The indigenous name (‘ aiti “mountainous”) preserved in contrast to that of Española, which the discoverer had imposed on it, defines it well, having here not only a territory of the most rugged, but also the one that reaches in the archipelago of the Antilles the maximum height (Loma Tina: 3140 m.).
Exploration. – The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus on 6 December 1492 and baptized by him Española: first beach touched the peninsula of San Nicolò; four days after the Port of the Conception, then the whole northern coast. After one of the ships was wrecked, Columbus built the fort of the Navidad with its timber (December 25), the first Spanish factory in America; the eastern shore of the island is meanwhile explored by the Pinta. In the second expedition, Columbus completed the discovery and also visited large parts of the interior. The foundation of San Domingo on the southern shore dates back to 1496 and was later rebuilt in 1502. The first detailed map of the island is the one included in a copy of the Decades by Pietro Martire d’Anghiera, existing in the university library of Bologna (1518).
Geology and morphology. – Haiti consists of several bundles of folds, oriented in such a way that their genetic relationships with those of the neighboring islands are evident: a long anticline that finds its continuation in the Sierra Maestra of Cuba on one side, on the other in the mountains of Puerto Rico, flanked at N. and S. by other anticlines, arranged in bulk from O. to E.
According to Mathgeneral.com, the southernmost of these connects, beyond the Windward Channel, to the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. The median anticline is also the most conspicuous; with the name of Central Cordillera it crosses the whole of Haiti, from the NW peninsula. to C. Engaño, expanding in correspondence to its central section (Sierra de Cibao, Sierra de Ocoa): confused and not yet well-known complex of mountains and valleys to which the common ancient geological history gives unity. Powerful eruptive formations (diorites, basalts, andesites) are associated with paleozoic crystalline schists, with various metamorphic assizes and above all with cretaceous and clayey limestones, whose local differences in structure are reflected through variety of surface modeling, which do not alter the general character of mature relief, deeply affected by subaerial erosion. The middle area, which takes its name from Cibao (in the indigenous “mountain” language par excellence), is the most rugged and inaccessible. Several peaks exceed 2500 m. (Pico del Yaque 2955 m., Loma del Río Grande 2705 m.) And surmount large high valleys on both sides between which communications are rather difficult. The whole Cordillera is covered upwards by a dense coniferous forest, which only in the eastern section, where the direction of the axis changes even slightly, gives way to the tropical one, often interrupted by meadows and savannas. The heights are decreasing towards the E. and towards the W.; in the northern extremity, however, numerous peaks still exceed 1000 m., and dominate deep furrows, such as that of the Trois Rivières, which divides the Cordillera from the NW peninsula. This
Along the two sides of this mountain range, which can be considered the backbone of the island, there are two large synclines, clearly distinguished by faults, which correspond one to the Yaque del Norte and Yuna valleys, flowing in the opposite direction towards the open Atlantic and the Bay of Samaná respectively, the other to the so-called central plain, whose waters are divided equally between two basins, that of the Artibonite to the NW. and that of the Yaque del Sur, which flows into Neiba Bay: the four most notable rivers of the island. Varying in size and shape, the two depressions reveal contrasting aspects from area to area in relation to the different vegetal mantle. While the savannah and the xerophilous plants occupy the middle and upper basin of the Artibonite and the part of NW. of the northern depression.
The margins of these synclines are represented in the N. by the Northern Cordillera, in the S. by several series of reliefs that the course of the Artibonite divides into three orographically detached masses: the Black Mountain (Morne au Diable, 1550 m.), The Monti of the Mateux (Morne Baptiste, 1575 m.), and the Sierra de Neiba (Loma Barranca, 2285 m.).
In all three of these mountain masses limestones and tertiary schists predominate; the morphology has characteristics of youth that attest to a recent emergence; the average height exceeds or approaches anywhere to 1000 m. A little less high (Loma de Diego Campo, 1220 m.) Is the northern Cordillera, also known as Sierra de Monte Cristi, which extends for 170 km. approximately in the NW-SE direction. from the mouth of the Rio Yaque del Norte to the Samaná peninsula; uplift that also dates from the Cenozoic, but which is subject, as a consequence of the wetter climate, to a more intense degradation.
The southern part of the island, from C. Tiburon to the plain of Azúa, also results from a long alignment of reliefs, running from W to E. with the names of Mornes de la Hotte, Mornes de Boucan-Belier, Monti de la Saddles; rugged region, carved in every direction by the valleys of the streams that descend to the sea: the heights locally exceed 2500 m. (M. de la Selle, 2715 m.) And are maintained in several places around 2000 (Camp Perin in the M. de la Hotte, 2255 m.). The axis of the resulting long, slender peninsula bends towards the SE. south of the Enriquillo Lagoon and the relief widens like a plateau in the squat triangle of the Bahoruco region (700-800 m. on average), still partly unexplored: large block of ancient limestone folded and affected by faults, also with the development of karst phenomena. Between this bundle of reliefs, to which the detached fragment constituting the Isola de la Gonave (M. La Table, 762 m.), Which divides the Gulf of Port-au-Prince in two, is perhaps to be joined, and the massive tertiaries closing the course of the Artibonite, another depression stretches from the gulf itself to the mouth of the Yaque del Sur, which corresponds to an area once invaded by the sea and still partially submerged. The floods of the rivers filled it, leaving a series of closed basins (Laguna Azuey; Laguna di Enriquillo; Laguna Rincón) at varying levels, which the rains sometimes gather in a continuous marsh mirror. The largest, the Enriquillo Lagoon, occupies an area that corresponds roughly to that of Lake Garda (380-400 sq. Km., Depending on the season); its waters tend to drop (44 m. below sea level), while the concentration of salts increases, which exceeds that of the sea by more than 50%. The Lagoon of Enriquillo partially preserves the marine fauna and is affected by the movement of the tide.