Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands

The US Virgin Islands are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are geographically part of the Virgin Islands, but from an insular area of the United States. It consists of four main islands – St John, St Croix, St Thomas and Water Island – and a number of small islands, scattered in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, around 50 miles east of Puerto Rico. The combined land area of all the islands will amount to twice the area of Washington DC. The US Virgin Islands is the only part of the US where a vehicle is RHD. There is one more twist to the entire tale – even though a part of the US, the US Virgin Islands are considered an incorporated territory of the United States, and hence even after being the legal citizens of the US, the Virgin Islanders does not have the right to vote for US Presidential Elections.

History

Here is a bit of history on the US Virgin Islands - The original inhabitants of the islands were the tribes, Carib, Ciboney, and Arawaks. It was Christopher Columbus who christened them "Virgin Islands", after Saint Ursula and her virgin followers, during his second voyage to the American continent in 1493. In the next three hundred odd years, the islands would come under various European powers, and Denmark being the main rulers.

The Danish West India Company settled in St Johns in 1672, and later on St John in 1694, before purchasing St Croix as well from the French in 1733. Subsequently, the islands were declared the Royal Danish Colonies in 1754 and a thriving sugar cane industry fuelled its economy in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

During the World War I, fearing Germany would set up a submarine base in these islands, United States approached Denmark with a request to sell the islands to them. Willingly, or fearing a military action by the US in the event of an emergency, which looked like a good possibility given the political conditions of the then Europe, something one never knew, Denmark agreed for the trade off and subsequently US gained possession of the Danish West Indies by paying $25 million to the Danish government. The inhabitants of the islands were given US citizenship in 1927.

Tourism

The major economic activity of the US Virgin Islands is tourism, even though there are other businesses as well. On the tourism front, the place is renowned for its pristine sandy beaches (for example, Mages Bay and Trunk Bay), coral reefs, restaurants, night clubs, and national parks. That is, for a prospective tourist, whether it is hiking, kayaking, parasailing, underwater trails, SCUBA diving, safari, shopping, or accommodation in the best of seaside villas and cottages, there are more than enough choices to satiate one’s tastes and interests. A piece of advice: Once in the islands, take care not to miss these sites; the Virgin Islands National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, Christiansted National Historic Site, and Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve, to name a few.

On a negative side, as being positioned at the edge of the Caribbean plate and North American plate, the region is prone to earthquakes, and also tsunamis and tropical cyclones.

Transportation

From the US mainland, US Virgin Islands is accessible either through air or sea. In other words, there is no land connection available. The Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas and the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix offers regular connections to the major cities of US. St John and Water Island does not have an airport. Hence in order to reach these islands, one has to get down at St Thomas and take a ferry to the final destination.