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Articles in Islands

New Evidence on the Settlement of Madagascar

By Martin W. Lewis | March 28, 2012 | 8 Comments

A new study of the genetic background of the people of Madagascar sheds light on the settlement of the island. It has long been known that the initial movement of people to Madagascar was relatively recent (1,000 to 1,500 years ago), and that it originated not from the African mainland but rather from the islands of what is now Indonesia.

The US Virgin Islands after the Shuttering of the Hovensa Refinery

By Martin W. Lewis | February 28, 2012 |

Until recently, Hovensa in the U.S. Virgin Islands was one of the world’s largest petroleum refineries, with a capacity of almost 500,000 barrels per day. As of this month, Hovensa is no longer refining oil, but is merely serving as a storage facility.

Protests on the island of Réunion

By Rebecca Hecht | February 24, 2012 |
Wikipedia Map of France and its Overseas Possessions

French news outlets are reporting “spontaneous and unorganized” outbursts of violence on the island of Réunion, one of France’s overseas departments. Protests against the high cost of living and rising prices of fuel exploded several days ago.

South Georgia Rat Crisis

By Martin W. Lewis | February 14, 2012 |

The world’s largest rat extermination program is currently underway in South Georgia Island, a British sub-Antarctic territory that is also claimed by Argentina.

Gaddafy’s Fall and the Drop of Migration to Malta

By Martin W. Lewis | February 10, 2012 |

Malta has long been a major node in the movement of unlicensed migrants to Europe. Maltese authorities, however, have recently announced that that landings have essentially come to and end.

When Is an Island Not An Island? Caribbean Maritime Disputes

By Martin W. Lewis | March 21, 2011 | One Comment
caribbean maritime disputes map

Matters of basic geographical definition can be extremely important in international disputes and negotiations, especially when it comes to maritime claims. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, any country can claim a 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around every island that it controls, usually splitting the differences with

Unnoticed Unrest in Turks and Caicos and the Canadian Connection

By Martin W. Lewis | March 19, 2011 | 4 Comments
turks and caicos political map

Massive unrest across much of the Middle East, coupled with the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan, have tended to crowd other important international stories out of the news, such as the on-going debacle in Ivory Coast. While the emphasis on Japan and the Arab world is understandable, other topics deserve attention as well

The Mystique of Mustique

By Martin W. Lewis | March 17, 2011 |

Mustique Island, in the country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, rarely makes the news – unless one counts celebrity gossip sheets. In those sources, the island appears fairly frequently. On March 16, 2011, for example, it was reported that there was a good chance that the “royal couple,” Prince William and

St. Vincent’s Venezuelan Alliance and High-End Tourism

By Martin W. Lewis | March 15, 2011 |

Political alliances are not always what seem, given that member states can join for different reasons. Consider ALBA, the “Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America,” founded by Hugo Chavez and designed to counter the influence of the United States in the Western Hemisphere. The leaders of the core ALBA

The Oddities and Anomalies of Svalbard

By Martin W. Lewis | December 14, 2010 | 2 Comments

The arctic archipelago of Svalbard is prominent on Mercator-projection world maps and figures as well in most pull-down geographical menus. Svalbard is also plenty interesting in its own right. News stories about the archipelago often focus on either its high-tech seed bank or its polar bears. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was recently described

Kerguelen: France’s Desolate Islands

By Martin W. Lewis | April 13, 2010 |

One of the most intriguing — and obscure — parts of France’s far-flung territorial domain is the Kerguelen Archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean, also known as the Desolation Islands. Dominated by Grande Terre Island, Kerguelen is one of the world’s largest remote oceanic landmasses; covering 2,786 square miles (7,215 km. sq.), it is roughly

Christmas Island: Land Crabs and Detainees

By Martin W. Lewis | March 11, 2010 |

Christmas Island is 52-square-mile rainforest-covered limestone and basalt platform several hundred miles south of Java. Most of the island is a national park, sheltering a limited and highly distinctive native fauna. It is best noted for its eponymous red crab, a land dwelling crustacean than lives in rainforest burrows – in staggering numbers.

The Tax Haven of Norfolk Island

By Martin W. Lewis | March 9, 2010 | One Comment

With just 13 square miles and 2,142 residents, Norfolk Island is not large. Lying 900 miles off Australia and 600 miles from New Zealand, it is also very remote. But Norfolk played a key role in the British colonization of the Austral realm. Extensive groves of tall, straight Norfolk Island pine

Lord Howe Island: Return of the Tree Lobster

By Martin W. Lewis | March 8, 2010 |

Isolated oceanic islands, with their small to non-existent populations and scant resources, are ignored in most discussion of global geography. Yet there are good reasons to pay them close attention. Remote islands form natural laboratories for research in biogeography, and their unique assemblages of flora and fauna are highly vulnerable to introduced species and

New Caledonia’s Unique Troubles

By Martin W. Lewis | March 5, 2010 |

Yesterday’s post referred to the French-controlled island of New Caledonia as a “nano-continent.” Owing in part to its continental origins, New Caledonia is classified as a biodiversity “hotspot” by Conservation International, noted for its large number of threatened endemic species. New Caledonia also occupies a unique position in terms of human geography. Its official status

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