninsula joins the United States mainland. It is bordered by Taylor, Jefferson, Wakulla and Franklin counties. The Aucilla, Econfina, St. Marks and Ochlocknee...

    .
  • South Florida Continental Shelf and Slope, which extends along the coast from Apalachee Bay to the Straits of Florida
    Straits of Florida
    The Straits of Florida, Florida Straits, or Florida Strait is a strait located south-southeast of the North American mainland, generally accepted to be between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, and between the Florida Keys and Cuba. The strait carries the Florida Current, the beginning of...

     and includes the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas
    Dry Tortugas
    The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands, located at the end of the Florida Keys, USA, about west of Key West, and west of the Marquesas Keys, the closest islands. Still further west is the Tortugas Bank, which is completely submerged. The first Europeans to discover the islands were the...

    .
  • Campeche Bank
    Campeche Bank
    Campeche Bank is part of the Gulf of Mexico and extends from the Yucatan Straits in the east to the Tabasco-Campeche Basin in the west.Among the reefs with islets on Campeche Bank are Cayos Arcas in the southwest and Arrecife Alacran in the north....

    , which extends from the Yucatan Straits in the east to the Tabasco
    Tabasco
    Tabasco officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Tabasco is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 17 municipalities and its capital city is Villahermosa....

    –Campeche Basin in the west and includes Arrecife Alacran.
  • Bay of Campeche
    Bay of Campeche
    The Bay of Campeche is the southern bight of the Gulf of Mexico. It is surrounded on three sides by the Mexican states of Campeche, Tabasco and Veracruz. It was named by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba and Antonio de Alaminos during their expedition in 1517...

    , which is an isthmian embayment extending from the western edge of Campeche Bank to the offshore regions just east of the port of Veracruz.
  • Western Gulf of Mexico, which is located between Veracruz to the south and the Rio Grande
    Rio Grande
    The Rio Grande is a river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it forms part of the Mexico – United States border. Its length varies as its course changes...

     to the north.
  • Northwest Gulf of Mexico, which extends from Alabama to the Rio Grande.


European exploration




Although Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

 was credited with the discovery of the Americas by Europeans, the ships in his four voyages never reached the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, Columbus sailed into the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 around Cuba and Hispaniola
Hispaniola
Hispaniola is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The island is located between the islands of Cuba to the west and Puerto Rico to the east, within the hurricane belt...

. The first Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an exploration of the Gulf of Mexico was by Amerigo Vespucci
Amerigo Vespucci
Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian explorer, financier, navigator and cartographer. The Americas are generally believed to have derived their name from the feminized Latin version of his first name.-Expeditions:...

 in 1497. He followed the coastal land mass of Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

 before returning to the Atlantic Ocean via the Straits of Florida between Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 and Cuba. In his letters, Vespucci described this trip, and once Juan de la Cosa
Juan de la Cosa
Juan de la Cosa was a Spanish cartographer, conquistador and explorer. He made the earliest extant European world map to incorporate the territories of the Americas that were discovered in the 15th century, sailed first 3 voyages with Christopher Columbus, and was the owner/captain of the Santa...

 returned to Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, a famous world map
Map of Juan de la Cosa
The map or chart of Juan de la Cosa is a mappa mundi painted on parchment, 93 cm high and 183 cm wide, currently preserved at the Museo Naval of Madrid . A line of text on the map says it was made by cartographer and sailor Juan de la Cosa in 1500 in the Andalusian port city of Puerto de Santa...

, depicting Cuba as an island, was produced.

In 1506, Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 took part in the conquest of Hispaniola and Cuba, receiving a large estate of land and Indian
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 slaves for his effort. In 1510, he accompanied Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar
Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar
Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar was a Spanish conquistador. He conquered and governed Cuba on behalf of Spain.-Early life:...

, an aide of the governor of Hispaniola, in his expedition to conquer Cuba. In 1518 Velázquez put him in command of an expedition to explore and secure the interior of Mexico for colonization.

