It was in the last edition of his collection of travel writing that Purchas used the word atoll.
“Every atoll is separated from others and contains in itself a great multitude of small isles.”
It is recorded by a traveller who had seen the Maldive Islands and used the local word for an island of coral with a lagoon. Today the islands are an upmarket holiday destination with a local population of just over 300,000. The highest point above sea level on the whole group of islands is only 2.4 metres. There are justifiable worries about the islands simply sinking into the ocean forever. However, for those who want to take the risk and also to stay longer, it is even possible to buy an atoll or two on the Maldives. The starting price is USD 3 million and extends up to USD 50 million – quite a lot to pay for one of what Charles Darwin called “circular groups of coral islets” in his book The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs.
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