The Virgin Islands were so named by Columbus who discovered them in 1493 in honour of the legend of a Saint Ursula who is supposed to have been martyred in Cologne sometime in the 4th century along with 11000 virgins because she refused to marry a pagan king.
The Dutch, the Spanish, the French and the British took turns at trying to settle them in the 17th century but it was finally the Danes who successfully got on with the job in 1754 after a couple of earlier attempts.(Why not, everyone else was grabbing land and exploiting slaves somewhere!).
The Danes made money with slaves and sugar like everybody else but when the development of the sugar beet industry in Europe and the growth of cane sugar in Brazil, Africa and Asia made that business less attractive they were the first to ban the slave trade in 1803. (The French had abolished it in 1798 but Napoleon restored it in 1902). The British abolished the trading of slaves in 1807 and the French in 1817 for the second time but the slaves were not freed until 1833 by the British, 1848 by the French and the Danes, 1863 by the Dutch and 1880 by the Spanish in Cuba.
By the beginning of the 20th century The Danish colonies had become more of a liability than an asset and the Danes were happy to sell the islands in 1917 for 25 million dollars to the US who were still hungry for colonies after having gobbled Cuba and Puerto Rico.
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I flew from San Juan to Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas Island, the capital of the US Virgin Islands. It was a short flight on this small propeller aeroplane.
That is a big airport for a small town of 12 000 people!
After seeing them in San Juan, I'm beginning to learn about these big cruise ships. Some of them carry as many as 3000 passengers. Actually they are floating hotels with swimming pools, restaurants, bars, night clubs, casinos and even shops that compete with whatever their ports of call can offer.
Here is a proud fisherman selling his catch on Waterfront Drive.
The Caribbean has been called the millionaires' playground and this private yacht is certainly not a cheap toy to play with.
Here is another, a little older, but bigger and surely just as luxurious.
Too many cars with nowhere to go on the small island of St-Thomas, jam the traffic on Waterfront Drive.
Dozens of these colourful cruise ship shuttles add to the confusion.
The Virgin Islands Museum in the restored Fort Christian built in 1671, was interesting but hardly worth the trip to see.
There are also a couple of quiet back streets that are nice to look at.
The market square with the Methodist church hiding behind are not bad either.
The real attraction seems to be all the duty free shops that line the streets near the harbour. Car traffic was bad on Waterfront Drive but pedestrian crush is even worse in the shop lined streets.
I really don't know why people come here to buy goods they could also get duty free on board their cruise ships at net prices no better than those they would pay at home including duty and taxes! I don't know about jewellery but I was not impressed by the camera prices.
Charlotte Amalie is really quite small and shoppers from four big cruise ships can equal the local population of 12 000. The US Virgin Islands get 422 000 visitors a year. That is three and a half times the total population of the islands of 120 000 people!
It can safely be said that the US Virgin Islands are saturated with tourists. Their score of 1,784 on the Tourist Saturation Index would be much higher were it not for the important contribution to the GNP of the alumina plant and refinery on St Croix island.
All I remember about this place is that it looked like a big shopping mall. Absolute madness!
After a few hours I had seen enough so I took the ferry to Road Town on Tortola, the capital of the British Virgin Islands.