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Navassa Island
April 5, 2012 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Navassa Island is a small uninhabited Caribbean island 74 km off the coast of Haiti. Both the US and Haiti claim sovereignty over the island, though Haiti claims it in it's constitution. Discovered in 1498 and explored in 1504 as part of Columbus's expedition when he became stranded on Jamaica and sent a canoe to Hispaniola; the canoes ran into the island on the way and two Spaniards and several Indians who arrived on the island drank contaminated water killing most of the group. The island was avoided until 1857 when it was claimed by the US as part of the Guano Islands Act despite an earlier Haitian claim. Working conditions were very harsh on the island, manually moving over a ton guano from mines via rail cars to the landing point at Lulu Bay which sacked the guano for transport on the S.S. Romance. In 1889 the workers started a rebellion that killed several supervisors and lead to a series of court cases that affirmed the constitutionality of the Guano Act. The island was abandoned in 1898 during the Spanish-American war forced the operator, Navassa Phosphate Company of Baltimore to file for bankruptcy. In 1917 a lighthouse was built since the island posed a hazard for ships entering the newly built Panama Canal. The island has remained uninhabited, save a few Haitian fishermen that camp now and again, though it is highly coveted by amateur radio operators seeking a DX call-sign of KP1. The island has been bounced around several federal agencies until 1999 when the United States Fish and Wildlife Service cataloged it as a National Wildlife Refuge. In 2009 NOAA's Southeast Fisheries Science launched an expedition to catalog the flora and fauna of the reefs of the island, including a few feral cats roaming on the island.
posted by wcfields (21 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
You even worked in (at least what claims to be) a picture of a cat? Oh, well done.
posted by Zed at 12:19 PM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


May be secret US govt base doing something we are better off not knowing about.
posted by Postroad at 12:20 PM on April 5, 2012


Scorpio!
posted by kmz at 12:28 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kill the cats!

Man I love islands, there should be an island a day blog.
posted by stbalbach at 12:45 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Guano Islands Act ...unbelievable.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:50 PM on April 5, 2012


Wow, great write up of a fascinating topic.

Sort of related, my previous post about guano islands and international sovereignty via an interview with Columbia University Law Professor Christina Duffy Burnett: The Guano Islands Act of 1856 arguably laid the legal groundwork for American imperialism.
posted by Rumple at 12:56 PM on April 5, 2012


I kind of love the photo where CAT -> appears to be scrawled with MS Paint
posted by pointystick at 12:59 PM on April 5, 2012


I am laughing really really disturbingly hard at that CAT!! picture right now. Helpless weeping is also featured.
posted by elizardbits at 1:01 PM on April 5, 2012


I couldn't find any more beyond Wikipedia, but there might be a wild goat heard on the island.
The terrain of Navassa Island consists mostly of exposed coral and limestone, the island being ringed by vertical white cliffs 30 to 50 feet (9.1 to 15.2 m) high, but with enough grassland to support goat herds.
posted by wcfields at 1:12 PM on April 5, 2012


no blood for guano
posted by fleacircus at 1:14 PM on April 5, 2012


The cats should be allowed to continue to live on the Island. With time they will differentiate into a subspecies and probably begin to occupy many ecological niches. Sort of like Darwin's finches, but with cats. This will be awesome.
posted by humanfont at 1:19 PM on April 5, 2012


Why not set it up for offshore tax evasion and banking for corporations to conceal money?
posted by Postroad at 1:29 PM on April 5, 2012


Postroad: "Why not set it up for offshore tax evasion and banking for corporations to conceal money?"

Because you're technically in the United States and all US laws apply.
posted by wcfields at 1:29 PM on April 5, 2012


No, not CAT. ISLAND. I-S-L-A-N-D.
posted by brundlefly at 1:30 PM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe the cats are there to get rid of the rats.
posted by goethean at 2:01 PM on April 5, 2012


Man, phosphate mining ruins everything, see also Nauru.
posted by Joe Chip at 2:13 PM on April 5, 2012


The cats should be allowed to continue to live on the Island. With time they will differentiate into a subspecies and probably begin to occupy many ecological niches. Sort of like Darwin's finches, but with cats. This will be awesome.

I know this was a joke, but...

Prominent land animals are large colonies of seabirds, migrating songbirds, snails, four endemic species of lizard, 650 species of invertebrates, including over 500 new insect species, 30 percent of which may be endemic. Over 100 non-insect arthropods, mostly spiders, make up the rest.

Putting all of that in danger for a new cat breed is the worst idea ever.

(Kinda related: The big rat eradication project on Dog Island is, I think, the first project of its type in the Caribbean.)
posted by snofoam at 2:21 PM on April 5, 2012


The cats have been there for more than 100 years. Any impact they had was decades ago.
posted by humanfont at 6:40 PM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why not set it up for offshore tax evasion and banking for corporations to conceal money?

Here's a novel for you: Island, by Thomas Perry.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:20 AM on April 6, 2012


Guano Islands . . .

Now, dis is da shit.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:47 AM on April 6, 2012


I couldn't find any more beyond Wikipedia, but there might be a wild goat heard on the island.

Meh.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:00 AM on April 8, 2012


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