In 1517, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba
Francisco Hernández de Córdoba (discoverer of Yucatán)
Francisco Hernández de Córdoba was a Spanish conquistador, known to history mainly for the ill-fated expedition he led in 1517, in the course of which the first European accounts of the Yucatán Peninsula were compiled.-1517 Expedition:...

 discovered the Yucatán Peninsula
Yucatán Peninsula
The Yucatán Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico, separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, with the northern coastline on the Yucatán Channel...

. This was the first European
European ethnic groups
The ethnic groups in Europe are the various ethnic groups that reside in the nations of Europe. European ethnology is the field of anthropology focusing on Europe....

 encounter with an advanced civilization in the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

, with solidly built buildings and a complex social organization which they recognized as being comparable to those of the Old World
Old World
The Old World consists of those parts of the world known to classical antiquity and the European Middle Ages. It is used in the context of, and contrast with, the "New World" ....

; they also had reason to expect that this new land would have gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

. All of this encouraged two further expeditions, the first in 1518 under the command of Juan de Grijalva
Juan de Grijalva
Juan de Grijalva was a Spanish conquistador. Some authors said he was from the same family as Diego Velázquez.He went to Hispaniola in 1508 and to Cuba in 1511....

, and the second in 1519 under the command of Hernán Cortés, which led to the Spanish exploration, military invasion, and ultimately settlement and colonization known as the Conquest of Mexico. Hernández did not live to see the continuation of his work: he died in 1517, the year of his expedition, as the result of the injuries and the extreme thirst suffered during the voyage, and disappointed in the knowledge that Diego Velázquez
Diego Velázquez
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was a Spanish painter who was the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist...

 had given precedence to Grijalva as the captain of the next expedition to Yucatán.

In 1523, Ángel de Villafañe
Ángel de Villafañe
Ángel de Villafañe was the Spanish conquistador of Florida, Mexico, and Guatemala, and was an explorer, expedition leader, and ship captain , who worked with many 16th-century settlements and shipwrecks along the Gulf of Mexico.- Life and work :Ángel de Villafañe was born about 1504, as the son of...

 sailed toward Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

, but was shipwrecked en route along the coast of Padre Island
Padre Island
Padre Island is part of the U.S. state of Texas. The island is located on Texas' southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico and is famous for its white sandy beaches at the south end...

, Texas, in 1554. When word of the disaster reached Mexico City, the viceroy requested a rescue fleet and immediately sent Villafañe marching overland to find the treasure-laden vessels. Villafañe traveled to Pánuco and hired a ship to transport him to the site, which had already been visited from that community. He arrived in time to greet García de Escalante Alvarado (a nephew of Pedro de Alvarado), commander of the salvage operation, when Alvarado arrived by sea on July 22, 1554. The team labored until September 12 to salvage the Padre Island treasure. This loss, in combination with other ship disasters around the Gulf of Mexico, gave rise to a plan for establishing a settlement on the northern Gulf Coast to protect shipping and more quickly rescue castaways. As a result, the expedition of Tristán de Luna y Arellano
Tristán de Luna y Arellano
Tristán de Luna y Arellano was a Spanish Conquistador of the 16th century. Born in Borobia, Spain, he came to New Spain in about 1530, and was sent on an expedition to conquer Florida in 1559...

 was sent and landed at Pensacola Bay
Pensacola Bay
Pensacola Bay is a bay located in the northwestern part of Florida, United States, known as the Florida Panhandle.The bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, is located in Escambia County and Santa Rosa County, adjacent to the city of Pensacola, Florida, and is about 13 miles long and 2.5 miles ...

 on August 15, 1559.

On December 11, 1526, Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

 granted Pánfilo de Narváez
Pánfilo de Narváez
Pánfilo de Narváez was a Spanish conqueror and soldier in the Americas. He is most remembered as the leader of two expeditions, one to Mexico in 1520 to oppose Hernán Cortés, and the disastrous Narváez expedition to Florida in 1527....

 a license to claim what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States, known as the Narváez expedition
Narváez expedition
The Narváez expedition was a Spanish attempt during the years 1527–1528 to colonize Spanish Florida. It was led by Pánfilo de Narváez, who was to rule as adelantado....

