Grace KimBlock 3The Virgin IslandsWhile many may think that the largest historical town is in the rural parts of the United States, it is actually located in a small group of islands called the Virgin Island. The Virgin Islands is one of the most unique and diverse national parks the United States may have and its warm inviting climate appeal to many tourists who come to escape the cold weather from the north.The Virgin Islands National Park is located in the carribeans, which begin off the coast of Florida and extends all the way to South America. The Virgin Islands itself is located at 40-50 miles away from Puerto Rico and is about 1,106 miles away from southeast Miami, Florida. The islands are shared among two countries, the United States and the United Kingdom. The United States islands are St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John, and Water Island. The only two ways to visit the Virgin Islands is by air travel or boat. There are currently two airports at the Virgin Islands and one is located in St.Thomas, while the other is at St. Croix. The nearest outside airport is at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, San Juan, Puerto Rico which is 20-30 minutes away. For those in the U.S. mainland, the nearest route is to take the Miami International Airport located at 42nd Ave, Miami, Florida. Since it is so far away from the U.S. mainland, there are no significant U.S cities around the islands but there are still very populous areas such as Christiansted, St. Thomas or Frederiksted, St. John. For boat routes, the Red Hook ferries and the Charlotte Amalie ferries operate between the St. Thomas Island and the St. John Island. Admission is free for all ages and is open year round.The history of the Virgin Islands originated from all the way to the Preceramic time period. During that time, a group of people called the Ciboneys resided peacefully in the islands. Then at around 100 A.D. another tribe called the Arawaks came and lived in the St. John island and the St. Croix island. More tribes soon came to follow such as the fierce Caribs and the calm Tainos. However they were all massacred when the first Europeans, sent by Holland, France, Great Britain, and Spain, came to venture the islands. Despite all the countries racing to claim the islands, it was the Danes that settled first in St. Thomas in 1672; and later expanded to St. John in 1694. Plantations started to spring up in the early 1700’s and later even became a slave trading post. St. John and St. Croix continued to a maintain a plantation economy while St. Thomas developed into a trading center. However in 1733, slaves attacked St. John’s Fort Frederiksted in Coral Bay which led to Denmark announcing the cessation of slave trading in 1792. Following after, the islands went into an economic downfall but later recovered when the islands were used for WWII. Seeing its potential, the U.S. negotiated with Denmark for $25 million dollars in gold and citizenship for the islands was later granted in 1927. In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower finally established it as a national park.The geology of the islands all share a similar structure and geological history together. The biggest island, St. Croix, is 84 sq. miles while the two smaller islands, St. Thomas and St. John, is 31 sq. miles and 20 sq. miles. St. Croix is 40 miles away from St. Thomas while St. John is only 4 miles from St. Thomas. The tallest elevation in the islands is located in St. Thomas with the Crown Mountain reaching a height of 1,556 feet tall. The next tallest is the Bordeaux Mountain in St. John being 1,277 feet tall and then the shortest is Mount Eagle at 1,088 feet located in St. Croix. St. Croix also has the flatter terrain of the three islands yet all three have a mostly hilly and rugged terrain with very little level land. With its location being near the Caribbean plate and the North American plate, earthquakes do frequently occur but most are too small to detect. The Virgin Islands were first formed some 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous time period through volcanism. Volcanism is when magma from the Earth’s core escapes and cools into igneous rocks. Each island had a very similar geological background but they were not all formed at the same time. St.Croix was the first island to form and was later followed by St. John and St. Thomas. It started with the eruption of the kertophyres and pillow basalts. Pillow basalt is the when underwater lava cools rapidly on all sides and forms a “pillow-shaped” igneous rock called basalt. After the eruption, dikes (a body of a rock that cuts across the layer of its surrounding) formed which led to a north-south compression that produced folds. The folds are from the collision of the Greater Antilles arc of the Caribbean plate and the Bahamas platform of the North American plate. Following after, more volcanic activities occurred and formed an igneous rock base. As time passed, deposition of sediments started to cement together and formed limestone on the igneous base. More and more bands of sediments piled up consisting of mudstone and sandstone which built up most of the island above sea level. All the mountains such as the Crown Mountain, the Bordeaux Mountain, and Mount Eagle was also formed through this island-building process. This could be proved true since the oldest rocks were found in St. Croix around Mount Eagle. The discovered rocks consist of alternating dark and light banded sedimentary rocks consisting of sandstone and mudstone. The next oldest rock, limestone, was found in Congo Cay located in St. Thomas and igneous rocks were also found in the oldest part of St. John. Finally, another amazing geological feature and national monument is the Virgin Islands Coral Reef, located around the island of St. John. It was formed when coral larvae attached themselves to a rock or soil and start to