Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Azores

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AZORES, The, or Western Islands, are situated in the Atlantic Ocean, and extend in an oblique line from N.W. to S.E., between 36 55 and 39 55 N. lat., and between 25 and 31 16 W. long. They are generally considered as pertaining to Europe, though separated by a distance of 800 miles from the coast of Portugal They are divided into three distinct groups : the south-eastern consisting of Sao-Miguel, or St Michael s, and Sta Maria ; the central and largest, of Fayal, Pico, Sao Jorge, Terceira, and Graciosa; and the north-western, of Flores and Corvo.

It does not appear that the ancient Greeks and Romans had any knowledge of the Azores, but from the number of Carthaginian coins discovered at Corvo it has been supposed that the islands must have been visited by that adventurous people. The Arabian geographers, Edrisi in the 12th century, and Ibn-al-Wardi in the 14th, describe, after the Canaries, nine other islands in the Western Ocean, which are in all probability the Azores. This identification is supported by various considerations. The number of islands is the same ; the climate under which they are placed by the Arabians makes them north of the Canaries ; and special mention is made of the hawks or buzzards, which were sufficiently numerous at a later period to give rise to the present name (Port. A$or, a hawk.) The Arabian writers represent them as having been populous, and as having contained cities of some magnitude ; but they state that the inhabitants had been greatly reduced by intestine warfare. The Azores are first found distinctly marked in a map of 1351, the southern group being named the Goat Islands (Cabreras) ; the middle group, the Wind or Dove Islands (De Ventura sive de Columbis] ; and the western, the Brazil Island (De Brazi) the word Brazil at that time being employed for any red dye-stuff. In a Catalan map of the year 1375 the island of Corvo is found as Corvi Marini, and Flores as Li Conigi ; while Sao Jorge is already designated San Zorze. It has been conjectured that the discoverers were Genoese, but of this there is not sufficient evidence. It is plain, however, that the so-called Flemish discovery by Van der Berg is only worthy of the name in a very secondary sense. According to the usual account, he was driven on the islands in 1432, and the news excited considerable interest at the court of Lisbon. The navigator, Gonzalo Velho Cabral not to be confounded with his greater namesake, Pedro Alvarez Cabral was sent to pro secute the discovery. Another version relates that Don Henry of Portugal had in his possession a map in which the islands were laid down, and that he sent out Cabral through confidence in its accuracy. The map had been presented to him by his brother, Don Pedro, who had travelled as far as Babylon. Be this as it may, Cabral reached the island, which he named Santa Maria, in 1432, and in 1444 took possession of St Michael s. _ The other islands were all discovered by 1457. Colonisation had meanwhile been going on prosperously; and in 1466 the Azores were presented by Alphonso V. to his aunt, Isabella, the duchess of Burgundy. An influx of Flemish settlers followed, and the islands became known for a time as I he Flemish Islands. From 1580 to 1640 they were subject to Spain like the rest of the Portuguese kingdom, of which they now form a province. At that time the Azores were the grand rendezvous for the fleets on tneir voyage home from the Indies; and he ace they became a theatre of that maritime warfare which was carried on by the English under Queen Elizabeth against the Peninsular powers. The connection with England has long since been of a more peaceful description ; no other country affording such a

ready market for Azorean productions.

The islands are now divided into three administrative

districts, which take their names from the chief towns of
Angra in Terceira, Horta in Fayal, and Ponta-Delgada

in St Michael s the first of the three being also the capital of the islands. The most of the inhabitants are of Portu guese origin, but there is a mixture not only of Flemish but Moorish blood. Negroes, Mulattoes, English, Scotch, and Irish immigrants are present in considerable numbers, especially in San Miguel and Fayal. Education is in a very backward state, the great proportion of the lower classes being unable to read or write. Progress, however, is being made in this as well as other respects.

Under the active administration of Pombal, considerable efforts were made for the improvement of the Azores, but the stupid and bigoted Government which followed rather tended to destroy these benefits, and to create a retrograde course. Towards the beginning of the present century, the possession of the islands was contested by the claimants for the crown of Portugal. The adherents of the constitu tion, who supported against Miguel the rights of Maria da Gloria, obtained possession of Terceira in 1829, where they succeeded in maintaining themselves, and after various struggles, Queen Maria s authority was established over all the islands. She resided at Angra from 1830 to 1833.