. The contract gave him one year to gather an army, leave Spain, be large enough to found at least two towns of 100 people each, and garrison two more fortresses anywhere along the coast. On April 7, 1528, they spotted land north of what is now Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is a large natural harbor and estuary along the Gulf of Mexico on the west central coast of Florida, comprising Hillsborough Bay, Old Tampa Bay, Middle Tampa Bay, and Lower Tampa Bay."Tampa Bay" is not the name of any municipality...

. They turned south and traveled for two days looking for a great harbor the master pilot Miruelo knew of. Sometime during these two days, one of the five remaining ships was lost on the rugged coast, but nothing else is known of it.

In 1697, Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville
Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville
Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville pronounced as described in note] Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville pronounced as described in note] Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville pronounced as described in note] (16 July 1661 – 9 July 1702 (probable)was a soldier, ship captain, explorer, colonial administrator, knight of...

 sailed for France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and was chosen by the Minister of Marine to lead an expedition to rediscover the mouth of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 and to colonize Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

 which the English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 coveted. Iberville's fleet sailed from Brest on October 24, 1698. On January 25, 1699, Iberville reached Santa Rosa Island in front of Pensacola
Pensacola
Pensacola is a city in the western part of the U.S. state of Florida.Pensacola may also refer to:* Pensacola people, a group of Native Americans* A number of places in the Florida:** Pensacola Bay** Pensacola Regional Airport...

 founded by the Spanish; he sailed from there to Mobile Bay
Mobile Bay
Mobile Bay is an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, lying within the state of Alabama in the United States. Its mouth is formed by the Fort Morgan Peninsula on the eastern side and Dauphin Island, a barrier island on the western side. The Mobile River and Tensaw River empty into the northern end of the...

 and explored Massacre Island, later renamed Dauphin Island. He cast anchor between Cat Island
Cat Island
-North America:* Cat Island , Bahamas* Cat Island , United States* Cat Island , United States* Cat Island , United States* Cat Island , United States...

 and Ship Island; and on February 13, 1699, he went to the mainland, Biloxi, with his brother Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. On May 1, 1699, he completed a fort on the north-east side of the Bay of Biloxi, a little to the rear of what is now Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Ocean Springs is a city in Jackson County, Mississippi, United States, about east of Biloxi. It is part of the Pascagoula, Mississippi Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 17,225 at the 2000 census...

. This fort was known as Fort Maurepas
Fort Maurepas
Not to be confused with the Fort Maurepas built in 1699 by Bienville and Iberville in present-day Ocean Springs, Mississippi.Fort Maurepas was one of the first forts built by Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye and his men. In 1733, they traveled from Fort St. Charles, which was...

 or Old Biloxi. A few days later, on May 4, Pierre Le Moyne sailed for France leaving his teenage brother, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, as second in command to the French commandant.

Geography




The Gulf of Mexico's eastern, northern, and northwestern shores lie along the US states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

, Louisiana, and Texas. The US portion of the Gulf coastline spans 1680 miles (2,703.7 km), receiving water from thirty-three major rivers that drain 31 states. The Gulf's southwestern and southern shores lie along the Mexican states of Tamaulipas
Tamaulipas
Tamaulipas officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Tamaulipas is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 43 municipalities and its capital city is Ciudad Victoria. The capital city was named after Guadalupe Victoria, the...

, Veracruz
Veracruz
Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave , is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is...

, Tabasco, Campeche
Campeche
Campeche is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. Located in Southeast Mexico, it is bordered by the states of Yucatán to the north east, Quintana Roo to the east, and Tabasco to the south west...

, Yucatán
Yucatán
Yucatán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Yucatán is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 106 municipalities and its capital city is Mérida....

, and the northernmost tip of Quintana Roo
Quintana Roo
Quintana Roo officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Quintana Roo is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 10 municipalities and its capital city is Chetumal....

