Atolls of The Maldives

Atolls Of The Maldives

The Maldives are formed by a number of natural atolls plus atolls in the form of a few islands and isolated reefs today which form a pattern stretching from 7 degrees 10' North to 0 degrees 45' South.

The Maldives is a long and narrow country formed by 26 natural atolls. Some atolls are in the form of a number of islands by time and in the form of isolated reefs, which could be classified as smaller atoll formations. All land above the surface in the Maldives is of coralline origin. The atolls of the Maldives form a quite regular chain and, especially in the northern and central atolls, an arrayed structure is apparent. There are broad and deep channels in between some atolls. The origin of the word atoll itself is in the language of the Maldives. 'Atoll' (from Dhivehi 'atholhu') is now used in many languages worldwide.

Traditionally, Maldivians call the atolls ending in '-madulu' or '-mathi' by their name without adding the word 'Atoll' at the end. For example, it is correct to write simply Kolhumadulhu, without adding the word 'Atholhu' at the end. This is also the case in the atoll known as Faadhippolhu.

The atolls of the Maldives are very complex structures and formerly they were very dangerous for navigators. In 1834-36 British Captain Robert Moresby undertook the laborious and difficult cartography of the Maldive Islands, drawing the first accurate maritime charts of this complicated Indian Ocean atoll group.

These Admiralty charts were printed as three separate large maps by the Hydrographic Service of the Royal Navy. Although they contain a few errors, Moresby's charts were so good that they were favoured by Maldivian pilots navigating through the treacherous waters of their atolls until the 1990s.

Nowadays there are more accurate maps of the Maldives based on satellite surveys. However, Maldivian navigators still claim that Commander Moresby's charts provide a wealth of data that the modern maps don't give. At the time that they were drawn, the maps of the Maldives were deemed of such a high quality that they were inspected personally by Queen Victoria.

Owing to the many beautiful diving grounds of the numerous atolls of the Maldives, this country has been marketed as a prime destination for scuba divers worldwide. Hence, during the last couple of decades many guides and maps of the best diving spots have been published and some of them are very accurate and give a wide array of useful hints.

Read more about Atolls Of The Maldives:  Etymology of Atoll Names, Channels, Island Environment, Neighboring Island Groups, Historic Nomenclature, Recent Divisions

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