Caribbean island, about a quarter of the way from Haiti to Jamaica. Supposedly a U.S. Territory, but that claim is disputed by Haiti.
The CIA World Factbook lists guano as its major mineral resource. Uninhabited, although Haitian fishermen occasionally land there. Managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs.

Navassa Island is a small island in the Caribbean Sea, located a little over thirty miles west of the tip of Haiti's Tiburon Peninsula. It is also located east of Jamaica, and south of Guatanamo Bay in Cuba. The island is roughly tear-dropped shape, and is a little less than 1400 acres, or 2 square miles, in area. Unlike many islands which are either low-lying sandy atolls or rocky and steep, Navassa Island is a mostly flat expanse of limestone that reaches 250 feet at its highest point. The island is surrounded by cliffs about 20 feet high, and there are is no bays or shelters for shipping. The island also does not have any permanent sources of water. The island is home to four species of tree, four species of reptiles, and is also frequently visited by migrating seabirds.

Navassa Island is claimed by both The United States of America and Haiti, with Haiti's claim going back to the foundation of Haiti, and America's claim going back to the 1850s, when the United States claimed the island under the Guano Islands Act. For most of the latter half of the 19th Century, the island was inhabited by people mining for guano, and a small settlement complete with (a very small) railroad was built. At the turn of the century, the guano trade disappeared, and the island instead became a lighthouse station of the United States Coast Guard. After the lighthouse was discontinued, the island was switched over to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and is currently considered a National Wildlife Refuge.

Haiti still has a territorial claim to the island, and Haitian fisherman still visit the island. However, due to the island's small size and difficulty of permanent habitation, neither Haiti or the United States seem to be too interested in making a diplomatic issue out of the island's status. The island has no port facilities, no airport or heliport facilities, and no source of permanent water. After guano ceased to be an economic commodity, there is no economic value to the island. The same things that make it economically nonviable also make it of little military use: an island that can't accommodate aircraft or shipping has little strategic value. The only reason the disputed status of the island might become an active issue is if the United States wished to prohibit Haitians from fishing in the area, which is probably not how the United States wishes to spend its diplomatic energy in the Caribbean.

I have written a bit about the natural and political history of Navassa Island, although there is a lot more that could be written. But the interest of Navassa Island, for me, is not in these details, but rather that Navassa Island is one of the few places in the world that remains in limbo, outside of the sphere of defined political entities. We usually know what country we are in, and when there is a dispute over the matter, it is usually very obvious. And yet the United States and Haiti have managed to have conflicting claims to the island for well over 150 years with neither party taking action on the matter. The island exists in a state of limbo. And while there are many uninhabited, disputed places in the world, many of them islands, most of them are in marginal territory. Navassa Island, on the other hand, lies in the Caribbean Sea, one of the most densely populated regions on earth. Despite the logistic difficulties inherent in a small island with no water, it probably could be the home of a settlement. But as it is, Navassa Island gets fewer visitors than many other places that are seemingly more remote: the Fish and Wildlife Service allows no visitors to the island that are not part of authorized scientific observations, and the Haitian fisherman that use the island don't stay for long.

So in our modern world, where every spot is precisely governed, reachable from anywhere else, and in constant communications, Navassa Island remains in political limbo and separated from the outside world. Someone who were to visit the island and walk in the decaying remnants of the settlements that were once there would have few signs of whether it was 2014 or 1954. Despite the fact that there are structures, and someone with a cistern and a fishing boat could live there indefinitely, Navassa Island is separated from the larger world.


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