. The Mexican portion of the Gulf coastline spans 1394 miles (2,243.4 km). On its southeast quadrant the Gulf is bordered by Cuba. It supports major American, Mexican and Cuban fishing industries. The outer margins of the wide continental shelves of Yucatán and Florida receive cooler, nutrient
Nutrient
A nutrient is a chemical that an organism needs to live and grow or a substance used in an organism's metabolism which must be taken in from its environment. They are used to build and repair tissues, regulate body processes and are converted to and used as energy...

-enriched waters from the deep by a process known as upwelling
Upwelling
Upwelling is an oceanographic phenomenon that involves wind-driven motion of dense, cooler, and usually nutrient-rich water towards the ocean surface, replacing the warmer, usually nutrient-depleted surface water. The increased availability in upwelling regions results in high levels of primary...

, which stimulates plankton growth in the euphotic zone. This attracts fish, shrimp, and squid. River
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 drainage and atmospheric fallout from industrial coastal cities also provide nutrients to the coastal zone.

The Gulf Stream
Gulf Stream
The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean...

, a warm Atlantic Ocean current and one of the strongest ocean current
Ocean current
An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of ocean water generated by the forces acting upon this mean flow, such as breaking waves, wind, Coriolis effect, cabbeling, temperature and salinity differences and tides caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun...

s known, originates in the gulf, as a continuation of the Caribbean Current
Caribbean Current
The Caribbean Current is a warm water current that flows into the Caribbean Sea from the east along the coast of South America. The current results from the flow of the Atlantic South Equatorial Current as it flows north along the coast of Brazil. As the current turns north through the Yucatan...

-Yucatán Current-Loop Current
Loop Current
A parent to the Florida Current, the Loop Current is a warm ocean current in the Gulf of Mexico that flows northward between Cuba and the Yucatán peninsula, moves north into the Gulf of Mexico, loops east and south before exiting to the east through the Florida Straits and joining the Gulf Stream.A...

 system. Other circulation features include the anticyclonic gyre
Gyre
A gyre in oceanography is any large system of rotating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements. Gyres are caused by the Coriolis Effect; planetary vorticity along with horizontal and vertical friction, which determine the circulation patterns from the wind curl...

s which are shed by the Loop Current and travel westward where they eventually dissipate, and a permanent cyclonic gyre in the Bay of Campeche. The Bay of Campeche in Mexico constitutes a major arm of the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, the gulf's shoreline is fringed by numerous bays and smaller inlets. A number of rivers empty into the gulf, most notably the Mississippi and Rio Grande rivers in the northern gulf, and the Grijalva
Grijalva River
Grijalva River, formerly known as Tabasco River. is a 480 km long river in southeastern Mexico. It is named after Juan de Grijalva who visited the area in 1518. The river rises in Chiapas highlands and flows from Chiapas to the state of Tabasco through the Sumidero Canyon into the Bay of...

 and Usumacinta
Usumacinta River
The Usumacinta River is a river in southeastern Mexico and northwestern Guatemala. It is formed by the junction of the Pasión River, which arises in the Sierra de Santa Cruz and the Salinas River, also known as the Chixoy, or the Negro, which descends from the Sierra Madre de Guatemala...

 rivers in the southern gulf. The land that forms the gulf's coast, including many long, narrow barrier islands, is almost uniformly low-lying and is characterized by marshes and swamps as well as stretches of sandy beach.

The Gulf of Mexico is an excellent example of a passive margin
Passive margin
A passive margin is the transition between oceanic and continental crust which is not an active plate margin. It is constructed by sedimentation above an ancient rift, now marked by transitional crust. Continental rifting creates new ocean basins. Eventually the continental rift forms a mid-oceanic...

