Barbados was an uninhabited island until the British claimed it in 1625, consequently their influence is everywhere, in place names, in sport, ie cricket, and in the language, English, spoken with a soft West Country accent. They ruled for over 300 years until the country final achieved independence in 1966.
From the air Barbados appears as a pear shaped island 34 km by 23 km. It is the easternmost island of the Lesser Antilles, situated 480 km north of Guyana, 160 km east of St. Vincent, and 965 km southeast of Puerto Rico.
Fringed with coral reefs, Barbados is characterised by lowlands or gently sloping, terraced plains, separated by rolling hills that generally run parallel to the coast. Elevations in the interior range from 180 to 240 meters above sea level. Mount Hillaby is the highest point at 340 meters above sea level. Farther south, at Christ Church Ridge, elevations range from sixty to ninety meters.
Barbados lies within the tropics. Its generally pleasant maritime climate is influenced by northeast trade winds, which moderate the tropical temperatures. Cool, northeasterly trade winds are prevalent during the December to June dry season. The overall annual temperature ranges from 24 °C to 28 °C; slightly lower temperatures prevail at higher elevations. Humidity levels are between 71 percent and 76 percent year round. Rainfall occurs primarily between July and December and varies considerably with elevation. Rainfall may average 187.5cm/year in the higher central area as compared with 127.5 cm in the coastal zone.
The Greater and Lesser Antilles form a long chain which represents the tops of highlands or mountain peaks. During certain periods in geological history this land mass has connected North and South America. Barbados is set off from the chain of the Lesser Antilles by about 120 km. Once in the early Tertiary it was a part of the mainland, and the oldest beds, exposed in the Scotland district, are made up of sandstones, conglomerates, and shales intermingled in places with thin beds of volcanic origin. The region was let down to great depths and beds of oceanic ooze of foraminifera were laid down on the basic sands and shales.
Above these oceanic deposits are more recent deposits of coralline limestones which cover eighty-five percent of the island's surface and are from twenty-four to thirty meters thick. Most of the island's caves are found inside this formation. A period of uplift and coral inhabitation took place followed by subsequent slow elevations above the water. These elevations brought the now higher parts of the island above the water line and gradually increased the size and elevation of the island. This event is responsible for the terraced effects which are so apparent even to the casual observer.
Text by Tony Oldham (2003). With kind permission.