Saint Croix

Saint Croix
Largest island (pop., 1990: 50,000) of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Located south of Saint Thomas, it has an area of 84 sq mi (218 sq km). Its capital is Christiansted; the town of Frederiksted is the commercial centre. In 1493 it was visited by Christopher Columbus, who named it Santa Cruz. In the mid-17th century it was colonized in turn by the Dutch, English, Spanish, and French. It was purchased by Denmark in 1733 and sold to the U.S. in 1917. In 1989 it was devastated by a hurricane but recovered with U.S. aid. Tourism is the main industry; rum is distilled and exported.

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island, United States Virgin Islands
      largest island of the U.S. Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean Sea, some 65 miles (105 km) southeast of Puerto Rico and 40 miles (65 km) south of St. Thomas. It has an area of 84 square miles (218 square km). In the west some hills run parallel to the coast, culminating in Mount Eagle (1,088 feet [332 m]) and Blue Mountain (1,096 feet [334 m]). It is the only island of the group with an extensive plain, most of which is cultivated; it formerly was called the “garden of the Danish West Indies.” A meagre growth of secondary scrub has replaced former seasonal forests, which were sacrificed for sugarcane plantations. The town of Christiansted on the northern coast is the capital, but Frederiksted on the western coast is commercially more significant.

      Visited by Christopher Columbus, who named it Santa Cruz, St. Croix (both names mean Holy Cross) was colonized by both the English and Dutch in 1643, though the latter were driven out after quarrels. As sugar production became more profitable, St. Croix increased in attraction, and in 1650 the English themselves were expelled by the Spanish, who in turn succumbed to French conquest. In 1651 the Knights of Malta acquired St. Croix but resold it to the French West India Company in 1665. It became a French colony in 1674 but during 1696–1733 was uninhabited. In 1733 the king of Denmark bought it; subsequently it shared the general history of the Virgin Islands.

      On Sept. 17–18, 1989, St. Croix was devastated by a hurricane that destroyed or damaged 90 percent of the island's buildings and left about 22,000 people homeless. The island recovered with the help of copious aid from the U.S. government.

      The tourist industry is the keystone of the economy. The island's supply of potable water from wells is supplemented by distilled seawater. The surrounding marine waters are beginning to be exploited for game and commercial fishing and as a resource for oceanographic laboratory studies. Rum—all that remains of a once extensive sugar industry—is distilled and exported along with other foodstuffs. Pop. (1988 est.) 51,300.

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Universalium. 2010.

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