La Navasse (fr)
Lanavaz (ht)
Flag of Navassa Coat of Arms of Navassa
Flag of Navassa Coat of Navassa
Location of Navassa
Location of Navassa
(and largest city)
Official language
- Discovery
- Independence

1504 AC
- Total

- Water (%)

5.2 km²
3.2 sq mi
- 2013 estimate
- 2012 census
- Density

/sq mi
Gini (2012) 58.2 (very high)
Time Zone
- Summer (DST)
Eastern Time Zone (UTC-5)
Date formats mm-dd-yyyy (CE)
Drive on the right
Internet TLD .nv
Calling code +867

Navassa Island (French: La Navasse; Haitian Creole: Lanavaz or Lavash) is a small, island nation located in the Caribbean Ocean. The island was originally claimed by Haiti, which has claimed sovereignty over Navassa since 1801, and also had claims to the island in its constitution, though Navassa eventually became independent in 1820.


Early History

In 1504, Christopher Columbus was stranded on Jamaica, and sent several of his ship's crew members by canoe to Hispaniola for help. They ran into the island on their way to their destination, noting in that the island had no water. They called it Navaza (from "nava-" meaning plain, or field), and it was avoided by mariners for the next 100 years.

In 1607 mariners, sailors and other travellers established a settlement in Lulu Bay, afterwhich many of those who went to the island began to settle mainly in and around Lulu. The population that settled on the island built wooden houses, and in 1606, 30 people were living there permanently. In the same year, the islands discovered a large number of freshwater caves, and further discovered that the basement of the island was a wellspring equivalent of 1,500,000 hm3. The island itself was rocky to the south, and while the north was a fertile strip. It can be assumed that the north is where vegetation began blooming first.

By the Treaty of Basel (July 22, 1795), the island of Navassa (and its adjacent islands), were ceded by Spain to France, without specifying whether the assignment included Navassa proper. Later, it acquired relevant references for the journey ahead of Simon Bolivar by Haiti in search of support for the cause of emancipation, moving from Jamaica on December 24, 1815, where he wrote "The Jamaica Letter", after he had crossed Navassa, and had been impressed by its natural beauty, a fact of which there is also historical record to solidify this commendation by Bolivar.

Importance & Independence

In 1798, it was discovered that much of the island was located on top of a large guano deposit. The guano was the feces and urine of seabirds, cave-dwelling bats, and seals. Guano manure was and still is a highly effective fertilizer due to its high phosphorus and nitrogen content, and its relative lack of odor compared to other forms of organic fertilizer such as horse manure. Guano was also an important source of nitrates for gunpowder.

In November 1802, Alexander von Humboldt studied guano and its fertilizing properties at Callao in Peru, and his subsequent writings on this topic made the subject known in Europe. The high concentration of nitrates also made guano an important strategic commodity. The discovery during the 1840s of the use of guano as a fertilizer and its saltpeter content as a key ingredient in explosives, made the area strategically valuable to all sides. This led to conflict as many nations sought to aquire the island for their own purposes.

In 1818 mariners, sailors, buccaneers and others came together to fight for their independence, which had been accomplished by 1820. Following its indenpendence, Navassa's population grew to nearly 8,000 citizens. No country had the courage to loot or invade the island given the large number of inhabitants, and the densely packed nature they resided in. It was inhabited by very brave and wild people, who had no desire to lose their homeland. After independence, the island became rich off of guano, as well as their own snuff and spirits such as rum produced on Navassa, one brand of which is currently the national drink called "Narron".

Early Modern Era

Navassa became significant again with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. Shipping between the American eastern seaboard and the Canal goes through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti. Navassa, a hazard to navigation, needed a lighthouse. The U.S. Lighthouse Service built the Navassa Island Light, a 162-foot (46 m) tower on the island in 1917, 395 feet (120 m) above sea level. A keeper and two assistants were assigned to live there until the United States Lighthouse Service installed an automatic beacon in 1929.


Navassa Island is about 3.2 square miles (5.2 km2) in area. It is located 90 nautical miles (100 mi; 170 km) south of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 40 nautical miles (46 mi; 74 km) west of Jérémie on the south west peninsula of Haiti, and about one-quarter of the way from Haiti to Jamaica in the Jamaica Channel. It reaches an elevation of 250 feet (76 m) at Dunning Hill 110 yards (100 m) south of the lighthouse, Navassa Island Light. This location is 440 yards (400 m) from the southwestern coast or 655 yards (600 m) east of Lulu Bay. The island's latitude and longitude are 18°24′10″N 75°0′45″WCoordinates: 18°24′10″N 75°0′45″W.

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. The island is covered in a forest of just four tree species: short-leaf fig (Ficus populnea var. brevifolia), pigeon plum (Coccoloba diversifolia), mastic (Sideroxylon foetidissimum), and poisonwood (Metopium brownei).

Its topography and ecology are similar to that of Mona Island, a small limestone island located in the Mona Passage, between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. It shares historical similarities with Mona Island since both are U.S. territories, were once centers of guano mining, and presently are nature reserves. Transient Haitian fishermen and others camp on the island but the island is otherwise uninhabited.



Administrative divisions

Foreign relations and military


Transport and communications

Navassa is connected by sea and air to North and South America, as well as the surrounding island nations. From the airport, flights to Kingston (Jamaica), Santiago de Cuba (Cuba), Jeremie (Haiti), Port au Prince (Haiti), Santo Domigo (Dominican Republic) Caracas (Venezuela) and San Juan de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico) are avaliable.

From the main port of Navassa, boats to Panama, Barranquilla (Colombia), Santiago de Cuba (Cuba), Jeremie (Haiti), Port au Prince (Haiti), Santo Domigo (Dominican Republic) and Maracaibo (Nenezuela) can be chartered by travellers.



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