Tortola (/tɔːrˈtlə/) is the largest and most populated island of the British Virgin Islands, a group of islands that form part of the archipelago of the Virgin Islands.[2] It has a surface area of 55.7 square kilometres (21.5 square miles) with a total population of 23,908, with 9,400 residents in Road Town. Mount Sage is its highest point at 530 metres (1,740 feet) above sea level.

Road Town on Tortola
Tortola is located in British Virgin Islands
The location of Tortola within the British Virgin Islands
Tortola is located in Caribbean
Tortola (Caribbean)
LocationCaribbean Sea
Coordinates18°25′24″N 64°37′05″W / 18.42333°N 64.61806°W / 18.42333; -64.61806
ArchipelagoVirgin Islands
Area55.7 km2 (21.5 sq mi)
Length19 km (11.8 mi)
Width5 km (3.1 mi)
Highest elevation530 m (1740 ft)
Highest pointMount Sage
British Overseas TerritoryBritish Virgin Islands
Largest settlementRoad Town (pop. 9,400)
Population23,491 (2010)[1]
Pop. density429.23/km2 (1111.7/sq mi)
Additional information
Time zone
ISO codeVG

Although the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are under the British flag, it uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency due to its proximity to and frequent trade with the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The island is home to many offshore companies that do business worldwide. Financial services are a major part of the country's economy.

On 6 September 2017, the British Virgin Islands were extensively damaged by Hurricane Irma.[3] The most severe destruction was on Tortola. News reports over the next day or two described the situation as "devastation".

History edit

Local tradition recounts that Christopher Columbus named the island Tórtola, meaning "turtle dove" in Spanish. In fact, Columbus named the island Santa Ana. Dutch colonists called it Ter Tholen, after Tholen, a coastal island that is part of the Netherlands. When the British took over, the name evolved to Tortola.[citation needed]

On his second voyage for the Spanish Crown to the Caribbean or West Indies, Christopher Columbus spotted what are now called the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. He named the archipelago after the 11,000 virgins of the 5th-century Christian martyr St. Ursula. The Spanish made a few attempts to settle the islands, but pirates such as Blackbeard and Captain Kidd were the first permanent residents.

In the late 16th century, the English, who had successfully settled the area contesting claims by the Dutch, established a permanent plantation colony on Tortola and the surrounding islands. Settlers developed the islands for the sugarcane industry, with large plantations dependent on the slave labor of Africans bought from local chiefs and transported across the Atlantic. The majority of early settlers came in the late eighteenth century: Loyalists from the Thirteen Colonies after the American Revolutionary War were given land grants here by the Crown to encourage development. They brought their slaves with them, who outnumbered the British colonists. The sugar industry dominated Tortola economic history for more than a century until the abolishment of slavery.

In the early 19th century, after Britain abolished the international slave trade, the Royal Navy patrolled the Caribbean to intercept illegal slave ships. The colony settled liberated Africans from these ships on Tortola, in the then-unsettled Kingstown area. St. Phillip's Church was built in the early 19th century in this community as one of the earliest free black churches in the Americas.

After the abolition of slavery in the British colonies in 1834, planters found it difficult to make a profit in the sugar industry based on paying and managing free labor. At this time, Cuba and some South American countries still had slave labor in the sugar industry. In addition, there were changes in the sugar industry, with sugar beets cultivated in England and the United States offering a competing product. During the downturn as sugar agriculture became less profitable, a large proportion of the white landowning population left the British Virgin Islands.[when?] In 1867, an earthquake and tsunami hit the island.

In the late 1970s, the British businessman Ken Bates attempted to lease a large part of the neighbouring island of Anegada on a 199-year lease, but this action was blocked. Noel Lloyd, a local activist, led a protest movement forcing the local government to drop the plan.[4] Today, a park on Tortola is named after Noel Lloyd and features a statue in his honour.[5]

Hurricane Irma edit

On 6 September 2017, Tortola was extensively damaged by Hurricane Irma.[6][7] A report by Sky News summarized the aftermath of the storm as: "The scale of the damage on the island of Tortola is truly shocking. You have to see it to appreciate just how massive this storm really was. The East End area of Tortola looks like a war zone; no building is untouched, the debris of entire houses destroyed, yachts, cars and enormous cargo containers is scattered in all directions and this is just one area."[8]

By 8 September, the UK had sent the Royal Engineers and Commandos to reinstate law and order and to set up satellite communications with the world.[6] More troops were expected to arrive a day or two later, but the ship HMS Ocean, carrying more extensive assistance, was not expected to reach the Virgin Islands for another two weeks.[9] The Premier of the Virgin Islands, Orlando Smith, called for a comprehensive aid package to rebuild the British Virgin Islands (BVI). On 10 September, the UK's prime minister Theresa May pledged £32 million to the Caribbean for a hurricane relief fund; the UK government would also match donations made by the public via the British Red Cross appeal.[10] Specifics were not provided to the news media as to the amount that would be allocated to each island.[11][12]

