Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Little Virgin Islands History

The Virgin Islands is located at the head of the arc of the chain of islands stretching northward from Trinidad. These islands are known as the Lesser Antilles. They stand on the threshold of the group of larger islands continuing westward that is known as the Greater Antilles.

The Virgin Islands were created for the most part by a great volcanic explosion, and as a result has a rocky, hilly, mountainous terrain. It is amazing that the island of St. Thomas is only 32 square miles and St. John is approximately 19 square miles. The hills and mountains give the islands an appearance of being much larger.

Archaeological discoveries place human inhabitants on the islands as early as 710 BC. The Tanio, Arawak and the Carib (the tribe of Indians from whom the Caribbean takes its name), were some of these early inhabitants and survived by hunting, fishing and practicing agriculture.

MAPes MONDe Collection

The Virgin Islands received its name from Christopher Columbus. When he landed in the Lesser Antilles in 1493, Columbus named the seemingly countless unspoiled islands, cays, and islets, The Virgin islands, after the legendary Ursula and her 11,000 virgin followers.

By 1671, after periods of squabbling and brief occupations by Holland, France, England, Denmark, Knights of Malta, Spain and the Dutch, Denmark emerged victorious and the ruler of St. Thomas. It wasn't long before the expansion minded Danes had also added St. John and St. Croix to their holdings, which effectively united the three major islands.

The Danes ruled the Virgin Islands through a series of Danish governors until 1925 when the islands were sold to America for $25,000,000.

Today, the Danish influence is still evident in its wonderful architecture, and in the names of the streets in Charlotte Amalie, which is the Capital of the Virgin Islands.

Charlotte Amalie, by the way is named after a Danish queen.

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The adventures ... and misadventures of a city slicker turned mellow islander.