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St. Martin is a hilly island in the Caribbean Sea, located in the north of the Lesser Antilles. In this archipelago it belongs to the islands above the wind. It is of volcanic origin. The highest elevation is the Pic Paradis with a height of 424 m above sea level.

The northern, larger part of the island is part of the French overseas territory of Saint-Martin. The southern part belongs to the autonomous country Sint Maarten of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. St. Martin is thus the smallest inhabited island that belongs to two states.

Geography

The 87 km² large island is located about 250 km east of the Great Antilles Island Puerto Rico. St. Martin is politically divided between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch part belongs to the SSS islands.

The northern, larger part of the island forms the French overseas territory of Saint-Martin together with some secondary islands and belongs to the EU. The southern part forms the autonomous country of Sint Maarten in the Kingdom of the Netherlands together with a number of secondary islands. Summarized as “Saint-Martin / Sint Maarten” it is one of the smallest islands belonging to two states. Only here do France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands have a common land border.

The capital of the French territory is called Marigot; further north is Grand Case on the bay of the same name. The capital of the Dutch part is Philipsburg. The Anguilla Canal separates St. Martin from its British neighbour Anguilla in the north. The Saint-Barthélemy Canal separates Sint Maarten from the French island Saint-Barthélemy in the southeast.

Climate

The island has a tropical monsoon climate; the dry season lasts from January to April, the rainy and hurricane season from August to December. The wind usually blows from east or northeast. The air temperature is between 20 °C and 34 °C; the annual average is 27 °C. The wind blows mostly from east or northeast. The seawater temperature ranges from 25.9 °C in February to 28.4 °C in October, with an annual average of 27.2 °C. The seawater temperature is between 20 °C and 34 °C, and the annual average is 27.2 °C.

Over the year, but only on 142 days, 1047 mm of rain falls. Thunderstorms are relatively rare: 18 days a year.

St. Martin is hit by hurricanes at irregular intervals. Hurricane “Irma” destroyed about 95 percent of the buildings and infrastructure in the French part of the island; in the Dutch part, the airport and port, among other things, were severely damaged. The Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands spoke of the “worst hurricane in living memory in this area”.

History

The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus on 11 November 1493, the name day of Saint Martin, and was once called Isla de San Martín.

In June 1633 the Spaniards occupied the island to take over the Dutch fortress. In 1648, the island was divided after French and Dutch prisoners of war expelled their Spanish guards. Legend has it that the deportees divided the island between themselves, with a Dutchman and a Frenchman circling the island in opposite directions until they met again on the beach. It is also said that the Frenchman gave the Dutchman a water bottle containing gin, which is why today the French part is larger than the Dutch part. The Dutch part of the island (Sint Maarten) belonged politically to the Netherlands Antilles until its dissolution on 10 October 2010.

With more than 72,000 inhabitants, the island is heavily populated compared to neighbouring islands. As of January 1, 2014, the Dutch side had 37,132 inhabitants, while the French side had 35,107.