Category Archives: Geography Report

Geography Report: Dominica

DominicaMapFlag

Basic Facts

Capital: Roseau
People/Customs: Population is around 71,000, with one third residing in the capital. There are about 3000 native Caribs living in the Calingo reservation area.
Language: English (Locals also use a French Patois when speaking to each other.)
Climate: In the winter the high is around 81°, the low, 72°. In the summer, the high is 86°, the low, 77°. Hurricane Season is from June to November.
Food/Farming: bananas, coconuts, spices, coffee, cacao, citrus, cucumbers, melons, and a variety of tropical fruits are grown for export as well as local use. There is a coconut processing plant on the island which produces oil for cooking and cosmetics.
Government: Dominica is an independent republic within the British Commonwealth.
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar
Art/Music/Culture: Holidays are New Year’s Day, Carnival, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, Whit Monday, August Monday (Emancipation Day), Independence Day, Community Service Day, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. The culture is influenced by the French islands to the north and south.

History

Columbus named the island Dominica in 1493 because he first sighted the island on a Sunday, and in Italian Doménica means Sunday. The Spaniards took little notice of Dominica because there was no gold and the natives defended their island fiercely. In 1635 France attempted to colonize Dominica, but were thwarted by the Caribs. The French and British agreed to leave the island to the natives in 1660, but the French settlers from Guadeloupe and Martinique secretly established coffee plantations on the north end of Dominica. In the 1720’s a French governor came to take official control of the island. For the rest of the 18th century the British and French fought over Dominica until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763, officially giving the island to the British. The Europeans imported slaves from Africa to work the land until emancipation in 1834. Dominica became an associated state in 1967, and in 1978 it gained independence as a republic within British Commonwealth. The economy is now based largely on agriculture and tourism, with the natural beauty of the island a large draw for those who love hiking, waterfalls, and snorkeling/diving.

Land Forms/Flora and Fauna

Dominica is 190 square miles, and has the highest mountains in the eastern Caribbean. Morne Diablotin is 4747 feet high and attracts the rain that creates the 200 rivers on the island. Dominica also has the highest concentration of live volcanoes. Dominica has many tropical rainforest birds and animals, including the “mountain chicken,” a large frog considered to be a delicacy by the locals. Most of Dominica is unspoiled wilderness, earning it the nickname, “the Nature Island.”

Things to do

Hike 16 miles to the largest boiling lake in the world (heated by the magma chambers below), take a river tour and go to the rainforest café, visit waterfalls, and hike or snorkel in Cabrits National Park and visit the old fort. Champagne reef to the south has underwater volcanic vents which create bubbles in the water, as well as warm sulfur springs in Soufriere Bay popular with bathers.

Bibliography

Bendure, Glenda and Ned Friary. “Dominica.” Lonely Planet Guide to the Eastern Caribbean, 2nd Edition. 1998: Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, Australia.

Geography Report: Montserrat

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Basic Facts

Capital: Plymouth
People/Customs: There are currently around 4000 to 5000 inhabitants living on Montserrat. Most are descendants of African slaves, though there are also some Irish (it is sometimes called the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean).
Language: English, sometimes with an Irish accent.
Climate: In the winter the average low is 70°, the average high is 83°. In the summer, the average low is 74°, and the high is 88°. Average annual rainfall is 59 inches. Hurricane season is from June to November.
Food/Farming: Very little produce is now grown on Montserrat because the damage from volcanic eruptions was so severe.
Government: Montserrat is a British Crown Colony managed by a Governor representing the Queen. He supervises the executive council and the legislative council. The economy relies mainly on tourism.
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar.
Art/Music/Culture: George Martin, music publisher for the Beatles, founded a recording studio, called Air Studios, so that famous musicians could come to Monserrat to unwind. After the 1997 eruption, Elton John, Sting, Paul McCartney, and Eric Clapton staged a fund-raising concert in London, raising over $1.5 million for housing and relocation in Montserrat. Holidays celebrated are New Year’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Labor Day, Whit Monday, Queen’s Birthday, August Monday (Emancipation Day), Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and Festival Day.

