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Geography

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Geography

Situated at latitude 36o07'N and longitude 05o21, Gibraltar juts out steeplyfrom the low-lying Spanish territory to which it is connected by a sandyisthmus, a mile long and half a mile wide. Five miles east, across the Bay of Gibraltar,lies the Spanish port of Algeciras and 20 miles south,across the Strait, is northern Africa. The Mediterranean falls to the East and it is approximately 1,400 miles to Britain, by sea.

The Rock runs a length of 3 miles, from north to south and is 3/4 mile wide. Its total area is 2 1/4 square miles, though land increasedby reclamationis not reflectedin this in this measurement. The top of the Rock, 1,396ft high, is a sharp, knife-ridge extending for about a mile and a half from the north escarpment, which is virtually inaccessible.The ridge slopes gradually south for about a mile, terminating at the southern extremity, Europa Point, in perpendicular cliffs about 100ft high. The whole upper length of the eastern face is inaccessible and the steep upper half of the western slopes is uninhabited,having been designated a nature reserve.

Geologically, Gibraltar can be divided into two main parts. To the north is a plain, consisting of sand 30ft deep, atop4ft of clay and a bed of coarse sand 2 1/4 ft thick and limestone. The second part is a mass of the Rock to the south, consisting of compact Jurassic limestone, overlaid with dark shale, limestone breccias or sands.

Nowadays Gibraltar primarily sources waterfromthe efficient desalination and purification of water, at facilitieslocated at the North Mole. Gibraltar’s climate is temperate. During winter months, the prevailing winds are from the west or north-west and occasionally south-west. Snow or frost is extremely rare. The mean minimum and maximum temperatures during this period are 13oC and 18oC respectively. In summer the prevailing wind is from the east; a warm breeze, laden with moisture, known as the 'Levanter', strikes the eastern face of the Rock, condenses in the sky above it and causes a cold pall to hang over the city and bay. During this period the climate is humid.

The mean minimum and maximum temperatures in the summer are 13oC and 30oC respectively. Vegetation in Gibraltar is rich and varied, from its upper slopes to the Alameda Gardens. Over 600 species of plants, exclusive of ferns, mosses and lichens are known to grow on the Rock, six of them, including the Gibraltar candytuft, are found nowhere else in Europe. Plant life is at its most impressive between October and May. The hot sun and scant rainfall give the Rock a somewhat barren appearance during the summer months. Over 270 species of wild birds have been recorded in here, some are resident on the Rock, such as the Barbary partridge which is found nowhere else inmainland Europe. The majority are migrants that congregate at the Strait of Gibraltar, which separates Europe from Africa. Among these, the best known and most spectacular are the migrations of 15 species of bird of prey and the crossing of 50,000 white storks.

The Rock holds many diverse populations including bats, reptiles, insects and marine life, some of which
are of regional interest. Broadly speaking, the human population is concentratedon the western side of the Rock, resulting in the densely populated town area and in the slightly more spacious residential estates to the north of the town. The large harbour reclamation (over 30,000 sq metres) has permitted further large-scale housing projects. On the east side of the Rock is Catalan Bay, a small village, with some 350 inhabitants. The natural features of Gibraltar preclude all possibility of agriculture or major industrial production. It is, however,impeccably suited for the development of a flourishing tourist trade.