Jamaica has an area of 4, 411 square miles of 11,424 square kilometers. The island is 146 miles (235km) long with widths varying between 22 (35km) miles. She is the third largest of the Caribbean islands and the largest of the English speaking islands.
Jamaica is a very mountainous country. Almost half of the island is above 1,000 feet (305m). Blue mountain Peak, the highest point, is 7,402 feet (2,256m) above sea level. The annual average rainfall is 78 inches (198cm). Because of the effects of the mountains, rainfall is fairly evenly distributed. Some hilly areas get nearly 300 inches (762cm) a year while parts of the western plains get as little as 30 inches (76.2).
The annual average temperature is 27ºC. The hottest months are the in the summer and the winter months (December to March) are appreciably cooler. Areas of high altitude are also much cooler. For example, the Blue Mountain Peak, has an average annual temperature of 13ºC. The tides around the coast hardly vary. The difference between high and low tide is never more than 16 inches (41cm).
Jamaica has about 120 rivers, most of which flow to coast from the central mountain ranges. Those on the north side tend to be shorter and swifter than those on the south side.
Jamaica is blessed with several mineral springs, four of which are developed with facilities for bathing and/or accommodation. Once is attached to the Grand Lido San Souci Hotel and three are Public; Bath in St. Thomas, Milk River in Clarendon and Rockfort in St. Andrew.
HISTORY AND PEOPLE
The first Jamaican were the aboriginal Taino Indians. Christopher Columbus found them living here when he came. Soon after the Spaniards settled on the island, the Tainos were all killed or died out from overwork and European diseases to which they had no immunity. Africans were imported to work as slaves on the plantations. Cattle and other small animals were the main livestock, while tobacco and staple foods were the main crops. The staple foods provided food for the population as well as supplies for passing ships. The word Jamaica comes from an Awarak word Xaymaca, meaning “Land of wood and water”.
Although the Tainos of Jamaica have all died out, they have left several words in the English Language. Among them: hammock, tobacco, potato, hurricane, maize, barbecue, cannibal, and canoe.
Christopher Columbus first came to Jamaica on May 4, 1494 while on his second voyage to the “new” world. This great explorer landed at Discovery Bay on the north coast near the resort town of Ocho Rios. Columbus once spent a whole year in St. Ann’s Bay. It was during his fourth voyage in 1503 when he stopped here because his ships were worm-eaten. A full year passed before help arrived and he was able to repair his ships. This is the longest time he ever spent in any one place on any of his voyages.