Geography of Barbados

Geography of Barbados

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Barbados is the most windward, or eastern of all the Caribbean islands. It’s the only island of the Caribbean that lies before the sixty-degree lateral line. Pedro a Campus, who arrived there in 1536, first discovered it. Pedro a Campus was sailing for Portugal at the time of his discovery. Upon his arrival he concluded that the island was uninhabited. The island remained this way until it was settled by the English in the later Seventeenth Century.

The shape of the island, is somewhat of an irregular triangle. The circumference
Of the island is approximately fifty-five miles around, with a length of twenty-one miles and a width of thirteen miles. Its size is approximately two and a half times the size of Washington D. C. Coral Reefs line almost the entire coast of the island, and at some points, are up to three miles seaward. This creates problems with navigating to and from the island.

The northeastern portion of the island contains heights of 1000 feet, while the southeastern part has sandy beaches which are protected by the coral reefs. The highest elevation is Mount Hillaby, which is 1147 feet above sea level at the center portion of the country. The rest of the island is relatively flat, but elevates as it rises to the Central Highlands.

Scotland River is the principal river which runs through the island. Other rivers include Joe’s River and the Indian River, along with a handful of natural springs, mainly Haggat’s.

The island has a tropical climate and it rarely falls below seventy degrees Fahrenheit. The months of June to October are generally considered the “rainy” season. The island only occasionally suffers from the wrath of hurricanes. Another natural disaster that the people of the island encounter is periodic landslides.

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These Amerindian settlements ended around the sixteenth century. This was primarily due to the fact that Spanish slave-raiding missions captured many of the native inhabitants. Many of these Amerindians were taken to work on the sugar plantations on Hispania and other major sugar producing islands. Many of the natives that were not captured fled the island to other windward island to find strength in numbers in combating the Spanish.

Although many Spanish and Portuguese explorers landed on the island throughout the sixteenth century, Barbados was not claimed until May 14, 1625. Captain John Powell, who claimed the island for King James I of England, officially claimed it. The first settlement of Courteen took place later that year. They brought with them a small number of slaves.

Sugar cane was first introduced on the island of Barbados in the mid-1630s. It was not initially grown for the intent to make sugar, but to feed livestock. In the mid-sixteenth century, Barbados gained ground in the sugar-producing industry due to “… The Brazilian civil war between Portuguese settlers and their Dutch commercial overlords, which escalated during the early 1640’s gave the Barbadians the long-awaited opportunity to break into the sugar market with a commanding position.” Up until 1643, the price of land on Barbados remained quite low. By this time sugar had proved its value and the price of land increased rapidly well into the 1650s. By the 1670s all of Barbados’s arable land was being used for sugar cultivation.

Barbados became a prominent figure in the early Caribbean sugar industry. They were exporting about 15,000 tons each year between the 1650s and 1670s. This made up about 65% of the total amount of sugar exported from the Caribbean during the time.
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