History

When Columbus first sighted this island in 1493, he named it Montserrat because the terrain reminded him of the Monastery of Montserrat near Barcelona, Spain. The first settlers here were Irish Catholics moving away from Protestant rule on St. Kitts. In 1632 more immigrants arrived from the New World Colonies and Europe. Sugar cane was thriving, but the managers of plantations needed more workers, so over the next century they imported thousands of African slaves. A slave-based economy developed on Montserrat as on the other British territories in the West Indies. When slavery was abolished in 1834, most of the plantations were abandoned. Some were taken over by small farmers who planted lime trees, but eventually deteriorated. Britain had had almost continuous control of Montserrat, except for a while in 1665, when France made a bid for the Island, but the Treaty of Paris gave it to Britain permanently. Montserrat has remained a Crown Colony since.

Land forms/Flora and Fauna

One of the defining features of Montserrat is a volcano that dominates the whole southern half of the island. The Soufrière Hills volcano erupted in July of 1995, causing the inhabitants of the capital city, Plymouth, to evacuate the most populated area on the island. Salem became the temporary capital while ash was shoveled off the buildings. Volcanologists from the United States and the United Kingdom provided information on where it would be safe to live. The temptation of rich volcanic soil lured farmers into exclusion zones, and when the volcano erupted a second time, 19 people were killed. Over 50 were air-lifted by helicopters to hospitals in Guadeloupe and Martinique. Even the Montserrat Volcano Observatory had to be moved to a safer location. Then, in August 1997, the Soufrière Hills volcano came to life a third time, covering Plymouth in pyroclastic flow, burning and destroying around 80󠇯 percent of the buildings. The capital will probably never be safe again.

The Flora of Monserrat includes rainforests, fern forests, and of course, lots and lots of mango trees. The animals on this island are mainly comprised of iguanas, agouti, crapaud frogs, 7 kinds of bats, and many species of tropical birds.

Things to do

Visit the MVO (Monserrat Volcano Observatory), take a taxi tour of the island to view the destruction from the volcano, go to the beach or go snorkeling.

Bibliography

Bendure, Glenda and Ned Friary. “Montserrat.” Lonely Planet Guide to the Eastern Caribbean, 2nd Edition. 1998: Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, Australia.

Geography Report: St. Kitts and Nevis

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Basic Facts

Capital: Basseterre, St. Kitts
People/Customs: The population on St. Kitts and Nevis combined is around 45,000, 90 percent of which are descendants of African slaves.
Language: English
Climate: In January the daily high temperature is 81°, and the low is around 72°. In July the average daily high is 86°, while the low averages 76°. Hurricane (rainy) season is June to November.
Food/Farming: Tropical fruits and vegetables as well as sugar cane are grown on the larger island of St. Kitts, but there is no sugar cane grown on Nevis anymore, only some fruits and vegetables for local use.
Government: The St. Kitts & Nevis Federation is an independent state in the British Commonwealth and is the smallest nation in the western hemisphere. It has a Governor-General, a National Assembly (legislature) and a Prime Minister. The economy relies heavily on tourism, but some local fruits and vegetables are grown.
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar.
Art/Music/Culture: The culture of this island is a mix European, African, and West Indian traditions. Most islanders are Anglican. St. Kitts has a popular dance troupe, the Masquerades.

History

The first British colony was established on St. Kitts (short for St. Christopher) in 1623 by Thomas Warner. France took over part of the island, and the British and French together exterminated all of the Carib tribes living there, before Britain ousted the French from their territory. The French repeatedly took control of the island, only to have it taken back again by the British until the 1783 Treaty of Paris declared St. Kitts and Nevis to be under British authority for good. During that time sugar plantations were very prosperous. In 1816 Britain attempted to link the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and St. Kitts and Nevis into one colony, calling it the West Indies Federation. The federation collapsed, and Britain tried to rebuild it without the Virgin Islands. Anguilla rebelled against the alliance and succeeded in retaining its connection with Great Britain, while St. Kitts and Nevis became a federated state inside the commonwealth.

Land Forms/Flora and Fauna

Both islands are volcanic, with grassy coastlines and rainforest interiors. Nevis has hot springs, a freshwater spring that is heated by geothermal vents from the volcano. Nevis is famous for its monkeys, and St. Kitts is also populated with numerous goats and chickens. Tropical trees such as mango and cashew grow abundantly on the islands, as well as the bright orange “flamboyant” or flame tree.