. The continental shelf
Continental shelf
The continental shelf is the extended perimeter of each continent and associated coastal plain. Much of the shelf was exposed during glacial periods, but is now submerged under relatively shallow seas and gulfs, and was similarly submerged during other interglacial periods. The continental margin,...

 is quite wide at most points along the coast, most notably at the Florida and Yucatán Peninsulas. The shelf is exploited for its oil
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 by means of offshore drilling rigs, most of which are situated in the western gulf and in the Bay of Campeche. Another important commercial activity is fishing; major catches include red snapper
Red snapper (fish)
The red snapper, Lutjanus campechanus, is a fish found in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States and, much less commonly, northward as far as Massachusetts. In Latin American Spanish it is known as huachinango or pargo...

, amberjack
Amberjack
Amberjack refers to 3 species of Atlantic fish of the Carangidae family , which includes the jacks and the pompanos.Greater amberjacks, Seriola dumerili, are the largest of the jacks. They usually have dark stripes extending from nose to in front of their dorsal fins...

, tilefish
Tilefish
Tilefishes, also known as blanquillo, are mostly small perciform marine fish comprising the family Malacanthidae.They are usually found in sandy areas, especially near coral reefs....

, swordfish
Swordfish
Swordfish , also known as broadbill in some countries, are large, highly migratory, predatory fish characterized by a long, flat bill. They are a popular sport fish of the billfish category, though elusive. Swordfish are elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood...

, and various grouper
Grouper
Groupers are fish of any of a number of genera in the subfamily Epinephelinae of the family Serranidae, in the order Perciformes.Not all serranids are called groupers; the family also includes the sea basses. The common name grouper is usually given to fish in one of two large genera: Epinephelus...

, as well as shrimp
Shrimp
Shrimp are swimming, decapod crustaceans classified in the infraorder Caridea, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Adult shrimp are filter feeding benthic animals living close to the bottom. They can live in schools and can swim rapidly backwards. Shrimp are an important...

 and crabs. Oysters are also harvested on a large scale from many of the bays and sounds. Other important industries along the coast include shipping, petrochemical processing and storage, military use, paper manufacture, and tourism.

The gulf's warm water temperature can feed powerful Atlantic hurricanes causing extensive human death and other destruction as happened with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the Atlantic, a hurricane will draw up cool water from the depths and making it less likely that further hurricanes will follow in its wake (warm water being one of the preconditions necessary for their formation). However, the Gulf is shallower; when a hurricane passes over the water temperature may drop but it soon rebounds and becomes capable of supporting another tropical storm.

The Gulf is considered aseismic; however, mild tremors have been recorded throughout history (usually 5.0 or less on the Richter scale
Richter magnitude scale
The expression Richter magnitude scale refers to a number of ways to assign a single number to quantify the energy contained in an earthquake....

). Earthquakes may be caused by interactions between sediment loading on the sea floor and adjustment by the crust.

2006 earthquake


On September 10, 2006, the U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center
United States Geological Survey
The United States Geological Survey is a scientific agency of the United States government. The scientists of the USGS study the landscape of the United States, its natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten it. The organization has four major science disciplines, concerning biology,...

 reported that a strong earthquake
Earthquake
An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time...

, ranking 6.0 on the Richter scale, occurred about 250 miles (402.3 km) west-southwest of Anna Maria, Florida
Anna Maria, Florida
Anna Maria, is a city in Manatee County, Florida, United States. The population was 1,814 at the 2000 census. According to the 2005 U.S. Census Bureau's estimates, the city grew slightly to 1,867. The city occupies the northern part of Anna Maria Island and is one of three municipalities on the...

, around 10:56 AM EDT
Eastern Time Zone
The Eastern Time Zone of the United States and Canada is a time zone that falls mostly along the east coast of North America. Its UTC time offset is −5 hrs during standard time and −4 hrs during daylight saving time...

. The quake was reportedly felt from Louisiana to Florida in the Southeastern United States
Southeastern United States
The Southeastern United States, colloquially referred to as the Southeast, is the eastern portion of the Southern United States. It is one of the most populous regions in the United States of America....

