United States Virgin Islands is a group of
islands in the Caribbean that are an
insular area of the
- 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 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
Island, and many other surrounding minor
The total land area of the territory is . As of
the 2000 census
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).
The Virgin Islands
settled by the Ciboney
, and Arawaks
. The islands
were named by Christopher
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, the
Netherlands, France, and
Danish West India Company settled
Thomas in 1672, on
Saint John in 1694, and
The islands became royal Danish colonies in 1754,
named the Danish-Westindian islands—De dansk-vestindiske
in Danish. Sugarcane
, produced by
labor, drove the islands' economy
during the 18th and early 19th centuries,
until the abolition of
by Governor Peter von
on July 3, 1848.
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 onset of World War I
reforms to a close and again left the islands isolated and exposed.
submarine warfare phases of the
First World War, the United
that the islands might be seized by Germany 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
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
was granted to the
inhabitants of the islands in 1927.
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
1996, when of land was transferred to the territorial government.
The remaining 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.
Map of the U.S.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are located in the Caribbean Sea and the
Atlantic Ocean, about 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.
combined land area of the islands is roughly twice the size of
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
Thomas ( ).
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
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
, tropical cyclones
, and hurricanes
The U.S. Virgin Islands enjoy an arid climate, moderated by trade
winds. Temperatures vary little throughout the year. In the
capital, Charlotte Amalie, typical daily maximum temperatures are
around 91 °F (33 °C) in the summer and 86 °F (30 °C) in the winter.
Typical daily minimum temperatures are around 78 °F (26 °C) in the
summer and 72 °F (22 °C) in the winter. Rainfall averages about
38 inches (965 mm) per year. Rainfall can be quite
variable, but the wettest months on average are September to
November and the driest months on average are February and March.
Hurricanes occasionally hit the islands, with the hurricane season
running from June to November.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are an organized, unincorporated
United States territory
. Even though they are U.S. citizens
, Virgin Islands
residents cannot vote in presidential elections
Virgin Islands residents, however, are able to vote in presidential
primary elections for delegates to the Democratic National
Convention and the Republican National Convention.
The main political parties in the U.S. Virgin Islands are the
of the Virgin Islands
, the Independent Citizens Movement
and the Republican Party of the
. Additional candidates run as
At the national level, the U.S. Virgin Islands elects a
delegate to Congress
from its at-large
. However, the elected delegate, while able to vote in committee,
cannot participate in floor votes. The current House of
Representatives delegate is Donna
At the territorial level, 15 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-year terms to the unicameral Virgin Islands
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 a District Court
and the Supreme Court
The District Court is responsible for federal law, while the
Superior Court is responsible for Virgin Islands law at the trial
level and the Supreme Court is responsible for appeals from the
Superior Court for all appeals filed on or after January 29, 2007.
Appeals filed prior to that date are heard by the Appellate
Division of the District Court. Appeals from the federal District Court are
heard by the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, located in
District Court judges are appointed by the President, while
Superior Court and Supreme Court judges are appointed by the
The U.S. Virgin Islands are part of the United
Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories
referendum on status attracted only 31.4 percent turnout, and so
its results (in favor of status quo) were considered void. No
further referenda have been scheduled since, but in 2004 the 25th
legislature established the Fifth Constitutional Convention. In
June 2009, Governor John deJongh, Jr. rejected the resulting draft
constitution, saying that the document "violates federal law, fails
to defer to federal sovereignty and disregards basic civil
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
, and watch
assembly. 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 U.S. Virgin Islands are permanently on Atlantic Standard Time
and do not
participate in daylight saving
. When the U.S. is on Standard Time, the U.S. Virgin
Islands are one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time
. When the U.S.
is on daylight saving time, Eastern Daylight Time is the same as
Atlantic Standard Time.
The islands are subject to tropical
storms and hurricanes
. In recent history, substantial damage
was caused by Hurricane Hugo
and Hurricane Marilyn
in 1995. The
islands were also struck by Hurricane Bertha
in 1996, Hurricane Georges
in 1998, Hurricane Lenny
in 1999, and Hurricane Omar
in 2008, but damage was not as
severe in those hurricanes.
As of the census
of 2000, there were 108,612
people, 40,648 households, and 26,636 families residing in the
territory. The racial makeup of the territory was 76.19% Black
or African Descent, 13.09% White
, 7.23% from other races
, and 3.49% from two
or more races. Hispanic or
of any race were 13.99% of the population.
There were 40,648 households out of which 34.7% had children under
the age of 18 living with them, 33.2% were married couples
living together, 24.9% had a female
householder with no husband present, and 34.5% were non-families.
30.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.3% had
someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average
household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.34.
In the territory the population was spread out with 31.6% under the
age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45
to 64, and 8.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age
was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 91.4 males. For
every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.7 males. The
annual population growth is -0.12%.
The median income for a household in the territory was $24,704, and
the median income for a family was $28,553. Males had a median
income of $28,309 versus $22,601 for females. The per capita income
for the territory was
$13,139. About 28.7% of families and 32.5% of the population were
below the poverty line
, including 41.7%
of those under age 18 and 29.8% of those age 65 or over.
The official language is English
although Virgin Islands Creole
is spoken in informal situations. Because the U.S. Virgin Islands
is home to thousands of immigrants from across the Caribbean,
and various French creole
languages are also widely spoken.
Most people living within the United States Virgin Islands adhere
to some form of Christianity. This goes from Catholicism, and any
form of Protestantism. Even though most people of this region are
not known for the religiousness, there is still a major influence
on the culture coming from religion.
Districts and sub-districts
The U.S. Virgin Islands
administratively divided into three districts
and subdivided into 20 sub-districts
Airport serves St.
Croix and the Cyril E. King International
Airport serves St. Thomas and St. John.
Virgin Islands are the only United States territory which drives on
the left. This was inherited from what was then-current Danish
practice at the time of annexation, to limit losses of livestock.
However, as most cars, being imported from the mainland United
States, on the road are left hand
, the driver sits to the outside of the road, raising
Department of Education 
serves as the territory's education
Two school districts operate schools: St. Thomas-St. John School
of St. Thomas and St. John and St. Croix School District