The Virgin Islands

Friday, 21 October 2011 - 01:58 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General
Reading Time:  10 minutes

Saint Thomas Harbor © Calyponte

Saint Thomas Harbor © Calyponte

The Virgin Islands of the United States (commonly called the United States Virgin Islands or U.S. Virgin Islands) are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, along with the much smaller but historically distinct Water Island, and many other surrounding minor islands. The total land area of the territory is 133.73 square miles (346.4 km2). As of the 2000 census the population was 108,612, mostly composed by those of Afro-Caribbean descent. Tourism is the primary economic activity, although there is a significant manufacturing sector. Formerly the Danish West Indies, they were sold to the United States by Denmark in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies of 1916. Today tourism is the primary economic activity. The islands normally host 2 million visitors a year, many of whom visit on cruise ships.

The National Park Service owns more than half of Saint John, nearly all of Hassel Island, and many acres of coral reef to create the Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Christiansted National Historic Site, and Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve.

SAINT THOMAS



Located on the island is the territorial capital and port of Charlotte Amalie. As of the 2000 census, the population of Saint Thomas was 51,181 about 47% of the US Virgin Island total.

As the islands were poorly managed by the Danish, a local islander, David Hamilton Jackson, was instrumental in persuading the Danish to allow the USA to purchase the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. In 1915, he traveled to Denmark and convinced the King of Denmark to allow freedom of the press in the islands. He began the first newspaper in the islands known as The Herald. After this, he organized labor unions among the islanders for better working conditions. The islands now have an annual celebration to honor the legacy of David Hamilton Jackson.

U.S. citizenship was granted to the residents in 1927. The U.S. Department of the Interior took over administrative duties in 1931. American forces were based on the island during the Second World War. In 1954, passage of the U.S. Virgin Islands Organic Act officially granted territorial status to the three islands, and allowed for the formation of a local senate with politics dominated by the American Republican and Democratic parties. Full home rule was achieved in 1970.

The post-war era also saw the rise of tourism on the island. With relatively cheap air travel and the American embargo on Cuba, the numbers of visitors greatly increased. Despite natural disasters such as Hurricane Hugo (1989) and Hurricanes Luis and Marilyn (1995), the island’s infrastructure continues to improve as the flow of visitors continues.

SAINT JOHN



St. John is well known for its well-preserved natural beauty and attractive beaches. Restricted development and preservation in St. John contrasts heavily with such adjacent and overdeveloped islands as St. Thomas and St. Maarten. St. John is an exclusive travel and honeymoon destination with several resorts and one of the top ten beaches in the world. It is also considered to be the wealthiest and most expensive of the U.S. Virgin Islands, attracting a high level of affluent tourists. The island’s high level of affluence has earned it the distinction of being the “Beverly Hills of the Caribbean”. Where St. John is developed, the establishments are posh and upscale; adding to the island’s ever increasing sense of exclusivity. Dining options are abundant with various types of cuisines to choose from. Tourists enjoy picturesque hills dotted with opulent villas of the wealthy and elite. Cruz Bay on the western coast of the island is St. John’s principal port. From there, a ferry operates throughout the day to and from Charlotte Amalie and Red Hook in St. Thomas. It is also home to (among other things) car rental locations, several restaurants, a supermarket,and possibly a day charter of which the three main ones are Mongoose Junction, the Marketplace, and Wharfside Village. Coral Bay on the eastern side of the island is the other (smaller) town on St. John, and offers some of the same amenities.

Most of St. John is National Park land, so most of the island is undeveloped. Some of the most popular beaches in the Caribbean are located along the island’s north shore. The most spectacular and well-known of these is Trunk Bay, which has consistently been voted one of the “Ten Best Beaches in The World” by Condé Nast Traveler magazine and has received similar recognition from other publications. Since the beaches are on National Park land, they are all open to the public and are free of hotels or resorts. A notable exception is the Caneel Bay resort on the north shore, which lies on Rockefeller’s former personal estate. The remaining coastal land, mostly in the north and in the east, is private property, and contains many secluded private villas and cottages.

The main export of St. John used to be sugar cane, which was produced in great quantity using African and Indian slave labor. However, this industry all but fell apart in the 19th century after the island’s slaves were given their freedom. The economy of St. John is now almost entirely founded on tourism and tourism-related industries, real estate development, guest houses, and hotels.

SAINT CROIX



There are two towns on the island; Christiansted with a 2004 population of 3,000 and Frederiksted with a 2004 population of 830. The total population of the island is about 60,000. The official 2000 census count was 53,234, living on a land area of 214.66 km² (82.88 sq mi). Inhabitants are called Crucians and English is the most common language.

Fort Christiansvaern built in 1749 and other buildings are maintained by the National Park Service as the Christiansted National Historic Site.

Buck Island Reef National Monument preserves a 176 acre (71 ha) island just north of Saint Croix and the surrounding reefs. This is a popular destination for snorkelers. Buck Island maintains a U.S. Coast Guard weather station and is also home to a student monitored lemon shark breeding ground. Green Cay (pronounced green key) is a small island located southwest of Buck Island and also hosts a nearby reef popular among scuba divers and snorkelists, Tamarind Reef. A small dive shack on Tamarind Beach, near a resort and bar named the “Deep End” provides snorkels and fins to prospective divers. As well, the reef is often marked with floating buoys in order to help guide inexperienced divers along the underwater terrain.

There are several scuba diving companies operating from Christiansted. Off the north coast of the island, there are many good destinations for diving, featuring scenic coral reefs, clear water, and abundant tropical fish and migrant sea turtles. Prominent among these are Cane and Divi bays along with Long reef which encompasses a large portion of the northern side of the island. Cane Bay is a popular destination for scuba enthusiasts due to the fact that just a few hundred meters off shore the topography makes a sudden drop into a deep underwater trench. The reef also serves as a natural barrier against sharks and jellyfish. However around other portions of the island, notably Frederiksted, hammerhead and tiger sharks can be seen. Shark attacks on the island are very rare.

St. Croix, like many other Caribbean islands, has tourism as one of its main sources of revenue. However, there are a number of other industries on the island to help support the economy. St. Croix was once an agricultural powerhouse in the Caribbean, but ended with the rapid industrialization of the island’s economy in the 1960s.

Read more on United States Virgin Islands, Visit U.S. Virgin Islands, Wikivoyage Saint John, Wikipedia Saint John, Wikivoyage Saint Croix, Wikipedia Saint Croix, Wikivoyage Saint Thomas, Wikipedia Saint Thomas and Wikipedia United States Virgin Islands. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organisations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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