Things to do

St. Kitts is a populous island with many options for tourists, including hiking, taxi tours and an old British fort. It is a cruise ship port with a shopping district, water sports, and catamaran cruises. Nevis is quieter, with nice beaches, beach bars, and a few nice resorts. The first hotel in the Caribbean opened in Nevis in the 18th century, near the hot springs, which were reputed to be good for the health. The hotel, made of volcanic stone, now houses government offices, but one can still go and bathe in the hot springs, some of which reach 117°F. There are two museums in Nevis, one of which is the birthplace of American statesman Alexander Hamilton; the other is dedicated to Lord Horatio Nelson, whose wife, Fanny Nisbett, was the governor’s niece (her family’s sugar plantation is on the windward side of the island). Two of Nevis’ old sugar plantations were renovated and made into upscale hotels with restaurants and beautiful gardens. These sights can all be seen on a taxi tour of the island.

Bibliography

Bendure, Glenda and Ned Friary. “St. Kitts and Nevis.” Lonely Planet Guide to the Eastern Caribbean, 2nd Edition. 1998: Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, Australia.

Geography Report: Sint Eustatius (Statia)

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Basic Facts

Capital: Oranjestad
People/Customs: The approximate population on St. Eustatia is around 1200, largely descendants of slaves that worked on the plantations here. The metric system is used on St. Eustatia.
Language: Dutch is the official language, but English is most commonly spoken.
Climate: In January the average daily temperature is around 85°, while in July the average daily temperature is 90°. Hurricane season is June to December.
Food/Farming: Tropical fruits grown here include breadfruit, guava, mango, papaya, passionfruit, pineapple, soursop, plantain, starfruit, and tamarind.
Government: Statia is a part of the Dutch Kingdom and one of the 5 islands in the Caribbean Netherlands (formerly the Netherlands Antilles).
Currency: the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (about $2.7 U.S)
Art/Music/Culture: Public holidays on Statia are New Year’s day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Queen’s Day, Labor Day, Ascension Thursday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day.

History

When Columbus found the island the natives called “Alo” (meaning cashew) he named it after St. Anastasia. The first permanent settlement was made by the Dutch in 1636, but the Dutch, French, and British traded control of the island 22 times. Statia is currently in Dutch possession. In the 18th century the duty-free port became a major trade center between Europe and America, exporting and importing molasses, slaves, supplies for colonies, and weapons. By the 1770s it was the busiest port in the world for legal and illegal cargoes, and an estimated 300 ships passed through the port per month. Statia recognized the newly created United States by shipping war supplies and returning cannon salutes. The British, angered by this alliance, retaliated by launching a naval attack on Statia that effectively ended its trade dominance. Today, St. Eustatius’ economy is based on fishing, small business, tourism, and oil storage and shipment. Though it is no longer “The Golden Rock of the Caribbean,” Statia’s natural beauty and rich history make it an interesting place to visit.

Land Forms/Flora and Fauna

The vegetation here is mostly scrubby, with drought-resistant plants like the endemic Statia Morning Glory Vine. The slopes and crater of the Quill, an extinct ash volcano, offer a variety of plants such as orchids, elephant ears, bromeliads, bananas, and other rainforest species. There are reptiles such as the Antillean Iguana, Green Tree Lizard, and the Red-bellied Racer snake. Statia is a migratory bird stopover for over 100 species, and has year-round residents, like the Killy Killy (American Kestral), Antillean Crested Hummingbird, and the Bananaquit.

Things to Do

Hiking Trails (in the Quill National Park and Boven National Park), Scuba Diving, Botanical Garden, walk through Historic Oranjestad (Colonial sites/Fort), Visit the Simon Doncker House Historical Museum.

Bibliography

Bendure, Glenda and Ned Friary. Lonely Planet Guide to the Eastern Caribbean. 1998: Lonely Planet Publications, Hawthorn, Australia.
“Caribbean Islands: Netherlands Antilles.” Random House World Atlas and Encyclopedia. 2007: Random House Reference, NY, NY.
Madden, Hannah. The Hiker’s Guide to the Quill/Boven National Park, St. Eustasius. 2009: Stenapa, St.Eustasius.

