Chinamans Hat Island



Chinaman Island


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Chinamans Hat Island is a small uninhabited island situated in the mid-Atlantic Ocean, southwest of the Virgin Islands. It belongs to the United States Virgin Islands and is part of the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. The island has an area of 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) and a maximum elevation of 5 feet (1.5 m).

The name Chinamans Hat derives from an early 19th century story about how a group of Hutus, fleeing from the Rwandan genocide, settled on the island. Over time, the island came to be known as a refuge for birds, with its primary resident being the roseate spoonbill.

Chinaman Island


Chinamans Hat Island was first sighted by Europeans on October 9, 1525, when explorer Amerigo Vespucci sailed past it while sailing from South America to the Caribbean.

The island was uninhabited until 1818, when a group of Hutus fled the Rwandan genocide and settled there. The name Chinamans Hat eventually came to be used for the island as a refuge for birds. Today, Chin amans Hat Island is part of the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge and has undergone two major population shifts. The original Hutus were later taken away when, in 1845, President James K. Polk turned it over to Great Britain as a price for war with Mexico; they then left voluntarily (see Expulsion of British Citizens from the Virgin Islands).


Chinamans Hat Island has a tropical climate, with average temperatures ranging from 79°F (26°C) in the winter to 84°F (29°C) in the summer. It has only one month of the year when average temperatures go above 90°F (32°C). Chinamans Hat Island receives most of its rainfall during January, February and March; 78 inch annual mean precipitation.

The island gets a lot less rain in August through November with an annual total range from 12 to 33 inches. Precipitation is relatively consistent throughout many months as there are very few varying patterns or subtle changes that may cause variation between areas.


Native American and African slaves both lived on Chinaman Hat Island. Today, the island is home to a small community of about 50 people who live in Freetown Harbour. The culture of the island’s residents reflects its history: most people are subsistence farmers who grow crops such as bananas, coconuts and papayas; they also raise chickens, pigs and goats.

Chinaman Hat Island has a “barbudan” (small market town), in Freetown Harbour. It is generally housed within shacks, but with wooden framework and tin roofs filled with vegetation to give it the appearance of mud walls.


Chinaman Hat Island is a British Overseas Territory and has its own parliamentary system, with an appointed governor. Its official currency is the United States dollar. Currency

The currency is the United States dollar. The bank in Freetown Harbour, which is open on weekdays from morning to late afternoon and until 5 pm during weekends, has an ATM that accepts US dollars as well; there are also ATMs located at Economy Inn (the only hotel on Chinaman Hat Island) and by the small supermarket across Main Street where once you can exchange your money.

Government Services

Government services are generally limited to healthcare, firefighting and emergency management. There is a hospital on Chinaman Hat Island but it is not open to the general public; people needing medical assistance must travel to either Bonaire or St Eustatius. The British government provides firefighting and emergency management services through its support of the Royal Saint Vincent and The Grenadines Police Force.


Tourism is not a major source of income for Chinaman Hat Island, although there are occasional cruise-ship visits to the island. Visitors can explore its beaches and reefs or relax on its powdery white sand beaches. There are no restaurants on the island; visitors must either eat in Freetown Harbour or take provisions with them when they visit. There are, however, a number of yachts that visit Chinaman Hat Island at various times; some offer snorkeling or scuba diving as part of their programs.


Transport to Chinaman Hat Island is limited to the small plane that service the island twice a week. This plane leaves Freetown Harbour on Tuesday and Saturday at 9:00 am, returning approximately two hours later. There is no public transportation available to or from Chinaman Hat Island; visitors must arrange their own transportation either before they arrive or while they are on the island.


The cuisine on Chinaman Hat Island is predominantly Caribbean. There are a few restaurants on the island that serve international dishes, but most of the food is locally sourced and prepared using traditional spices and ingredients. There is no restaurant on the island, but visitors can enjoy food from both Freetown Harbour and Port Purcell which are approximately two or three miles away.


There are a number of indigenous animals that live on Chinaman Hat Island, including the Socotra cormorant and the Sifaka lemur. The island is also home to a variety of exotic birds, including the red-headed woodpecker and the white-collared dove. There are no mammals native to Chinaman Hat Island; visitors must rely upon feral cats for their food sources.

Environmental Concerns

Chinaman Hat Island is a part of the South Saint Mary Wildlife Reserve – an area recognized by UNESCO as being important for its biological diversity. At least four threatened species are found on the island: bluntnose six-gilled shark, leopard tortoise, star tortoise and red coral crab.

Another two endangered animals can be observed in their natural habitat nearby; both were listed under Schedule 1 of CITES Appendix II in 2000: yellow-lipped bat, and Salvadori’s samango. In late April 2007, a squat lobster was spotted off the coast of Chinaman Hat Island; this is the first known sighting of an Atlantic spiny lobster on Colonial Caribbean islands such as St Maarten or Barbados.


Chinamans Hat Island is a small uninhabited island in the Saint Lawrence River that is located on the border of the United States and Canada. The island is known for its bird rookeries, which have made it a popular tourist destination for ornithologists, nature lovers, and photographers. The island was designated as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1966 and was named after Chinaman, one of the earliest recorded owners of the island.


  1. Who Owns Chinamans Hat Island?

The island is owned by the United States Virgin Islands.

  1. How Many People Live On The Island?

There are no permanent residents on the island, but it is popular with birdwatchers and photographers who visit to see its abundant bird populations.

  1. What Do Chinaman’s Hat Island’s Main Attractions Include?

Chinamans Hat Island is best known for its rare roseate spoonbill and other animal species found in the area, as well as for being a major nesting habitat for numerous seabirds.

  1. How Big Is Chinaman’s Hat Island?

The island measures 0.55 square miles (1.33 km2) in area and 5 ft or 1.5 m in elevation, making it the smallest populated island within the United States-Canada border with relation to area or height of its highest part above sea level.. The island is noted for being shaped like a hat, hence its name and nickname “Chinamans Hat”. Other unusual features include grassy sand hills rising out of a narrow inlet between it, Green Island (also known as Thatch Island), and La Pérouse.

  1. What Kinds Of Animals Live On Chinamans Hat?

Chinaman’s Hat supports a diverse bird population including: roseate spoonbills, white-faced ibis, swallow-tailed kite, Bahama pigeon and the endangered eastern piping gnatcatcher.. The island is also home to grassland birds such as mockingbirds and white-throated sparrows, terns and ducks.



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