An aerial photo of Carrie Bow Cay and the Smithsonian research station looking north with Twin Cays in the background. The Smithsonian’s Carrie Bow Cay Marine Field Station supports research projects of marine scientists year-round. It offers ready access to thousands of small mangrove islands as well as countless patch reefs, vast seagrass meadows, underwater caves, three off-shore atolls, and the Belize mainland.
A cay is an accumulation of debris, in this case shed from a nearby reef and piled up by waves curving around the sides of the reef, slowing down and dropping their sediment loads. You can see the curve of the accumulated debris in the aerial photo below.