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited Tortola on 13 September 2017 to confirm the United Kingdom's commitment to helping restore British islands.[13][14] He said he was reminded of photos of Hiroshima after it had been hit by the atom bomb.[15]

Geography edit

Tortola is a mountainous island 19 km (12 mi) long and 5 km (3.1 mi) wide, with an area of 55.7 km2 (21.5 sq mi). Formed by volcanic activity, its highest peak is Mount Sage at 530 metres (1,740 feet). Tortola lies near an earthquake fault, and minor earthquakes are common.

Government edit

The House of Assembly in the BVI consists of fourteen house representatives (the governor, four at-large, and one representative for each of the nine districts, eight of which are wholly or partially on Tortola). Whilst still under the British rule, the King appoints a Governor. The current Governor is John Rankin (diplomat), who is the Head of Cabinet in the BVI. The House of Assembly is run by the Speaker of the House. The Deputy Governor is David Archer, the Premier is Andrew Fahie. The National Democratic Party (NDP) served two straight terms in office until it was defeated by the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) in the 2019 general election. The party that rules over the house is determined by if that party has seven or more seats.[16]

Economy and demographics edit

The population of Tortola is 23,908. The principal settlement is Road Town, the capital of the British Virgin Islands, with a population of 9,400.

Provision of financial services is a major part of the economy. The International Business Companies Act, passed in the early 1980s, encouraged such businesses and has generated significant growth in professional jobs and related revenues. BVI residents are amongst the most affluent in the Eastern Caribbean. Numerous residents from other Caribbean islands also work here.

Citco is a privately owned global hedge fund administrator headquartered in Tortolo, founded in 1948.[17][18][19][20] It is the world's largest hedge fund administrator, managing over $1 trillion in assets under administration.[21]

Although the British Virgin Islands (BVI) are under the British flag, Tortola uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency due to its proximity to and frequent trade with the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The island is home to many offshore companies that do business worldwide.

The extensive damage (devastation) caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017 affected the economy.[22] Residents were looking to the UK to provide significant financial aid.[6] Premier Orlando Smith called for a comprehensive aid package to rebuild the British Virgin Islands. The UK pledged £32 million of aid for Caribbean islands that were affected by the hurricane but did not provide specifics as to the amount that would be allocated to the BVI.[11][12]

Attractions edit

The northern coast has the best beaches on the island, including Smuggler's Cove, Long Bay, Cane Garden Bay, Brewer's Bay, Josiah's Bay, and Lambert Beach. In addition to beaches, marine activities such as sailing, surfing, scuba diving, kite boarding, and windsurfing are available. Many tourists visit the historic sites and hike in parks. The island is visited regularly by large cruise ships.

Transportation edit

Tortola can be reached both by sea and by air. The island has taxi services.

Flights to Tortola arrive at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport. The airport is located on Beef Island, just to the east of Tortola, and is connected by the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge. Seaborne Airlines, Cape Air and Air Sunshine provide scheduled service from San Juan. Island Birds Air Charter connects to San Juan, Saint Thomas, Antigua and St Marten. InterCaribbean Airways, Ltd. and Sky High Aviation Services offers non-stop flights between Dominican Republic and Beef Island. American Airlines flies jet service from Miami to Lettsome, via Saint Thomas.

Many ferry companies provide travelers with the opportunity to arrive by sea. The ferries run between Charlotte Amalie in the center of St. Thomas, and Red Hook in the East End of St. Thomas and St. John, and either Road Town or the West End of Tortola.

Education edit

The British Virgin Islands operates several government schools.[23]

The following pre-primary schools serve Tortola residents:

  • Althea Scatliffe Pre-Primary School
  • Enid Scatliffe Pre-Primary School

The following elementary schools serve Tortola residents:[24]

  • Century House Montessori School B.V.I
  • Althea Scatliffe Primary School
  • Seventh-day Adventist Primary School
  • Enis Adams Primary School
  • Joyce Samuel Primary School (formerly Belle Vue Primary School)
  • Ivan Dawson Primary School
  • Leonora Delville Primary School
  • Francis Lettsome Primary School
  • Alexandrina Maduro Primary School
  • Isabella Morris Primary School
  • Ebenezer Thomas Primary School
  • Willard Wheatley Primary School
  • St. Georges Primary School
  • Cedar International School
  • First Impressions School
  • Pelican Gate School
  • Agape Total Life Academy

