St. Martin is a hilly island in the Caribbean Sea, in the north of the Lesser Antilles. In this island group it belongs to the Leeward Islands. It is of volcanic origin. The highest point is the Pic Paradis with a height of 411 m above sea level.
The nearly 92 km ² island is located about 135 nautical miles (250 km) east of the Greater Antilles island of Puerto Rico. St. Martin is divided geopolitically between France and the Netherlands. The northern, larger part of the island, together with some smaller islands the French collectivity d' outre- mer Saint- Martin and is part of the EU. The southern part is the autonomous Sint Maarten in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In summary, as "St. Martin / St Maarten ," she is one of the smallest islands that belongs to two states. Only here have France and the Netherlands share a land border.
The capital of the French region called Marigot; further to the north of Grand Case is on the bay. The main town in the Dutch part is Philipsburg. The canal separates Anguilla Saint Martin of the British neighboring island of Anguilla in the north. The Saint -Barthélemy Channel separates Sint Maarten from the French island of Saint- Barthelemy in the southeast.
The island was discovered on November 11, 1493, the feast of St. Martin by Christopher Columbus and once called Isla de San Martín.
In June 1633, the Spanish occupied the island to take over the Dutch fortress on the spot. In 1648, the island area was divided after French and Dutch prisoners of war had driven their Spanish overseers. According to legend, the deportees divided the island among themselves by a Dutchman and a Frenchman circled the island in opposite directions until they again met at the beach. It is also said the Frenchman gave the Dutchman a water bottle, which, however, did not contain gin, which is why the French part is greater today than the Dutch. The Dutch part of the island (Sint Maarten) belonged politically until its dissolution on 10 October 2010 the Netherlands Antilles.
The island is heavily populated compared to neighboring islands today. In January 2009, 77 741 inhabitants lived on St. Martin, of which 40 917 on the Dutch side and 36,824 inhabitants on the French side.
The official currency of the French part of the island is the euro, which was part of the Netherlands until 31 December 2011, the Antillean guilder. Since 1 January 2012, this is replaced by the equivalent Caribbean guilder. The U.S. dollar is accepted on both parts of the island. The exchange rate of the Antillean guilder (NAF ) to the U.S. dollar is fixed at 1 USD = 1.79 NAF. In everyday transactions euro and the U.S. dollar are not infrequently charged 1:1.
The island is subject to tropical monsoon climate; The dry season runs from January to April, the rainy and hurricane season from August to December. The wind blows mostly from the east or northeast. The air temperature is between 20 ° C and 34 ° C; the annual mean is 27.2 ° C. The temperature of the sea water ranges from 25.9 ° C in February to 28.4 ° C in October; Annual average of 27.2 ° C. Over the year, but only to 142 days, falls 1,047 mm of rain. Thunderstorms are relatively rare: in 18 days a year.
In the 1990s, the island was hit by six hurricanes. Worst raged " Luis" ( September 1995) and "Lenny" (November 1999).
The population density corresponds to the strong traffic that causes at peak times on both parts of the island jams.
On the French side, there in the north near Grand Case the airfield L' Espérance, the small line machines and the mail plane to regional connection of the Antilles fly.
On the Dutch side is the Princess Juliana International Airport. It lies directly on the coast, on the southern two narrow land bridges. The special feature is that the aircraft ( including wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A340 and the Boeing 747 ) to the beach go down because of the proximity of the runway just a few meters above the heads of holidaymakers. Therefore, the released to the public Maho Beach is equipped with warning signs. The unusually small distance allows tourists to photograph the landing aircraft up close. On the beach, announces a surfboard to which the flight plan is written on the flights.