grow and spread around the islands. Many tourists and scientists come to study the Virgin Islands to learn more about the ever growing barrier reef ecosystem and to discover more about the island’s formation. The Virgin Islands is home to over 140 species of birds, 7 species of amphibians, and 22 species of mammals. However the species with the most abundance is the 740 different plant species located there. There are also numerous amount of different coral species as scientist were able to identify at least 50 of them. Yet despite the exotic landscape the only native animal to the island is the bat. There are currently 6 species of bats in the island which resides in caverns or abandoned homes. Other very popular species are deer, goats, donkeys, mongeese, and wild dogs and cats. They are said to roam freely so visitors must caution themselves and not make any contact with the animals. Another species to keep in mind are the green turtle, the leatherback, and the hawksbill turtle for they are one of the most endangered species of the islands. Other endangered species include the tree boa, the screech owl, the brown pelican, and the jewfish. In addition to the endangered animals, plants are also in danger as well. The Fishlock’s croton, the marron bacoba, and the guaiac tree is suffereing due to deforestation. Plants are still the most abundant species of the island and visitors may spot Teyer Palm, Mango trees, and the yellow cedar while exploring. Despite all the endangered species and the issues it may cause; many encourage visitors to appreciate the diversity and the beauty the islands provide. Whether it be to go underwater to view the parrotfish, barracuda, and the unique coral structures; or to go up to the sky to birdwatch zenaida doves, bananaquits, and egrets, the Virgin Islands have a wonderfully diverse ecosystem. WIth the Virgin Islands being located near the equator, the climate seldom changes. Visitors should expect a warm and humid weather with slight precipitation. The average recorded temperature for St. John is 78.5? (spring), 82.3? (summer), 81? (autumn), and 77? (winter). For St. Croix the average temperatures are 80.1? (spring), 83.6? (summer), 82? (autumn), and 78.5? (winter). As for St. Thomas the average temperatures are 80.5? (spring), 83.9? (summer), 82.5? (autumn), and 79? (winter). While rainfall isn’t common, the islands do receive a short sudden burst of precipitation. The rainiest months in the Virgin Islands are August to November correlating with hurricane season. The average recorded rainfall for St. John was 3.25 in. (spring), 3.33 in. (summer), 5.87 in. (autumn), and 2.65 in. (winter). The yearly average recorded rainfall for St. Croix and St. Thomas was 40.29 in. and 38.37 in. While the steady warm temperatures may be convenient for visitors, many needs to be prepared for a possible chance of a hurricane. Hurricane season starts around mid-August to late-September so visitors should be ready to evacuate through extreme situations. The Virgin Islands suffered through major hurricane attacks such as Hurricane Hugo (1989) and Hurricane Marilyn (1995). The current state of the Virgin Islands is in critical condition because of the most recent hurricane attacks, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Recreational activities is a must for those who visit the Virgin Islands. Fishing, scuba-diving, and water-skiing are favorites for those who enjoy marine activities while others who prefer to stay dry can hike, camp, or visit museums to learn about the islands’ history. For those who are interested in learning even more about the park’s history and ecosystem, events such as the Annaberg Cultural History Demonstration or the Waters Edge Walk can help educate and entertain visitors from all age groups. Scuba-diving is the most popular water sport in the park because of the chance to explore and view the Virgin Islands Coral Reef located around St. John. Scuba-diving is allowed in multiple shallow areas such as Congo Cay, Carral Rock, and Mounds at Mingo. For more information, a certified scuba group called 6-Paq Scubas can give directions on how to scuba and is located at the beaches of St. John. Hikers are welcome to hike anytime as the Virgin Islands provide numerous hiking trails throughout the rolling terrain. The longest trial is going through the Caneel Hill Trail which is 4.8 miles yet a visitor’s favorite is the Bordeaux Mountain trail which is 2.4 miles. If visitors are wanting to stay overnight, Cinnamon Bay Resort or the Cinnamon Bay Campground is the most popular and affordable place in the national park. For quick meals and beverages, stands and cafes are open daily such as the Truck Bay Cafe and Bar or the Rain Tree Cafe both located in the Cinnamon Bay Resort as well. For families that wants their children to take part in the park’s activites, a junior ranger program is open to all ages year round. Kids pick up a junior ranger workbook found in the visitor center and when completed, they are awarded a certificate and badge for completing the program. If looking for activities for older kids, a camp called the YCC (youth conservation corps) is open every summer where kids engage in a work-learn-earn environment as YCC leaders help kids appreciate and understand the island’s environment and heritage. For more information about any of these events or activities, the Cruz Bay Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. located at the Virgin Island National Park, St. John.In conclusion, the Virgin Islands is wonderful place to preserve as a national park. It allows us to admire the numerous species of plants and animals that is not common in the mainland of the United States. The temperature is also very stable year round so visitors can come any time for the full experience. Thanks to the unique geological history of the islands, we are now able to enjoy this diverse ecosystem today.