Physical Environment – Land of Wood and Water

But the land is also custodian for much mineral wealth beneath the surface.

“Bauxite, the ore for aluminium, is found in abundance in Jamaica, which is the largest producer in the Western Hemisphere. Jamaica’s limestone, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of Jamaica’s land area, is one of the purest limestones in the world, and whose calcium has global pharmaceutical potential.”

In addition to the cultivation of sugar cane from the colonial era on the rich alluvial plains of Jamaica, Jamaica’s world-famous Blue Mountain Coffee is a product of the unique land in which it is grown. In fact, ‘geographic branding’ of products is increasingly popular globally, where a product’s distinctiveness owes as much to the land in which it was produced as its ingredients or component parts. Appleton Rum, named after the estate in the western parish of St Elizabeth, is another geographically-branded product of Jamaica with international renown.

The land is also associated with several spectacular catastrophes, most notably the 1692 earthquake which completely destroyed the city of Port Royal, then known as the ‘wickedest city on Earth,’ and which hastened the formation of the city of Kingston early in the 18th century. This city was then devastated by another earthquake in 1907, which left a lasting architectural legacy on the city. In addition to changing fundamental building practices (most buildings then were built with brick), most buildings in Kingston post-date the 1907 event, since so many did not survive that temblor.

And the land also punishes those who do not fully understand it, even from non-earthquake disasters. Hurricanes, which are not directly spawned by the physical island of Jamaica, generate storm surges, which have repeatedly destroyed communities in Old Harbour Bay, Rocky Point, Portland Cottage and Caribbean Terrace in Harbour View, where settlements have developed in decidedly low-lying coastal plains, some at the mouths of rivers.


Dr. Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr. Director, Mona GeoInformatics Institute, University of The West Indies

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