. There were no reports of major damages, injuries or casualties. Items were knocked from shelves and seiche
Seiche
A seiche is a standing wave in an enclosed or partially enclosed body of water. Seiches and seiche-related phenomena have been observed on lakes, reservoirs, swimming pools, bays, harbors and seas...

s were observed in swimming pools in parts of Florida. The earthquake was described by the USGS as a midplate earthquake, the largest and most widely felt recorded in the past three decades in the region. According to the September 11, 2006 issue of The Tampa Tribune
The Tampa Tribune
The Tampa Tribune, published in Tampa, Florida, is one of two major newspapers published in the Tampa Bay area, second in circulation and readership to the St. Petersburg Times. The paper's tagline is "Life...

, earthquake tremors were last felt in Florida in 1952, recorded in Quincy
Quincy, Florida
Quincy is a city in Gadsden County, Florida, United States. The population was 6,982 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 6,975...

, 20 miles (32.2 km) northwest of Tallahassee
Tallahassee, Florida
Tallahassee is the capital of the U.S. state of Florida. It is the county seat and only incorporated municipality in Leon County, and is the 128th largest city in the United States. Tallahassee became the capital of Florida, then the Florida Territory, in 1824. In 2010, the population recorded by...

.

Maritime boundary delimitation agreements


Cuba and Mexico: Exchange of notes constituting an agreement on the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone of Mexico in the sector adjacent to Cuban maritime areas (with map), of July 26, 1976.

Cuba and United States of America: Maritime boundary
Maritime boundary
Maritime boundary is a conceptual means of division of the water surface of the planet into maritime areas that are defined through surrounding physical geography or by human geography. As such it usually includes areas of exclusive national rights over the mineral and biological resources,...

 agreement between the United States of America and the Republic of Cuba, of December 16, 1977.

Mexico and United States of America: Treaty to resolve pending boundary differences and maintain the Rio Grande and Colorado river as the international boundary, of November 23, 1970; Treaty on maritime boundaries between the United States of America and the United Mexican States (Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean), of May 4, 1978, and Treaty between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Mexican States on the delimitation of the continental shelf in the Western Gulf of Mexico beyond 200 nautical miles (370.4 km), of June 9, 2000.

Biota


Various biota include chemosynthetic communities near cold seep
Cold seep
A cold seep is an area of the ocean floor where hydrogen sulfide, methane and other hydrocarbon-rich fluid seepage occurs, often in the form of a brine pool...

s and nonchemosynthetic communities such as bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 and other microbenthos, meiofauna, macrofauna, and megafauna
Megafauna
In terrestrial zoology, megafauna are "giant", "very large" or "large" animals. The most common thresholds used are or...

 (larger organisms such as crabs, sea pens, crinoids, and demersal fish and cetaceans including endangered ones) are living in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico yields more finfish, shrimp, and shellfish
Shellfish
Shellfish is a culinary and fisheries term for exoskeleton-bearing aquatic invertebrates used as food, including various species of molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms. Although most kinds of shellfish are harvested from saltwater environments, some kinds are found only in freshwater...

 annually than the south
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 and mid-Atlantic
Mid-Atlantic States
The Mid-Atlantic states, also called middle Atlantic states or simply the mid Atlantic, form a region of the United States generally located between New England and the South...

, Chesapeake
Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West...

, and New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 areas combined.

The Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

 Gulf of Mexico holdings are expected to provide an important baseline of understanding for future scientific studies on the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In Congressional testimony, Dr. Jonathan Coddington, Associate Director of Research and Collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum administered by the Smithsonian Institution, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., United States. Admission is free and the museum is open 364 days a year....

, provides a detailed overview of the Gulf collections and their sources which Museum staff have made available on an online map. The samples were collected for years by the former Minerals Management Service (renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) to help predict the potential impacts of future oil/gas explorations. Since 1979, the specimens have been deposited in the national collections of the National Museum of Natural History.

