Beata Island (Dominican Republic)
|Area||27 km2 (10 sq mi)|
|Density||0 /km2 (0 /sq mi)|
Beata Island (Spanish: Isla Beata) is a small island on the Caribbean Sea, located 7 km southwest from cape Beata, the southernmost point of the island Hispaniola. Some 12 km SW of it lies the smaller Alto Velo Island. It is part of the Dominican Republic and is roughly triangle-shaped and fairly flat, with an approximate area of 27 km².
The island, discovered by Europeans in 1494 during Columbus' second voyage, was apparently frequently inhabited by Taíno natives, a testament of which are several very large piles of conch (Strombus gigas), on which they regularly fed. Archaeologists have found remains of a Taíno settlement that may have been inhabited by as many as 800 inhabitants.
During the colonial era, Spaniards kept cattle on the island (which roamed ferally up into the late 1800s) to supply their ships on way to the mainland of the continent. Its strategic position and provisions made Beata the scene of several skirmishes in which Spanish vessels were attacked by pirates and corsairs based and sailing from Tortue Island.
In the 1870s a government concession allowed some private entrepreneurs to mine salt pans on the Northern coast, from which salt was extracted up to the 1960s.
The landscape is somewhat varied, with mangrove swamps on parts of the North shore, sandy coves and beaches on the West coast. Most of the interior of the island is covered by various subtypes of xeric semi-deciduous limestone forests. Geologically, the island is basically made out of limestone, the erosion of which causes very jagged surfaces on exposed rocks (called diente de perro or dogtooth), and several sinkholes and cenotes. Beata Island is currently unhabitated, save for short stays by fishermen from the mainland.
Fauna of the island includes several notable species of land birds, like Microligea palustris and Columba leucocephala, and reptiles like the Rhinoceros iguana and Alsophis anomalus. Numerous species of shorebirds, both migratory and resident, frequent the island.