The island known today as Santo Domingo, was called Haiti by it's first inhabitants of the West and Central areas, and Quisqueya in the east*. In 1492 Christopher Columbus baptized it as La Española (Hispaniola). It is part of the arc of the Antilles with an area of approximately 77,000 km2; the island is presently divided into two countries, the Dominican Republic with 48,442 km2 and the Republic of Haiti with 27,750 km2.
Its present geological characteristics belong to the Quaternary Period, which finalized its definition in the Holocene period (approximately 14,000 years).
The island is crisscrossed by mountain ranges separated by trenches and defined as follows:
1. The Cordillera Septentrional o Sierra de Monte Cristi – this chain emerges in the province of Monte Cristi and ends in the swamps of the Gran Estero, before the Samana peninsula.
2. La Fosa del Cibao – starts in the low lands near the Manzanillo bay and ends in the Samana Bay, encompassing the valleys of the Yaque and Yuna rivers.
3. Cordillera Central – this chain is the main mass of the north of the island and Haiti, and is the most important mountain chain in the Antilles. It's highest peak, and of all the Caribbean, is the Pico Duarte with 3,175 meters high (10,416.67 feet). It crosses the island from west to east, delimitating most of its valleys and plains; it is the source of countless rivers and streams, many of which are now extinct.
4. Fosa de Enriquillo – extends along a huge valley from the Neiba bay in Dominican territory, to the Port au Prince bay in Haiti.
5. La Sierra de Bahoruco – forms part of the mountain chain that crosses the southern part of the island.
6. La Sierra de Neiba – separates from the Cordillera Central by the San Juan valley and from the Sierra de Bahoruco by the Neiba valley.
7. La Cordillera Oriental – a group of chains that extend from the Cotui region to the northwest area of Higuey. These mountain chains divide the island in abundant and fertile valleys, and the variation of altitudes causes a variety of micro-climates, from the very tropical to the very cold.
The island's primary water sources are:
a) The Yaque del Norte River – that flows to the Atlantic Ocean after traveling around 308 km (191.382 miles).
b) The Yuna River – which flows into the Samana bay, receiving water from at least 8 sources and traveling 200 km (124.274 miles).
c) The Yaque del Sur River – receives water from four sources and flows into the Neiba bay.
d) The Artibonito River – receives waters from four sources and flows into the Gulf of Leogane, Haiti.
e) The Ozama River – with two sources flows into the Caribbean Sea.
Chapter I Bibliography
*See map of the Dominican Republic in the 1631 Mercator-Hondius Atlas. national Geographic Institute, Brussels, Belgium.