Bahamas, The: Background & Geography

Introduction Bahamas, The
Arawak Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World on San Salvador in 1492. British settlement of the islands began in 1647; the islands became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.
Geography Bahamas, The
Caribbean, chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba
Geographic coordinates:
24 15 N, 76 00 W
Map references:
Central America and the Caribbean
total: 13,940 sq km
water: 3,870 sq km
land: 10,070 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Connecticut
Land boundaries:
0 km
3,542 km
Maritime claims - as described in UNCLOS 1982 (see Notes and Definitions):
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream
long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Alvernia, on Cat Island 63 m
Natural resources:
salt, aragonite, timber, arable land
Land use:
arable land: 0.6%
permanent crops: 0.4%
other: 99% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
NA sq km
Natural hazards:
hurricanes and other tropical storms cause extensive flood and wind damage
Environment - current issues:
coral reef decay; solid waste disposal
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
strategic location adjacent to US and Cuba; extensive island chain of which 30 are inhabited

See Also: