Basse-Terre (bäs-tĕrˈ) [key], town (1999 pop. 12,410), on Basse-Terre Island, capital of Guadeloupe, a French overseas department in the West Indies. Basse-Terre is a port that ships the products of the surrounding agricultural area. Founded by the French in 1643, it retains its French colonial atmosphere, but its commercial prosperity passed to Pointe-à-Pitre in the late 18th cent. The town was destroyed by a hurricane in 1979, setting back prospects for economic development.