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U.S. Virgin Islands (New World)

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United States Virgin Islands
Flag of the United States Virgin Islands.svg Coat of arms of United States Virgin Islands
MottoUnited in Pride and Hope
AnthemVirgin Islands March
Capital
(and largest city)
Charlotte Amalie
Official languages English
Ethnic groups  44% Afro-Caribbean, 43% Caucasian, 5% Puerto Rican, 8% others
Demonym U.S. Virgin Islander
Government Unincorporated, organized territory
 -  Head of State George Allen (R)
 -  Governor Mark Rubio (R)
 -  Lieutenant Governor Jessica Francis (R)
Template:USA Territory
 -  Transfer from Denmark to the United States 31 March 1917 
 -  Transfer from UK to the United States 22 April 1940 
Area
 -  Total 346.36 km2 (202nd)
133.73 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.0
Population
 -  July 2010 estimate 132,448 (191st)
 -  2000 census 132,448 
 -  Density 354/km2 (34th)
916.9/sq mi
GDP (PPP)  estimate
 -  Total
Currency U.S. dollar (USD)
Time zone AST (UTC-4)
 -  Summer (DST) No DST (UTC-4)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .vi and .us
Calling code +1 (spec. +1-340)
This article is about the territory of the United States Virgin Islands. For the British Overseas Territory of the Virgin Islands, see British Virgin Islands. For the archipelago of the Virgin Islands, see Virgin Islands.

The United States Virgin Islands, also called Virgin Islands of the United States is a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.

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 192.73 mi2. As of the 2000 census the population was 108,612.

The main islands have nicknames often used by locals: "Twin City" (St. Croix), "Rock City" (St. Thomas), "Love City" (St. John), and "Small City" (Water Island).

History

The Virgin Islands were originally settled by the Ciboney, Carib, and Arawaks. The islands were named by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493 for Saint Ursula and her virgin followers. Over the next three hundred years, the islands were held by many European powers, including Spain, The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, and Denmark-Norway.

The Danish West India Company settled on Saint Thomas in 1672, on Saint John in 1694, and purchased Saint Croix from France in 1733. The islands became royal Danish colonies in 1754, named the Danish-Westindian islands—De dansk-vestindiske øer in Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries, until the abolition of slavery by Governor Peter von Scholten on July 3, 1848.

The Dutch established a permanent settlement on the island of Tortola by 1648. In 1672, the English captured Tortola from the Dutch, and the British annexation of Anegada and Virgin Gorda followed in 1680. Meanwhile, over the period 1672–1733, the Danish gained control of the nearby islands of St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.

For the remainder of the period of Danish rule, the islands were not economically viable and significant transfers were made from the Danish state budgets to the authorities in the islands. In 1867 a treaty to sell Saint Thomas and Saint John to the United States was agreed, but the sale was never effected. A number of reforms aimed at reviving the islands' economy were attempted, but none had great success. A second draft treaty to sell the islands to the United States was negotiated in 1902 but was narrowly defeated in the Danish parliament.

The British Virgin Islands were considered principally a strategic possession, but were planted when economic conditions were particularly favorable. The British introduced sugar cane which was to become the main crop and source of foreign trade, and slaves were brought from Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations. The islands prospered economically until the middle of the 1800s, when a combination of the abolition of slavery in the Territory, a series of disastrous hurricanes, and the growth in the sugar beet crop in Europe and the United States significantly reduced sugarcane production and led to a period of economic decline.

The onset of World War I brought the reforms to a close and again left the islands isolated and exposed. During the submarine warfare phases of the First World War, the United States, fearing that the islands might be seized by France as a submarine base, again approached Denmark with a view to buying them. After a few months of negotiations, a selling price of $25 million was agreed. At the same time the economics of continued possession weighed heavily on the minds of Danish decision makers, and a bipartisan consensus in favor of selling emerged in the Danish parliament. A subsequent referendum held in late 1916 confirmed the decision to sell by a wide margin. The deal was thus finalized on January 17, 1917, when the United States and Denmark exchanged their respective treaty ratifications. The U.S. took possession of the islands on March 31, 1917 and the territory was renamed the Virgin Islands of the United States.

U.S. citizenship was granted to the inhabitants of the islands in 1927.

The British Virgin Islands were administered variously as part of the British Leeward Islands or with St. Kitts and Nevis, until the onset of World War II, when the British were eager for US aid in their war effort. As part of the US Lend-Lease program, food and materials were transferred to the United Kingdom in exchange for possession of the remaining Virgin Islands. The offer was made in October 1939 by President Roosevelt, but the British refused the offer, only to reconsider it months later when the situation became more desperate. The sale of the islands was made for $20 million plus guaranteed shipments of food and provisions for five battalions for a full year.

Water Island, a small island to the south of Saint Thomas, was initially administered by the U.S. Federal government and did not become a part of the U.S. Virgin Islands territory until 1956, when Template:Convert/acre of land was transferred to the territorial government. The remaining Template:Convert/acre of the island were purchased from the US Department of the Interior in May 2005 for $10, a transaction which marked the official change in jurisdiction.

Geography

Virgin Islands

Map of the U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands are located in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, about 90 miles ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character "[".)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} km) east of Puerto Rico and immediately west of the British Virgin Islands. The territory consists of four main islands: Saint Thomas, Saint John, Saint Croix, and Water Island, as well as several dozen smaller islands. The combined land area of the islands is roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are known for their white sand beaches, including Magens Bay and Trunk Bay, and strategic harbors, including Charlotte Amalie and Christiansted. Most of the islands, including Saint Thomas, are volcanic in origin and hilly. The highest point is Crown Mountain, Saint Thomas (Template:Convert/LoffAonDsSoff). Saint Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, lies to the south and has a flatter terrain. The National Park Service owns more than half of Saint John, nearly all of Hassel Island, and many acres of coral reef. (See also 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.)

The Virgin Islands lie on the boundary of the North American plate and the Caribbean Plate. Natural hazards include earthquakes, tropical cyclones, and hurricanes.

The eastern Virgin Islands comprise around sixty tropical Caribbean islands, ranging in size from the largest, Tortola 20 km (12 mi) long and 5 km (3 mi) wide, to tiny uninhabited islets. The North Atlantic Ocean lies to the north of the islands, and the Caribbean Sea lies to the south. Most of the islands are volcanic in origin and have a hilly, rugged terrain. Anegada is geologically distinct from the rest of the group and is a flat island composed of limestone and coral.

In addition to the four main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke, other islands include:

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