In 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the New World on the island of San Salvador in the eastern Bahamas. After observing the shallow sea around the islands, he said "baja mar" (shallow water or sea), and effectively named the area The Bahamas, or The Islands of the Shallow Sea. It was located close to Florida and well-travelled shipping channels. The Islands Of The Bahamas caught the attention of explorers, settlers, invaders and traders. These people shaped the colourful history of The Bahamas and made the country what it is today.
The Bahamas are an archipelago of about 700 islands and 2,400 uninhabited islets and cays lying 50 mi off the east coast of Florida. They extend for about 760 mi (1,223 km). Only about 30 of the islands are inhabited; the most important is New Providence (80 sq mi; 207 sq km), on which the capital, Nassau, is situated. Other islands include Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera, Andros, Cat Island, and San Salvador (or Watling's Island).
|Commonwealth of The Bahamas|
Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)
Land area: 3,888 sq mi (10,070 sq km);
Total area: 5,382 sq mi 13,940 sq km)
Population (2006 est.): 303,770 (growth rate: 0.6%); birth rate: 17.6/1000; infant mortality rate: 24.7/1000; life expectancy: 65.6; density per sq mi: 78
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Nassau, 222,200
Monetary unit: Bahamian dollar
Languages: English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)
Ethnicity/race: black 85%, white 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3%
Religions: Baptist 35%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 14%, Pentecostal 8%, Church of God 5%, Methodist 4%, other Christian 15% (2000)
Literacy rate: 98.2% (1995 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $5.696 billion; per capita $18,900.
Real growth rate: 3%.
Arable land: 0.58%.
Agriculture: citrus, vegetables; poultry.
Labor force: 176,300 (2004); agriculture 5%, industry 5%, tourism 50%, other services 40% (2005 est.).
Industries: tourism, banking, cement, oil transshipment, salt, rum, aragonite, pharmaceuticals, spiral-welded steel pipe.
Natural resources: salt, aragonite, timber, arable land.
Exports: $469.3 million (2004 est.): mineral products and salt, animal products, rum, chemicals, fruit and vegetables.
Imports: $1.82 billion (2004 est.): machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals, mineral fuels; food and live animals.
Major trading partners: U.S., Poland, Spain, Germany, France, South Korea, Brazil, Japan, Italy, Venezuela (2004).
Member of Commonwealth of Nations Communications:
Telephones: main lines in use: 139,900 (2004); mobile cellular: 186,000 (2004).
Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2006).
Television broadcast stations: 2 (2006).
Internet hosts: 359 (2005). I
Internet users: 93,000 (2005).
Transportation: Railways: 0 km.
Highways: total: 2,693 km; paved: 1,546 km; unpaved: 1,147 km (1999).
Ports and harbors: Freeport, Nassau, South Riding Point.
Airports: 64 (2005).
International disputes: disagrees with the US on the alignment of the maritime boundary; continues to monitor and interdict Haitian refugees fleeing economic privation and political instability .