- Language: English
- Currency: U.S. dollar Temperature:
- Average 85°F winter, 90°F summer
- Square Miles: 59 Approx.
- Population: 28,000
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are composed of about 60 islands, islets, and cays, with Tortola leading all the others in size and population. The Virgin Islands, commonly referred to as the British Virgin Islands (or BVI), is a British overseas territory located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico. The British Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke, along with over fifty other smaller islands and cays. About 15 of the islands are inhabited. The capital, Road Town, is situated on Tortola, the largest island, which is approximately 20 km (12 mi) long and 5 km (3 mi) wide. The islands have a population of about 28,000, of whom approximately 23,500 live on Tortola. These islands are of volcanic origin except for Anegada which is coral and limestone. Amerindians and other tribes originally settled these islands. Christopher Columbus was the first European to sight the Virgin Islands, in 1493. Pirates frequented the area. But eventually the English won out over the Dutch, French, Spanish, and Danish, who were all contending for control of the islands. After a prosperous period of sugar cane plantation settlement and rum production, the economy has mainly turned to tourism.
During World War I, the United States, worried that the Germans could possibly use the islands as a submarine base, purchased Saint Thomas, Saint John, Saint Croix from Denmark for $25 million, renaming them the U.S. Virgin Islands. Sheltered islands, constant trade winds, and many marinas make the British Virgin Islands the ideal sailing environment.
Today the British Virgin Islands remain under the control of the British Government, but are administered by a hands-on Governor appointed by the Queen of England. Steeped in the history of the British Navy, the islands are ringed by shipwrecks; the most famous of these – The RMS Rhone – is now a national marine park, and a favorite scuba diving point.