Pollution



There are frequent "red tide" algae blooms that kill fish and marine mammals and cause respiratory problems in humans and some domestic animals when the blooms reach close to shore. This has especially been plaguing the southwest and southern Florida coast, from the Florida Keys to north of Pasco County, Florida
Pasco County, Florida
Pasco County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. As of 2000, the population was 344,765. The July 1, 2007 census estimate according to the U.S. Census Bureau for the county is 462,715. Its county seat is Dade City, Florida which is in the northeast part of the county - somewhat...

.

The Gulf contains a hypoxic dead zone
Dead zone (ecology)
Dead zones are hypoxic areas in the world's oceans, the observed incidences of which have been increasing since oceanographers began noting them in the 1970s. These occur near inhabited coastlines, where aquatic life is most concentrated...

 that runs east-west along the Texas-Louisiana coastline. In July 2008, researchers reported that between 1985 and 2008, the area roughly doubled in size and now stretches from near Galveston, Texas
Galveston, Texas
Galveston is a coastal city located on Galveston Island in the U.S. state of Texas. , the city had a total population of 47,743 within an area of...

, to near Venice, Louisiana
Venice, Louisiana
Venice is an unincorporated community in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, United States. It is 130 km south of New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi River at . It is the last community down the Mississippi accessible by automobile, and is the southern terminus of the Great River Road...

. It is now about 8000 square miles (20,719.9 km²), nearly the record.

There are 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells beneath the Gulf. These have generally not been checked for potential environmental problems.

Ixtoc I explosion and oil spill



In June 1979, the Ixtoc I
Ixtoc I
Ixtoc I was an exploratory oil well being drilled by the semi-submersible drilling rig Sedco 135-F in the Bay of Campeche of the Gulf of Mexico, about northwest of Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche in waters deep...

oil platform
Oil platform
An oil platform, also referred to as an offshore platform or, somewhat incorrectly, oil rig, is a lаrge structure with facilities to drill wells, to extract and process oil and natural gas, and to temporarily store product until it can be brought to shore for refining and marketing...

 in the Bay of Campeche suffered a blowout
Blowout (well drilling)
A blowout is the uncontrolled release of crude oil and/or natural gas from an oil well or gas well after pressure control systems have failed....

 leading to a catastrophic explosion, which resulted in a massive oil spill that continued for nine months before the well was finally capped. This was ranked as the largest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill


On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon
Deepwater Horizon
Deepwater Horizon was an ultra-deepwater, dynamically positioned, semi-submersible offshore oil drilling rig owned by Transocean. Built in 2001 in South Korea by Hyundai Heavy Industries, the rig was commissioned by R&B Falcon, which later became part of Transocean, registered in Majuro, Marshall...

oil platform, located in the Mississippi Canyon
Mississippi Canyon
The Mississippi Canyon is an undersea canyon in the Central Gulf of Mexico, south of Louisiana. According to the U.S. Geological Survey GLORIA Mapping Program, it is the dominant feature of the north-central Gulf of Mexico. According to GCAGS Transactions, it has an average width of , and a length...

 about 40 miles (64.4 km) off the Louisiana coast, suffered a catastrophic explosion; it sank a day-and-a-half later. It was in the process of being sealed with cement for temporary abandonment, to avoid environmental problems. Although initial reports indicated that relatively little oil had leaked, by April 24, it was claimed by BP that approximately 1000 barrels (159 m³) of oil per day were issuing from the wellhead
Wellhead
A wellhead is a general term used to describe the component at the surface of an oil or gas well that provides the structural and pressure-containing interface for the drilling and production equipment....

, about 1 miles (1.6 km) below the surface on the ocean floor. On April 29, the U.S. government revealed that approximately 5000 barrels (794.9 m³) per day, five times the original estimate, were pouring into the Gulf from the wellhead. The resulting oil slick
Oil spill
An oil spill is the release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially marine areas, due to human activity, and is a form of pollution. The term is mostly used to describe marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters...

 quickly expanded to cover hundreds of square miles of ocean surface, posing a serious threat to marine life and adjacent coastal wetlands
Salt marsh
A salt marsh is an environment in the upper coastal intertidal zone between land and salt water or brackish water, it is dominated by dense stands of halophytic plants such as herbs, grasses, or low shrubs. These plants are terrestrial in origin and are essential to the stability of the salt marsh...