The aspect of all the islands is very similar in general characteristics, presenting an elevated and undulating outline, with little or no table-land, and rising into peaks, of which the lowest (that of Sta Maria) is 1889 feet, and the highest (that of Pico) 7613 feet above the level of the sea. Their lines of sea-coast are, with few exceptions, high and precipitous, with bases of accumulated masses of fallen rock, in which open bays, or scarcely more enclosed inlets, form the harbours of the trading towns. The volcanic character of the whole archipelago is very obvious, and has been abundantly confirmed by the numerous earth quakes and eruptions which have taken place since its discovery. Hitherto the western group of Flores and Corvo has been quite exempt, Graciosa has been equally undis turbed, and Fayal has only suffered from one eruption, in 1672. The centre of activity has for the most part been St Michael s, while the neighbouring island of Santa Maria has altogether escaped. In 1444-45 there was a great eruption at St Michael s, of which, however, the accounts that have been preserved exaggerate the importance. In 1522 the town of Villa Franca, at that time the capital of the island, was buried, with all its 6000 inhabitants, during a violent convulsion. In 1572 an eruption took place in the island of Pico; in 1580 St George was the scene of numerous outbursts; and in 1614 a little town in Terceira was destroyed. In 1630, 1652, 1656, 1755, 1852, &c., St Michael has been visited with successive eruptions and earthquakes, several of them of great violence. On various occasions, as in 1638, 1720, 1811, and 1867, subterranean eruptions have taken place, which have sometimes been accompanied by the appearance of temporary islands. Of these the most remarkable was thrown up in June 1811, about half a league from the western extremity of St Michael s. It was called Sabrina by the commander of the British man-of-war of that name, who witnessed the phenomenon. Details will be found in a valuable chapter of Hartung s Die Azoren, p. 99, and in the 23d vol. of the Philosophical Transactions.

The climate is particularly temperate and equable, the extremes of sensible heat and cold being, however, increased by the humidity of the atmosphere. This is so great that paper-hangings will not adhere to the walls, and the veneer ing of furniture strips off. Ths range of the thermometer is from 45 Fahr., the lowest known extreme, or 48, the ordinary lowest extreme of January, to 82 J , the ordinary, or 86 J , the highest known extreme of July, near the level of the sea. Between these two points (both taken in the shade) there is from month to month a pretty regular gradation of increase or decrease, amounting to somewhat less than four degrees (Geographical Journal, vol. xv.) lu winter the prevailing winds are from the north-west, west, and south ; while in summer the most frequent are the north, north-east, and east. The weather is often extremely stormy, and the winds from the west and south-west render

che navigation of the coasts very dangerous.

The general character of the flora is decidedly European, no fswer than 400 out of the 478 species generally con sidered as indigenous belonging likewise to that continent, while only four are found in America, and forty are peculiar to the archipelago. Vegetation in most of the islands is remarkably rich, especially in grasses, mosses, and ferns, heath, juniper, and a variety of shrubs. Of tall-growing trees there was, till the present century, an almost total lack ; but through the exertions of Jose de Canto and others the Bordeaux pine, the European poplar, the African palm-tree, the Australian eucalyptus, the chestnut, the tulip-tree, the elm, the oak, and many other?, have been successfully introduced into one or more of lao islands. The orange, the apricot, the banana, the lemvi, the citron, the Japanese medlar, and the pomegranate, u:e the common fruits, and various other varieties are more or less cultivated. At one time much attention was given to the growing of the sugar cane, but it has now for the most part been abandoned. The culture of woad introduced in the IGth century also belongs to the past. A kind of fern (Dicksonia, culcita), called by the natives cabellinho, and common throughout the archi pelago, furnishes a silky material for the stuffing of mat tresses, which forms an article of export to Brazil and Portugal.