 

Geography Report: Anguilla

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Basic Facts

Capital: The Valley
People/Customs: Approximately 14,000 people populate the island of Anguilla, most are the descendants of African slaves, but there are a few of Irish descent. Anguilla receives almost 180,000 visitors each year.
Language: English
Climate: Average annual temperature is 81°, average annual rainfall is 35 inches.
Food/Farming: Used to export tobacco, cotton, and salt. A few local farms provide fresh produce to the restaurants, and there is some fishing and lobstering.
Government: Anguilla is a British dependency and has a governor appointed by the queen.
Currency: East Caribbean dollar or US dollar
Art/Music/Culture: Typical West Indian culture with a blend of African and British influences. Because of their dependence on the sea, they are known for their boatbuilding and racing. These churches can be found on Anguilla: Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Baptist, Jehovah’s Witness, and Church of God. Holidays include the Annual Yacht Regatta in May, the Queen’s Birthday in June, and the Summer Festival the first week of August (Emancipation is celebrated on the first Monday in August, “J’Ouvert”).

History

Anguilla was populated by Amerindians about 3500 years ago, first by Arawaks, and later by Caribs. When the Spanish Explorers discovered this island they named it Anguilla, which means “eel” in Spanish, possibly because of its elongated shape. The first successful European colonizing attempt was made by the British in 1650. It has been a Crown Colony ever since, though England has thwarted a few French attempts to take control of the island. A plantation economy failed to develop here because of the arid climate, though there were some slaves imported to work the farms and salt ponds.

The early 1800s brought with it change and decline for Anguilla, which the British attempted to prevent by grouping it in with the combined colonies of St. Kitts and Nevis to make an associated state of the Caribbean. Anguilla viewed the effort as subjugation under the more influential St. Kitts, and revolted. They pushed St. Kitts police off the Island, and Britain, still commanding control of the three islands and apprehensive that the rebellion would lead to bloodshed, continued to try to reach a solution for two years. Britain finally agreed to drop the notion and leave Anguilla as a dependency. There were no fatalities throughout the entire ordeal.

Today, Anguilla is considered a tourist destination because of its upscale resorts, restaurants, and white-sand beaches, however, it does not have a cruise ship port or any marinas, like its busier and more-popular neighbor, St. Martin. Many people come here to have a quiet beach vacation.

Land Forms/Flora and Fauna

Anguilla is dry and hilly, most of the grass is overgrazed by the free-range goats that roam the island. Sea Grapes and Coconut Palms are abundant. Eighty species of birds can be found in Anguilla, including the bananquit and the green Antillean crested hummingbird.

Things to do

Take the ferry out to Sandy Island, visit some of the best beaches in the Caribbean (Rendezvous beach is #2 in the Caribbean), Scuba dive, go to Blanchard’s Beach Shack in Meads Bay or Roy’s Beach Bar and Grill in Sandy Ground, enjoy fine dining at Ripples or Veya (near Sandy Ground), rent a car and drive the island.

Bibliography

“Anguilla.” Random House World Atlas and Encyclopedia. 2007: Random House, New York.
Bendure, Glenda and Ned Friary. Lonely Planet Guide to the Eastern Caribbean, 2nd Edition. 1998: Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, Australia.
Hodge, Clemvio, Editor and Goerge and Selma Hodge, Founding Publishers. We Are What We Do in Anguilla: Official Island Guide, 2016.

Geography Report: The Virgin Islands

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Basic Facts

Islands belonging to the US: St. John, St. Thomas, St. Croix
Islands belonging to the UK: Tortola, The Channel Islands, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Jost Van Dyke
People/Customs: The islands are populated with the descendants of freed slaves. They are a tourist destination, especially for people chartering sailboats. All vehicles are driven on the left side of the road in the BVI.
Language: English
Climate: Rainy season (and hurricanes) from June to November, Dry Season December to May. Trade winds (prevailing from the East) all year, but heavier in the fall and winter and calmer in the spring and early summer.
Food/Farming: Sugar cane, tobacco, chickens, and tropical fruit like passion fruit, sugar apples, star fruit, mangoes, guava, papaya, soursop, yenip, sea grapes, tamarind, and goose berries.
Government: USVI are Non-Self-Governing territories purchased from the Kingdom of Denmark, BVI are Overseas British Territories, though not part of the European Union.
Currency: U.S. dollars accepted everywhere
Art/Music/Culture: Popular music and dance in the Virgin Islands are heritage dances, calypso, reggae, salsa, soca, and hip-hop; culture has influences from the French, Dutch, African, American, Danish, and Indian people.

