sea covers 99% of the Maldives and inside
its blue depths lies the mysteries and riddles
related to the formation of the Maldives.
The islands are formed around a ring shaped
coral reef encircling a lagoon. This reef
structure, typical of Maldives, is called
an atoll. In fact, the English word 'atoll'
itself is derived from the Maldivian or
dhivehi word for it-atholhu. There are 26
natural atolls in the Maldives.
still ongoing debates about the formation
of atolls. According to Charles Darwin's
theory, when submerged volcanoes rise from
the sea, a coral reef grew on its edge.
When the volcanoes submerged, the coral
reefs encircling a water-filled basin remained.
Consequently, islands were formed on the
reefs as the tides and currents brought
dead coral onto sandbars. These were in
turn colonised by plants.
view has been provided by Hans Hass. According
to him, layers of coral reefs might have
built up on top of the submerged mountains
until they rose to the surface. The hardest
and highest corals remained while the weaker
corals in the center of the coral platforms
broke down. The remaining corals at the
outer edges formed rings that were to form
the outer rims of atolls. Islands were formed
as debris and sand accumulated on to the
The reef is
cut by deep channels, which the locals have
mastered to navigate. Protective reefs safeguard
the islands from the elements. However,
the islands are susceptible to erosion.
The islands are low-lying; emerging almost
two meters above the sea level. It is frequent
that one part of the island to erode while
onto another part the currents and tides
deposit sand expanding the island. Over
the course of time, some islands may erode
completely, while others may be formed gradually
on a sandbank. There are still many islands
and sandbanks at various stages of formation.
Hence, the Maldives is a dynamic country
in the making.
deep humus forms the initial layers of the
soil. Sandstone of about 2 feet is found
below and after it sand is accompanied with
fresh water. The salinity of the soil along
the beach restricts the growth to few plants.
Normally, shrubs and small hedges occupy
the area. More inwards, banyan, mangroves,
screwpine and other lush vegetation are
found. For the coconut palms there seems
to be no restrictions. It is found almost
everywhere and have contributed significantly
to the local lifestyle, even earning the
status of the national tree.
in the islands is limited, it is supplemented
by the riches of the sea; varieties of corals,
abundant colourful fish and other organisms
that makes the Maldives 'the home of the
children of the sea'.