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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


breadfruit tree, Captain William Bligh, La Soufriere, green heron, Union Island

The island of Saint Vincent is volcanic in origin. Mountains covered by thick rain forest cross the island from north to south. The mountains rise to a maximum elevation of 1,234 m (4,049 ft) at La Soufriere in the northern part of the island. This active volcano erupted violently in 1821, 1902, and 1979. The 1902 eruption killed 2,000 people. The 1979 eruption blasted ash, steam, and rock up to 20 km (12 mi) in the air, and caused considerable agricultural damage. The people had been evacuated, and there were no casualties as a result.

Streams filled by heavy rainfall descend the steep mountain slopes to the sea, producing many waterfalls along the way. Most of the beaches on Saint Vincent are of black volcanic sand, but there are some white sand beaches on the southern end of the island. The larger Grenadines are generally much less rugged and hilly; Mount Toboi on Union Island, at nearly 305 m (1,000 ft), is the highest point. These islands are best known for their white sand beaches and the coral reefs that lie off many of their coasts.

The country has a tropical climate with strong trade winds blowing from the northeast. The average annual temperature is about 24° C (76° F). Saint Vincent’s average annual rainfall ranges from about 1,500 mm (about 60 in) on the southeast coast to about 3,800 mm (about 150 in) in the interior mountains.

Most of the trees and plants of Saint Vincent can be seen in the Botanical Gardens in Kingstown, which were founded in 1765 and are among the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. They include a breadfruit tree descended from the original brought to the island in 1793 by Captain William Bligh of the Bounty, from Tahiti. The national bird, found in the interior forests, is the endangered Saint Vincent parrot. Another protected bird unique to Saint Vincent is the whistling warbler, found in the tropical forest of the Buccament Valley on the western side of the island. Other rare birds in this area are the black hawk, the cocoa thrush, the crested hummingbird, the red-capped green tanager, and the green heron. Marine life is abundant in the coral reefs and offshore waters.

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