Crete (Greek Island)

Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean. The waters surrounding mainland Greece are dotted with its numerous islands. Crete is the largest island of Greece situated below the Peloponnesian mainland. It stands as a boundary between Europe and Africa. Without a doubt it location has influenced its history, culture and climate. "The island is relatively long and narrow stretching for 152 miles (245m) on its east-west axis and varying in width from 7.5 to 35 miles (12 to 56 km). The island has an area of 3,190 square miles (8,261square km)". (Britannica Encyclopaedia vol.5 ,1974 pg.252) Looking at the map the biggest width is from the Dion Cape(Akra Stavros) to the Lithinon Cape(Akra Lithinon), while the smallest is called the Isthmus of Ierapetra.(interkriti pg.1)Crete is divided into four prefectures: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklio, and Lasithi. The Capital of the island is the city of Heraklio, a cosmopolitan city. Chania is considered as the administrative center. The island is divided into two regions of habitants, the coast, and the innerlands, the mountains. The northern coastal cities consist of about 1/3 of island s population. Iraklion and Chania make up + of Crete s population. The mountain range on the island of Crete is divided into three groups of mountains. From west to east are: Leuka Ori (White mountains 2,452 m), Idhi Mountain(Psiloritis 2,456 m), and the Mountain of Dikti(Lasithi 2,148 m). Another , yet smaller range is the Asterousa (Kofinos) Mountains situated along the south central coast between the Mesara Plain and the Libyan Sea (Livikos Pelagos). (BE pg.253) These mountains are split by deep gorges narrow ravines. An example is seen in the gorge of Samaria. The land also has a lot of fissures and uneveness. The gorges lead to fertile plains and the plateaus like Omalos in Leuka Ori, Nidha in Idhi Mountain and Lasithi. The Lasithi plain is reported to be round in shape, "stadium-like" and 50 square miles of it are surrounded by mountains. (BE pg. 253) The landscape is ever varying. It can be green and arable in certain areas and then suddenly it can be rocky, bare or covered with scrub, barren and inaccessible to agricultural cultivation. Along the south central part of Crete is its major flatland, the Mesara Plain, running along 18 miles with three miles in width.(BE pg.253) The Mesara Plain is adequately watered and is certainly one of the most fertile and arable areas of land in Crete. The coast line has rocky shores and it s beaches are pebbly and sandy. Speleologists have estimated about 3000 caves to be found on the island. The caves are noted for their scientific, archaeological, paleontological and historical value.( Greek National Tourism Organization Brochure) They are not all different sizes and levels of importance yet they are all an indications of the geographical creation og thre island. Some caves have stalactites and stalagmites. About 1450 BC Knossos and many other important centers in Crete were virtually destroyed by earthquakes which are said to be related to the explosion at Thera, modern day Santorini, an island situated north of Crete. This geological catastrophically put an end to the Minoan civilization. Crete has a history of earth tremors. The 1984 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica says in the last 100 years only two major earthquakes have been reported. It was that 48% of the land, that is the valleys and plateaus, were used as grazing land. About 20% of the land is not arable because it is dry and rocky.(BE pg.253) In the 1980 s-90 s,

just like in any other society, there is aa trend away from agriculture and farming and more of more towards a service oriented economy. Therefore a lot of fertile land is definitely not used to the extend it was used under an agrarian oriented society.Over the years in Crete excessive tree and consumption of fuelwood has led to deforestation and the consequence of this erosion. In certain much eroded areas the limestone beneath is clearly visible. This has resulted in a porous surface which does not allow the water to be soaked into the ground but to be drawn into it, thereby, creating pools and seasonal watercourses. The soil has a has a rocky consistency with very little loam and little alluvium. There is noted lack of phosphorous and nitrogen in the soil but it has more potassium and calcium carbonate.( BE pg. 253)Crete s climate varies between tropical and temperate neither hot or cold, depending on the location. Varying temperatures may be observed between the coastal line, inland, and between the lowlands and the mountains. Snowfalls are common in the mountains. Above the 160 feet level, snow covers their peaks. These areas are colder and wetter. In the lowlands the winter is mild. The rainfall increases to about 25 inches from October to March.( BE pg.253) The sea breezes that flow inward maintain the coastal areas at a comfortable level, warm yet breezy. This weather attracts tourists and locals to its coastal beaches. The climate provides other advantages as its the mildness allows for year round production of agricultural products which boost the economy. As mentioned in the Introduction of this essay, Crete is located between Africa and Europe. The location affects its climate especially when "adjust haze often persuades the atmosphere with occasional sirocco winds blasting in from the Sahara."(BE pg.253) The sirocco is a hot, humid wind originating in the Sahara Desert and blowing into Southern Europe. The landscape of Crete is scattered with the ever present Mediterranean scrub, a growth of stunted trees and scrubs. Much of the flora is said to be similar to that of the mainland Peloponnese and Asia Minor.(BE pg. 253) All sectors are important to the Cretan economy. They boost the economy. The farming economy produces olives, citrus fruits and much more and sustains itself with its fruit and vegetables. Most of what is grown is processed and this has become a major export industry.Crete is limited in its energy resources. Its natural resources include talc-a fine grained mineral used in making talcum powder-lignite-a low grade brownish black coal-and gypsum-a white mineral used in the manufacture of plaster of Paris, plaster and some cements.(BE pg.254) CONCLUSION Crete has a diverse geographical landscape. It offers mountain ranges, gorges, ravines, a coastline, arable and barren land. Traditionally, Crete is divided into two regions, the coast and the mountains. Those that live in the interior are dependent on the land those living on the coastal cities concern themselves with urban activities. The climate is pleasant and allows for cultivation of products year round. The archaeological findings have boosted the tourism economy considerably. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1) Crete 2) Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 5 1974 pg.252-255. 3) Greek National Tourism Organization (Brochure)

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