History

The first inhabitants of the Virgin Islands were the native Ciboney, Arawak, and Carib tribes. The Carib people were cannibalistic, and were avoided and feared by the other tribes. Some words adapted from the Native American languages were canoe, tobacco, barbecue, potato, hurricane, and cannibal. Christopher Columbus discovered these islands in 1493 on his second voyage to the new world. He claimed the islands for Portugal, and seeing how many there were, named them for the martyred St. Ursula and the 11,000 virgins. From Columbus’ vantage point on the water, one island may have looked like a fat woman, earning it the name Virgin Gorda.

As more people came to the Virgin Islands, theft, smuggling, and piracy evolved. All were after a piece of Spain’s wealth, mostly gold taken from South and Central America. Sir Walter Raleigh raided Spanish settlements, and the channel south of Tortola is named for his cousin, the famous explorer/privateer Sir Francis Drake. Infamous pirates who roamed the waters of the Virgin Islands include Henry Morgan, Calico Jack and Anne Bonny, Bartholomew Roberts, and Edward Teach (Blackbeard).

As population increased, the Carib natives became more of a problem for the obvious reasons of their love for fighting and cannibalism. There was contention up until the 19th century, when there was a small war between the Caribs and the British. The natives, unable to form a sustainable slave labor force, were replaced with slaves imported from Africa, who harvested sugar cane for export and rum production. To this day, the inhabitants of the islands are primarily the descendants of freed slaves.

European nations were not the only ones interested in the Virgin Islands, however. Wanting them for military outposts to keep an eye on the passages to the Panama Canal and North America, The United States bought St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix from Denmark for $25,000,000 in 1917. The teetering island economy began to get stronger in the beginning of the 20th century with the tourist influx brought by the good weather and beautiful water. With the help of the charter-boat industry, marinas, and resorts, the Virgin Islands are now a major vacation hot-spot.

Land Forms/Flora and Fauna

The highest point is Crown Mountain, at 1,552 feet in St. Thomas; the lowest island is Anegada to the north. There is some tropical rain forest scattered throughout the islands. Many kinds of tropical fruit grow on the trees. The islands are home to many species of sea birds, tropical fish, coral, sharks, crustaceans, and turtles.

Things to do

Tortola has the Trellis Bay full-moon party, Mount Healthy hike, Bluewater Divers for diving reefs and wrecks, and Cane Garden Bay for beach and restaurants. In the Channel Islands, Salt Island has salt ponds and the Wreck of the Rhone, Norman Island has caves, Peter Island has beaches and snorkeling. Virgin Gorda has the Baths (unusual rock formations) and a sheltered bay to the north. Jost Van Dyke has The Bubbly Pool and Sandy Spit. St. John has the Coral Reef National Monument and the Annaberg Sugar Plantation. Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas has shopping and Fort Christian.

Bibliography

Scott, Nancy and Simon. The Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands, 17th Ed. 2014: Cruising Guide Publications, Dunedin, FL.

Geography Report: Puerto Rico

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Basic Facts

Capital: San Juan
People/Customs: Population 3.5 million, with over 1,147 people per square mile. Puerto Rico does not have its own Major League baseball team, but over 200 famous baseball players came from Puerto Rico to play in the U.S. The people, culture and food are a unique mixture of Spanish, Indian and African.
Language: Spanish/English
Climate: Tropical, with an average temperature of 85°F in July and 80°F in January. Average yearly precipitation: 50 in. Hurricane season June-December.
Food/Farming: sugar cane, coffee, bananas and plantains, mangos, passion fruit, papayas, cattle, tobacco, fish, shellfish, dairy, poultry, salt, and rum.
Government: Puerto Rico is a commonwealth in association with the United States, and the people are U.S. citizens, however, they do not pay federal income taxes and do not vote in U.S. Presidential elections. It is self-governing with an elected governor and a legislature with a house of representatives and a senate.
Currency: Puerto Rico uses the American dollar
Art/Music/Culture: People in Puerto Rico often dance to music at festivals, including Bomba, Plena, and Salsa. Festivals and holidays include: Carnival (February) , Coffee Harvest Festival (February), Orange Festival (March), Dulce Sueño Paso Fino Horse Show (March), Emancipation Day (March), Casals Festival (June), Bomba y Plena Festival (June), Aibonito Flower Festival (June), San Juan Bautista Day (July), Barranquitas Artisans Fair (July), Loíza Festival (July), Festival of Santiago Apóstal (September), International Billfish Tournament (September), Inter-American Festival of the Arts (October), Columbus day (October),  Puerto Rican Music Festival (November), Jayuya Indian Festival (November), Discovery Day (December), Hatillo Festival of the Masks (December).