The following High schools serve Tortola Residents:

  • Elmore Stout High School (formerly British Virgin Islands High School)
  • St George's Secondary School[25]
  • Seventh-day Adventist Secondary School
  • Cedar International School[26]
  • Ansted College and approved Distance University Programs

Eslyn Henley Richiez Learning Centre serves as Tortola's special-needs school.[27] The H. Lavity Stoutt Community College provides Tortola's tertiary education

Sports edit

Tortola has been one of the Caribbean's prime basketball destinations, hosting three of the last four Caribbean Basketball Championships. Horse racing is also a popular sport in the Virgin Islands, and Tortola's Ellis Thomas Downs is one of the three race tracks in the region.[28]

Notable people edit

Stanley W. Nibbs' honorary stamp issued in 1993

Images edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Virgin Islands 2010 Population and Housing Census Report" (PDF). p. 6. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Tortola". British Virgin Islands. Archived from the original on 6 October 2012. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  3. ^ Bosotti, Aurora (8 September 2017). "Hurricane Irma damage UPDATE: British Virgin Islands DESTROYED by deadly storm". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  4. ^ Japhix (4 November 2011). "Noel Lloyd story published in UK magazine". BVI News. Archived from the original on 8 November 2011.
  5. ^ "The Noel Lloyd Positive Action Park". British Virgin Islands tourism. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "Survivors on Tortola recall storm horror". BBC News. 11 September 2017. Archived from the original on 24 February 2018. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  7. ^ Graham, Chris (11 September 2017). "Sir Richard Branson shares images of devastation on Necker Island as he appeals for help for region". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 29 November 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2018 – via
  8. ^ "Paradise lost: Tortola seeks UK aid after Irma". Archived from the original on 28 September 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  9. ^ Farmer, Ben; Swinford, Steven (8 September 2017). "British response to Hurricane Irma 'found wanting', senior MPs say, as Royal Navy arrives in Caribbean". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 20 February 2018. Retrieved 3 May 2018 – via
  10. ^ Hilary Clarke and Samantha Beech (11 September 2017). "European leaders step up Irma relief effort in Caribbean". Archived from the original on 11 September 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  11. ^ a b "British Virgin Islands financial centre hit hard by Irma". Financial Times. 10 September 2017. Archived from the original on 5 December 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  12. ^ a b Siddique, Haroon; Pengelly, Martin (11 September 2017). "What we know so far as Hurricane Irma lashes Florida". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 22 March 2018. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  13. ^ "Hurricane Irma: Foreign Secretary's visit to the UK Overseas Territories in the Caribbean - GOV.UK". Archived from the original on 13 September 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  14. ^ "BVT News –". Archived from the original on 14 September 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2017.
  15. ^ "Boris Johnson reminded of Hiroshima on visit to Irma-hit Tortola". Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  16. ^ "BREAKING: VIP wins 8 seats; Walwyn, Skelton unseated". 25 February 2019.
  17. ^ Halah Touryalai (April 6, 2011). "Protection Racket," Forbes.
  18. ^ "Madoff feeder fund administrator Citco Group reaches $125mln settlement". Reuters. 13 August 2015.
  19. ^ Margot Patrick and Simon Clark (6 April 2016). "'Panama Papers' Puts Spotlight on Boom in Offshore Services; Offshore service providers increasingly play a vital—and contentious—role in the global financial sale industry". Wall Street Journal.
  20. ^ Ralph Riegel (19 February 2008). "Worldwide hedge fund firm Citco to create 150 jobs in Irish expansion". Independent.
  21. ^ Ambrogio Visconti (4 March 2019). "Firefighters' Retirement System v. Citco Group Limited". Global Legal Chronicle.
  22. ^ Bosotti, Aurora (8 September 2017). "Hurricane Irma damage video: Horrifying footage shows DEVASTATION of island of Tortola". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  23. ^ "BVI Government". Archived from the original on 23 July 2009. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  24. ^ "The BVI Review". Archived from the original on 11 December 2008.
  25. ^ "St. George's Secondary School – Your Future is Secure Here". Archived from the original on 8 March 2018. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  26. ^ "Cedar International School". Archived from the original on 16 March 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  27. ^ "The BVI Beacon". Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
  28. ^ "Horse Racing in the Virgin Islands". Archived from the original on 17 September 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  29. ^ Migliavacca, Giorgio (5 February 1994). "B.V.I. educators honored on new stamps."". Stamps. Vol. 246, no. 6. pp. 163+. Gale A14804498 – via Gale General OneFile.

External links edit

  Media related to Tortola at Wikimedia Commons