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36. Maldive Island Atolls
This group of faros — compound atolls with segmented rims — centered on Felidu in the Maldive Islands are strung out across the ocean like a series of smoke rings. Typically, atolls are low coral islets, usually circular or horseshoe-shaped. They encircle a shallow lagoon yet are surrounded by much deeper water. The deep channels, ranging in depth from 200 to 500 meters, divide the faros and promote the development of a variety of complex sea surface features as currents pass through constricted passages.
The necklace pattern of the Maldive coral reefs developed during the Ice Age. When ice sheets covered much of the northern hemisphere, global sea level declined over 100 meters. The carbonate platforms of the Maldives were exposed above the surface and eroded to produce pinnacles along the coral rims and within the broad lagoons. When the ice melted and the ocean rose, individual atolls formed atop these eroded towers.
STS-41C, April 1984. Picture #13-33-1244