Navassa Island

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This uninhabited island was claimed by the US in 1857 for its guano. Mining took place between 1865 and 1898. The lighthouse, built in 1917, was shut down in 1996 and administration of Navassa Island transferred from the US Coast Guard to the Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs. A 1998 scientific expedition to the island described it as a "unique preserve of Caribbean biodiversity." The following year it became a National Wildlife Refuge and annual scientific expeditions have continued.

Geography

Location

Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, 30 nm west of Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti

Geographic coordinates

18.25° N, 75.02° W

Area 248/257

total: 5.4 sq km

land: 5.4 sq km

water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative

about nine times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries

0 km

Coastline

8 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

marine, tropical

Terrain

raised flat to undulating coral and limestone plateau; ringed by vertical white cliffs (9 to 15 m high)

Elevation

mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m

highest point: unnamed elevation on southwest side 77 m

Natural resources

guano

Land use

agricultural land: 0%

arable land 0%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 0%

forest: 0%

other: 100% (2011 est.)

Natural hazards

hurricanes

Environment - current issues

NA

Geography - note

strategic location 160 km south of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; mostly exposed rock with numerous solution holes (limestone sinkholes) but with enough grassland to support goat herds; dense stands of fig trees, scattered cactus

People and Society

Population

uninhabited

note: transient Haitian fishermen and others camp on the island

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Navassa Island

etymology: the flat island was named "Navaza" by some of Christopher COLUMBUS' sailers in 1504; the name derives from the Spanish term "nava" meaning "flat land, plain, or field"

Legal system

the laws of the US, where applicable, apply

Flag description

the flag of the US is used

Economy

Economy - overview

Subsistence fishing and commercial trawling occur within refuge waters.

Transportation

Ports and terminals

none; offshore anchorage only

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

claimed by Haiti, source of subsistence fishing