, and to the livelihoods of Gulf Coast shrimpers and fishermen. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sally Brice O’Hare stated that the U.S. government will be “employing booms, skimmers, chemical dispersants and controlled burns” to combat the oil spill. As of May 1, 2010, the oil spill cleanup efforts are underway, but hampered by rough seas and the "tea like" consistency of the oil. As of May 27, 2010, USGS had revised the estimate of the leak from 5000 oilbbl/d to 12,000–19000 oilbbl/d and estimates continue to increase. On July 15, 2010, BP announced that the leak stopped for the first time in 88 days.

See also


  • Brine pool
    Brine pool
    Brine pools are large areas of brine on the ocean basin. These pools are bodies of water that have a salinity three to five times greater than the surrounding ocean. For deep-sea brine pools, the source of the salt is the dissolution of large salt deposits through salt tectonics...

  • Charlotte Harbor Estuary, Florida
    Charlotte Harbor (estuary)
    Charlotte Harbor Estuary is a natural estuary spanning the west coast of Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs on the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the most productive wetlands in Florida...

  • Gulf Coast
  • Gulf of Mexico Foundation
    Gulf of Mexico Foundation
    The Gulf of Mexico Foundation is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1990 by citizens concerned with the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico.-Programs :...

  • Hypoxia
    Hypoxia (environmental)
    Hypoxia, or oxygen depletion, is a phenomenon that occurs in aquatic environments as dissolved oxygen becomes reduced in concentration to a point where it becomes detrimental to aquatic organisms living in the system...

  • Jack 2
    Jack 2
    Jack 2 is a test well in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico that successfully extracted oil from the lower Tertiary area of the Gulf in the second quarter of 2006. The field owners Chevron, Devon Energy and Norway's Statoil drilled to about below the sea floor, the wellhead being below...

     (a test well in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico)
  • Orca Basin
    Orca Basin
    The Orca Basin is a mid-slope, silled, mini-basin in the northern Gulf of Mexico some 300 km southwest of the Mississippi River mouth on the Louisiana continental slope. It is unique amongst the mini-basins in this area, in containing a large brine pool of anoxic salt brine...

  • Outer Continental Shelf
    Outer Continental Shelf
    The Outer Continental Shelf is a peculiarity of the political geography of the United States and is the part of the internationally recognized continental shelf of the United States which does not fall under the jurisdictions of the individual U.S...

  • Territorial evolution of the Caribbean
    Territorial evolution of the Caribbean
    This is a timeline of the territorial evolution of Latin America and the Caribbean, listing each change to the internal and external borders of the various countries that make up Latin America and the Caribbean....


US Gulf of Mexico Protraction areas
  • Atwater Valley
  • East Cameron
  • Eugene Island
  • Garden Banks
  • Green Canyon
    Green Canyon
    Green Canyon is an area in the Gulf of Mexico that is rich in oil fields and under the control of the BOEM. Many oil companies, including Shell, Exxon Mobil, ATP Oil and Gas, Devon Energy, W&T Offshore and Anadarko have leased the rights to drill for oil in this area.Green Canyon, block 185 is...

  • Keathley Canyon
    Keathley Canyon
    Keathley Canyon is an undersea canyon in the in the United States Exclusive Economic Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.The Canyon is rich in oil fields. The major oilfields at the Keathley Canyon are Tiber, Kaskida, Lucius, and Buckskin. Many oil companies, including Chevron Corporation, BP, Anadarko...

  • Mississippi Canyon
    Mississippi Canyon
    The Mississippi Canyon is an undersea canyon in the Central Gulf of Mexico, south of Louisiana. According to the U.S. Geological Survey GLORIA Mapping Program, it is the dominant feature of the north-central Gulf of Mexico. According to GCAGS Transactions, it has an average width of , and a length...

  • Sigsbee Escarpment
  • South Marsh Island
  • Walker Ridge


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