History

In 1493, on his second voyage to the New World, Columbus landed in Puerto Rico, where he and his conquistadors proceeded to harass and enslave the Taínos, the natives to the island, when they could not lead him to the gold that the Spaniards were looking for. In 1509, Juan Ponce De León was selected to be Puerto Rico’s first Spanish colonial governor. His bones lie in Old San Juan today.

‘Puerto Rico’ is Spanish for ‘rich port.’ This was certainly true in the 16th and 17th centuries, when Spain used the island as a re-stocking port to and from the shores of south and central America, where it plundered Aztec and Inca gold and shipped it home. Puerto Rico was a popular spot with pirates, as well, also looking for a “piece of the pie,” so to speak. Later, sugar cane plantations produced another kind of gold: liquid gold in the form of rum. With the end of slavery in 1873, the trade in sugar, slaves and rum ended.

American troops invaded Puerto Rico in July of 1898 during the Spanish-American War. In the Treaty of Paris, Puerto Rico was ceded to the U.S. To this day, it retains its commonwealth status, won by the first elected governor, Luis Munoz Marin in 1951; it is part of the United States and yet independently-governed, uniquely Caribbean with Spanish and African roots. Today, Puerto Rico’s economy is based not on agriculture, but on tourism and manufacturing. Many large American businesses, which relocated to the island to receive tax breaks, left when the tax breaks ended. Puerto Rican debt has ballooned, and the island is in the middle of a decade-long economic recession. Because it is neither a state nor an independent nation, its fate lies in the hands of decision-makers in Washington D.C.

Land Forms/Flora and Fauna

Puerto Rico is mountainous, with the northern half of the island lush and green, and the southern half more arid with grassland. It is covered largely by tropical rain forest, and is home to 56 endangered species. The coqui is a small tree frog that makes a distinctive sound and is unique to Puerto Rico. The highest point on Puerto Rico is on Cerro de Punta, over 3,800 feet above sea level.

Things To Do

Luis A. Ferré Science Museum, Caparra Ruins, Castillo de San Cristóbal, Museum of the Americas, Pablo Casals Museum, Roberto Clemente Coliseum, Muñoz Rivera Park, Museo de Doña Fela, Arecibo Observatory, Parroquia del Espíritu Santo y San Patricio, Luquillo Beach, Culebra Natural Wildlife Refuge, Casa Cautiño Museum, El Faro, Caja de Muertos Nature Reserve, Church of San Blas de Illescas of Coamo, Coamo Historic Museum, La Parguera Phosphorescent Bay, Guánica Dry Forest, Ponce Museum of Art, Hacienda Buena Vista, Parque de Bombas, Birthplace of Luis Muñoz Rivera, Montoso Gardens, Caguana Ceremonial Ball Courts Site, Toro Negro Forest Reserve, Parque de Diversiones el Castillo, Church of San Germán Historic District, Iglesia de Porta Coeli, Los Morillos Lighthouse, Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, Rio Camuy Cave Park, Juan A. Rivero Zoo, Mona Island, Yague Theater, Ricón Lighthouse Observation Park, El Yunque National Forest, Viejo San Juan, Casa Bacardi Rum Tour.

Bibliography

Pavlidis, Stephen J. A Cruising Guide to Puerto Rico. 2015: Seaworthy Publications, Cocoa Beach, FL.

Stille, Darlene. Puerto Rico. 2009: Children’s Press, New York.

Geography Report: Bahamas

This is the first entry of a new series of posts based on my independent homeschool project for the year. For every new country we visit, I will be writing about geography, history, people, nature, and fun things to do.

