This uninhabited island was claimed by the US in 1857 for its guano. Mining took place between 1865 and 1898. The lighthouse, built in 1917, was shut down in 1996 and administration of Navassa Island transferred from the US Coast Guard to the Department of the Interior, Office of Insular Affairs. A 1998 scientific expedition to the island described it as a "unique preserve of Caribbean biodiversity." The following year it became a National Wildlife Refuge and annual scientific expeditions have continued.
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Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, 30 nm west of Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti
18 25 N, 75 02 W
Central America and the Caribbean
about nine times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC
total: 0 km
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
raised flat to undulating coral and limestone plateau; ringed by vertical white cliffs (9 to 15 m high)
highest point: 200 m NNW of lighthouse 85 m
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
guano (mining discontinued in 1898)
other: 100% (2018 est.)
strategic location 160 km south of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; mostly exposed rock with numerous solution holes (limestone sinkholes) but with enough grassland to support goat herds; dense stands of fig trees, scattered cactus
People and Society
uninhabited; transient Haitian fishermen and others camp on the island
some coral bleaching
other: 100% (2018 est.)
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Navassa Island
etymology: the flat island was named "Navaza" by some of Christopher COLUMBUS' sailors in 1504; the name derives from the Spanish term "nava" meaning "flat land, plain, or field"
unorganized, unincorporated territory of the US; administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior from the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Boqueron, Puerto Rico; in September 1996, the Coast Guard ceased operations and maintenance of the Navassa Island Light, a 46-meter-tall lighthouse on the southern side of the island; Haiti has claimed the island since the 19th century
the laws of the US apply where applicable
embassy: none (territory of the US)
the flag of the US is used
Subsistence fishing and commercial trawling occur within refuge waters.
none; offshore anchorage only
Military and Security
defense is the responsibility of the US
claimed by Haiti, source of subsistence fishing