Barbados, West Indies
Barbados is the eastern-most Caribbean island. The island, which is less than one million years old, was created by the collision of the Atlantic crustal and Caribbean plates, along with a volcanic eruption. Later coral formed, accumulating to approximately 300 feet. It is geologically unique, being actually two land masses that merged together over the years.
The original inhabitants of Barbados were Arawak Indians, who were driven off the island around AD 1200 by invading Carib Indians from Venezuela. The Carib Indians in turn abandoned the island around 1500. Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos in 1536 named the island Los Barbados (Bearded Ones), presumably after the long, hanging aerial roots of the island's fig trees, which resemble beards. English settlers established the island’s first European settlement in 1627. In the 1640s the colonists planted their fields with sugarcane and brought slaves to the island to work on the sugar plantations. The sugar industry continued to boom until the 19th century. Even after the abolition of slavery, large estates owned almost all the arable land and most black islanders had to stay working on the plantations, for lack of better opportunities. Barbadians emigrated to other countries in the Caribbean and to work on the Panama Canal. Barbados gained internal self-government in 1961 and became an independent nation on 30 November 1966. Since independence, Barbados has been a stable democracy.
Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean islands. Most of the island is relatively flat, with low, gentle hills in the interior, except for the north-east, which rises up to 340 meters. The west coast has white sandy beaches and calm turquoise waters. The east side of the island faces the more turbulent Atlantic. Coral reefs surround most of the island.