Puerto Rico Trench

Puerto Rico Trench

Map. The Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Grades

6 - 12

Subjects

Earth Science, Geography, Geology, Oceanography, Physical Geography

In 2002 and 2003, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducted a major research study of the Puerto Rico Trench. Situated just north of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Trench separates the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

The ocean trench is a geologically complex site. The Caribbean and North American tectonic plates are scraping by each other, making a huge transform fault that extends from the Puerto Rico Trench to the coast of Central America. The Caribbean plate is shifting east, while the North American plate is shifting west.

In addition to the transform fault, the Puerto Rico Trench is also associated with a subduction zone. To the trench's east, the heavy North American plate, which carries the northern Atlantic Ocean as well as the continent of North America, is being subducted beneath the smaller Caribbean plate.

Fast Fact

According to NOAA:

  • The deepest part of the Puerto Rico Trench is just over 8,600 meters (5.3 miles).

Fast Fact

  • The Puerto Rico Trench is a very flat depression, 280 kilometers (175 miles) long.

Fast Fact

  • The southern side of the trench, north of Puerto Rico, is covered with a smooth layer of limestone.

Fast Fact

  • A large fault system, the Bunce Fault, was discovered in very deep water near the trench. The Bunce Fault is similar to the San Andreas Fault in California. The Bunce Fault was named after Dr. Elizabeth (Betty) Bunce, a marine geophysicist who investigated the Puerto Rico Trench in the 1950s.

Fast Fact

  • A mud volcano was discovered at a depth of 7,900 meters (25,919 feet). The volcano spewed mud as far as 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).
Media Credits

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Cartographer
United States Geological Survey, United States Geological Survey
Producer
National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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