United States Virgin Islands

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The United States Virgin Islands is a group of islands in the Caribbean that is a dependency of the United States. These islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands are made up of the four main islands of St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Water Island and many smaller islands. They are the only U.S. territory where traffic drives on the left.

In Denmark, they are also referred to as The Former Danish West Indian Islands(De tidligere Dansk Vestindiske Øer).

United States Virgin Islands
Flag of the United States Virgin Islands Seal of the United States Virgin Islands
(In detail) (In detail)
National motto: "United in Pride and Hope"
Official language English
Capital Charlotte Amalie
Chief of state George W. Bush
Governor Charles Wesley Turnbull
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked N/A
352 km²
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked N/A
124,778 (July 2003 est.)
Independence none (territory of the USA), Revised Organic Act of 22 July 1954
Currency U.S. dollar (USD)
Time zone UTC-4 (no DST)
National anthem Virgin Islands March
Internet TLD .vi
Calling Code 1-340



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, England, Netherlands, France, the Knights of Malta, and Denmark.

The Danish West India Company settled on Saint Thomas in 1672, on Saint John in 1694, and purchased Saint Croix from the French in 1733. The islands became royal Danish colonies in 1754, their name in Danish translating as Jomfruøerne. 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.

During the submarine warfare phases of the First World War, the USA, fearing that the islands might be seized by Germany as a submarine base, approached Denmark to sell the islands to the USA. On January 17, 1917, the United States bought the Danish West Indies for $25 million and took possession of the islands on March 31. The Danish Crown may have felt pressure to accept the sale, thinking that the USA would seize the islands, if Denmark was invaded by Germany. U.S. citizenship was later granted to the inhabitants of the islands in 1927.


Main article: Geography of the U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands are located in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, about 50 miles east of Puerto Rico. 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 (474m). 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 Historic 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 tsunamis.


Map of U.S. Virgin Islands
Map of U.S. Virgin Islands

Main article: Politics of the U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands are an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States. Although U.S. citizens, Virgin Islanders cannot vote in U.S. Presidential elections, though they can vote in Presidential primaries.

The main political parties in the U.S. Virgin Islands are the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, the Independent Citizens Movement (ICM), and the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands. Additional candidates run as independents.

At the national level, the U.S. Virgin Islands elects a delegate to Congress. However, the elected delegate has no voting rights in Congress.

At the territorial level, fifteen senators—seven from the district of Saint Croix, seven from the district of Saint Thomas and Saint John, and one senator at-large who must be a resident of Saint John—are elected for two-years term to the unicameral Virgin Islands Legislature.

The U.S. Virgin Islands has elected a territorial governor every four years since 1970. Previous governors were appointed by the President of the United States.

The U.S. Virgin Islands has both a District Court and a Superior Court. Judges are appointed by the President and the Governor respectively.

The United States Congress has organized several local referenda to aid in the islands' self-determination. As with Puerto Rico, the residents have been given the choice of independence, status quo, or statehood; however, these measures have failed to attract sufficient civic interest or voter turn-out to produce even a noteworthy plurality, much less a majority, and thus the islands will retain their current territorial status for the forseeable future. It is theorized that future Puerto Rican statehood might serve as a catalyst for political interest in the V.I., as well as other territories.

With much controversy, these efforts by the Federal Government to normalize the unincorporated territory's status are completely discounted by the United Nations Committee on Decolonization, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are currently in the list of non-self-governing territories.


Main article: Economy of the U.S. Virgin Islands

Tourism is the primary economic activity. The islands normally host 2 million visitors a year, many of whom visit on cruise ships. The manufacturing sector consists of petroleum refining, textile, electronics, rum distilling, pharmaceutical, and watch assembly plants. The agricultural sector is small, with most food being imported. International business and financial services are a small but growing component of the economy. Hovensa, one of the world's largest petroleum refineries, is located on Saint Croix.

The islands are subject to tropical storms and hurricanes. In recent history, substantial damage was caused by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Marilyn in 1995.


Military - note: defense is the responsibility of the U.S.

See: Virgin Islands and Danish colonization of the Americas, Henry E. Rohlsen International Airport, Cyril E. King Airport

Flag of the United States Virgin Islands

  Territory of the Virgin Islands of the United States  

Geography | Economy | Demographics | Communications | Transportation


Politics | Governors | Congressional Delegates | Senators | Elections


Charlotte Amalie

Small Cities:

Charlotte Amalie | Christiansted | Frederisksted | Cruz Bay


Saint Croix | Saint John | Saint Thomas | Water Island | Other

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