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Basic Facts

Capital: Nassau
People/Customs: population is 29,000, mostly descendants of Loyalists and their slaves
Language: English
Religion: Christian
Food/Farming: most of the Bahamas are not ideal for agricultural opportunities
Government: Constitutional parliamentary democracy, independent from England since 1973
Currency: Bahamian dollar
Art/Music/Culture: The Junkanoo is a popular Bahamian holiday occurring on Boxing Day (Dec 26) and New Year’s Day. Bahamians are famous for their basket weaving, which can be found at straw markets. Rake n’ Scrapes feature loud music and dancing.
Area: 5,358 sq. mi.

History

The first inhabitants of the Bahamas were the Siboney people, a peaceful fishing tribe, but not much is known about them. The name Siboney means “cave dweller”, and some evidence has been found in caves throughout the Exumas. The Lucayans were also natives of the Bahamas, though in a later period. The Lucayans were part of a tribe called Arawak, which means “meat eater”. They survived mainly on fish and plants, eating some hutia. When Columbus arrived in 1492, the “Indians” were very hospitable towards him and his men. The Europeans thought the Lucayans were simple and had no religion and would be easily turned toward Christianity. They were wrong, though, as the Lucayans had a very sophisticated creed involving gods, an afterlife, and many spirits they called “zemis.” When the Spanish explorers could not find the gold they were looking for, they began enslaving natives and treating them cruelly. As a result of these antics, the entire civilization was destroyed by 1520.

The English started settling Eleuthera and New Providence and in the 17th and 18th centuries, and Bahamians began to salvage goods from wrecked ships going to and from Europe. The Spanish then started to steal Bahamian ships and take prisoners. In retaliation, the Bahamian governor commissioned privateers to keep the Spanish out of Bahamian waters. Captains of ships found ways to avoid the wreckers and became more skilled in navigating around reefs. Buccaneers were meat farmers who sold meat and other goods to sailors passing by Hispaniola, but the Spanish disposed of them because they needed supply ships to go back to Europe. The Jamaicans were annoyed by the amount of French ships surrounding them and attacked, doing severe damage, and the English came to help the Jamaicans. The English started calling their own people “pirates.” By 1713 there were at least 1,000 active pirates in the Exumas alone.

The 1765 Stamp Act was the beginning of the end of the British colonial era. During the American Revolutionary period, 20% of the American population was loyal to Great Brittan and hostile to the American cause. They were called Tories. Tories were ostracized, lost land and businesses and were sometimes killed. When the treaty of Versailles was signed, the Bahamas went back to England and Florida went to Spain. Lured by rumors of commerce and agriculture, many Loyalists moved to the Bahamas, bringing their slaves. The abolition of slavery ended cheap labor and the plantation lifestyle; slaves became farmers and fishermen, and worked in the salt industry. During the Civil War, steamships became popular transportation options for the wealthy, and the wealthy were numerous, because the blockade running of the 1860’s was a lucrative, if dangerous, source of income for Bahamians.

There was a post-Civil war depression caused by the crash in the economy from the end of the war, but soon steamships were operating regularly between Nassau and Florida. The Development Board was charged with increasing tourism in 1914, but the main industry after WWI was bootlegging during the Pohibition period in the U.S. Tourism thrived again after WWII, because of the advent of air travel. After the Bahamas achieved independence on July 10, 1973, there was an influx of money from a new source. Marijuana and cocaine for the American market was smuggled through the Bahamas. There was a DEA raid on Norman’s Cay in 1979, because Carlos Lehder was smuggling Medellin Cartel cocaine from South America into Florida and Georgia. The Bahamas now has a flourishing industry in tourism and real estate development, as warm breezes and clear turquoise waters attract people from all over the globe.

Land Forms/Flora and Fauna

Most of the islands are limestone (from ancient reefs), scrubby with salt-resistant plants like palms, mangroves, sea purslane, and casuarinas. Common animals are dolphins, sharks, rays, crabs, lobster, eels, reef fish, barracuda, mollusks, lobster, conch, coral, echinoderms, rock iguanas, sea birds, and hutia (a large native rodent), turtles, jelly fish, and swimming pigs.

Things To Do

Snorkel, dive, hike, explore, swim, and fish.

Bibliography

Pavlidis, Stephen J. The Exuma Guide, 3rd Edition. 2015: Seaworthy Publications, Cocoa Beach, FL. Random House World Atlas and Encyclopedia. 2007: Random House Reference, NY, NY.