Barbados, situated just east of the Caribbean Sea, is an independent West Indian Continental Island-nation in the western Atlantic Ocean. For over three centuries Barbados was under British rule and maintains Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Located at roughly 13° North of the equator and 59° West of the prime meridian, it is considered a part of the Lesser Antilles. Its closest island neighbours are Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Saint Lucia to the west. To the south lies Trinidad and Tobago—with which Barbados now shares a fixed official maritime boundary—and also the South American mainland. Barbados's total land area is about 430 square kilometres (166 square miles), and is primarily low-lying, with some higher in the country's interior. The highest point in Barbados is Mount Hillaby in the parish of Saint Andrew.
The geological composition of Barbados is of non-volcanic origin, predominantly limestone-coral. After the break of South America from Africa in the Mesozoic, a reef formed; and during the Cenozoic, as the Caribbean plate kept pushing the South American plate westward, the two plates pushed up the reef. Barbados is part of a North Atlantic Ocean submarine mountain range located to the east of the Windward Islands, this range stretches from its close proximity of Puerto Rico in the north, to a south-easterly direction toward Venezuela. The island of Barbados, forms the only part of this mountain range that actually rises above sea level.
The island's climate is tropical, with constant trade winds off the Atlantic Ocean serving to keep temperatures mild. Some less developed areas of the country contain tropical woodland and mangroves. Other parts of the interior which contribute to the agriculture industry are dotted with large sugarcane estates and wide, gently sloping pastures, with panoramic views down to the coast also.
Barbados's Human Development Index ranking is consistently among the top 75 countries in the world. For example, in 2006, it was ranked 31st in the world, and third in the Americas, behind Canada and the United States.
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