|Abstract||The Lesser Antilles consist of those West Indian islands which extend from the Anegada Passage in the north to Grenada in the south.¹) These islands are nomenclatorially divided into two major groups: 1) The Leeward Islands, including Sombrero, Anguilla, St. Martin, St.-Barthélemy [= St. Barts], Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Christopher [= St. Kitts], Nevis, Redonda, Montserrat, Barbuda, and Antigua, and 2) the Windward Islands, including Guadeloupe (with its satellites Marie-Galante, La Désirade, Les Saintes), Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, and Barbados. Geologically, the Lesser Antilles can be divided into two major groups: 1) those which are mountainous – the so-called inner-chain islands – which are younger and more recently volcanic (Saba to Grenada, and including the western or Basse-Terre portion of Guadeloupe, and Les Saintes), and 2) the older, gently rolling limestone islands – the so-called outer-chain islands (Sombrero to Marie-Galante, and including the Grande-Terre portion of Guadeloupe, La Desirade, and Barbados). The northern Leeward Islands may be additionally grouped according to the banks on which they lie: the Anguilla Bank (incl. Anguilla, St. Martin and St.-Barthélemy), the St. Christopher Bank (incl. St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and Nevis), and the Antigua Bank (incl. Antigua and Barbuda).|
The Lesser Antilles extend for about 750 kilometers in a northwest to southeast direction on a slightly bowed arc. The mountainous inner-chain islands are generally very mesic, with the windward (eastern) coast wet and the leeward (western) coast dry; the latter lies in the rain shadow of the central mountains. This brief ecological statement is greatly oversimplified, since on some islands there are dry sections on the windward side (the Presqu‘île de la Caravelle on Martinique is a notable example) and occasional sections of the leeward coast are better watered than is customary (the central western coast of Dominica and the western coast of Montserrat are examples). The central mountains vary in maximum elevation from 1975 feet (602 m) in St. Eustatius to 4813 feet (1456 m) in Guadeloupe; Guadeloupe, Dominica, and Martinique, in that order, have the three highest peaks in the Lesser Antilles.