Cheryl Kahla
Audience and Content Strategist
2 minute read
30 May 2022
6:01 pm

Word of the day: What is an atoll? [PICTURES]

Cheryl Kahla

If you hate Mondays, come with us on a daydreaming adventure involving turquoise blue water and sandy white beaches.

Cocos Island. Photo: iStock

Rest assured, if you’ve asked Google today ‘what is an atoll‘, you’re not alone. Today’s Wordle has left many players confused.

I went with arise, touch and atomy (skeleton or emaciated body) before atoll came to mind.

So, exactly what is an atoll? Spoiler alert: It has nothing to do with e-tolls.

Word of the day: Atoll

An atoll – sometimes referred to as a coral atoll – is a ring-shaped coral reef encircling a lagoon either partially or completely.

what is an atoll
Satellite picture of the Atafu in Tokelau in the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Wikipedia Commons/NASA Johnson Space Center

It is also used to refer to an island or a series of islets. They can pose a danger to seafarers and have caused many a ship to run aground throughout history.

The biggest coral islet in the world is the Great Chagos Bank in the Indian Ocean, taking up approximately 12,642 square kilometres.

Cocos Island Atoll
Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/PalawanOz

Can you visit these islets?

Most atolls are unnamed and uninhabited (or sparsely populated). They are also impossible to gain access to in many instances.

However, the atoll near Mokuauia Island, also known as Goat Island, is incredibly easy to access (if one could afford a plane ticket to Hawaii).

Goat island
Goat island

Goat Island

Goat Island – which doesn’t have any goats – is a 0.053 km2 isle which consists of a 720-foot channel of limestone shell reef approximately 1.2 metres underwater.

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State Seabird Sanctuary, Oahu, Hawaii
State Seabird Sanctuary, Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: iStock

The islet is a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary, with lithified dunes on the northeast shore of Oahu. The island also has 16 native plant species.

The dunes are off-limits to the public but the island’s three main beaches attract thousands of tourists each year.

Lighthouse Reef

Blue hole atoll
Blue Hole in Belize. Photo: iStock

Lighthouse Reef is situated southeast of Belize City. It boasts some of the best diving spots in the region and even has an airstrip.

It’s also home to the infamous Blue Hole, the atolls largest lagoon. Holiday goers are treated to sandy white beaches on Half Moon Caye.

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Half moon caye atoll belize
Half Moon Caye. Photo: iStock

Cocos Island

The Cocos Island – also known as Keeling Islands are situated in the Indian Ocean, in Australian external territory midway to Sri Lanka.

The Cocos comprises a small archipelago and two atolls midway between Australia and Sri Lanka, which make up 27 coral islands in total.

Cocos has a population of around 600, and only two of the 27 islands – West Island and Home Island – are inhabited.

Home Island cocos
Home Island. Photo: Real Estate AU.

In addition, Maldives is home to some of the most famous coral reefs in the world, with more than 1,200 atolls registered in the archipelagic country.

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