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Navassa Island

Navassa Island is a 5.2 square kilometer island in the Caribbean Sea at a strategic location 160 kilometers south of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, about one-fourth of the way from Haiti to Jamaica, at 18°25'N, 75°2'W. It is an unincorporated territory of the United States administered from Washington, DC, by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Department of the Interior, and defense is the responsibility of the United States. However, a private claim has been advanced against the island, and it is also claimed by Haiti.

It was claimed by the United States in 1857 because of its guano deposits. These deposits were actively mined from 1865 to 1898.

In September 1996, the United States Coast Guard ceased operations and maintenance of Navassa Island Light, a 46-meter-tall lighthouse located on the southern side of the island. The lighthouse was built in 1917.

The island is ringed by vertical white cliffs 9 to 15 meters high and is composed of raised coral and limestone plateau, mostly exposed rock, but with dense stands of fig-like trees and scattered cactus, and enough grassland to support goat herds. Transient Haitian fishermen and others camp on the island but the island is otherwise uninhabited. It has no ports or harbors, only offshore anchorages, and its only natural resource is guano; there is no economic activity.

After a 1998 scientific expedition's recommendation, the island was declared a National Wildlife Refuge in 1999.



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