The mammalia of the Azores are limited to the rabbit, weasel, ferret, rat (brown and black), mouse, and bat, in addition to domestic animals. Among the fish caught off the coast may be mentioned the mullet, the tunny, the bonito. The numbers of birds are so remarkable that in St Michael s, where a reward is given for the destruction of the blackbird, the bullfinch, the redbreast, the chaffinch, and the canary, the sum paid annually represents a death- list of 420,000. The game includes the woodcock, red par tridge (introduced in the IGth century), quail, and snipe.

St Michael s, the largest and most populous of the islands, liael s. has an area of 224 square miles, and 105,404 inhabitants. The east end rises from a bluff cliff, from 1200 to 1400 feet high, to a lofty inland peak, whence a central range, varying in height from 2000 to 2500 feet, runs to the westward, terminating in the Serra da Agoa de Pao, 3060 feet above the sea. The sea-coast gradually declines in approaching the last point, where it is not more than abcut 100 feet high. The middle part of the island is lower, and more undulating; its western extremity being marked by the conspicuous Serra Gorda, 1574 feet above the sea; its shores on both sides are low, broken, and rocky. The aspect of the western portion of the island is that of a vast truncated cone, irregularly cut off at an elevation of about 800 feet, and falling on the N., S., and W. sides to a perpendicular coast of betweeen 300 and 800 feet high. In the higher parts an undergrowth of shrubs gives the mountains a rich and wooded appearance. Like all volcanic countries, the face of the island is uneven and irregular, being deeply excavated by numerous ravines, and roughened by streams of semi-vitrified and scoriaceous lava, that resist all atmo spheric influences and repel vegetation. Heavy rains falling on the mountains afford a constant supply of water to four lakes at the bottom of extinct craters, and a number of minor reservoirs, and through them to small streams running rapidly down on all sides into the sea (Geographi cal Journal, vol. xv.)

Hot springs abound in many parts of the island, and from almost every crevice vapour is seen issuing. But the most remarkable phenomena are the Caldeiras or boiling fountains, which rise chiefly from a valley called the Furnas, near the western extremity of the island. The water ascends in columns to the height of about 12 feet, after which it dissolves in clouds of vapour. The ground in the immediate vicinity is entirely covered with native sulphur, like hoar frost. At a small distance is the Muddy Crater, the vertex of which, 45 feet in diameter, is on a level with the plain. Its contents are in a state of continual and violent ebullition, accompanied with a sound resembling that of a tempestuous ocean. Yet they never rise above its level, unless occasionally to throw to a small distance a spray of the consistence of melted lead. The Furnas abounds also in hot springs, some of them of a very high temperature. There is almost always, however, a cold spring near to the hot one. These springs have for a considerable period been greatly resorted to in cases of palsy, rheumatism, scrofula, and similar maladies, and bath-rooms and various conveniences for visitors have been erected.

The plains are fertile, producing wheat, barley, and In dian corn ; whilst vines and oranges grow luxuriantly on the sides of the mountains. The plants are made to spring even from the interstices of the volcanic rocks, which are sometimes blasted to receive them. Raised in this manner, these fruits are said to be of superior quality ; but the expense of such a mode of cultivation necessarily restricts it. The western part of the island yields hemp, which might be raised to a considerable extent. The exports consist of wine, fruit, and provisions, the most important trade being in oranges. Foreign intercourse was at one time confined rigorously to Lisbon ; but the inhabitants now trade directly with England, America, and other countries. The exports during 1872 at the port of St Michael s were of the value of 85,279, and the imports amounted to 91,943.

The principal town in the island is Ponta Delgada, which contains 15,520 inhabitants. It is built with toler able regularity, the streets being straight and broad. The religious edifices are numerous and elegant. The harbour receives only small vessels; those of larger size must anchor in an open roadstead, which cannot be occupied during the prevalence of southerly gales. A breakwater and harbour of refuge have been in process of construction for a number of years ; and a lighthouse is being built at the north-east end of the island. The other towns are Villa Franca, Bibeira Grande, Alagoa, Agoa de Pao, &c.

St Mary is a small island immediately adjacent to St St Mary Michael s, through the medium of which its trade is con ducted, as it has no good harbours of its own. It has an area of 36 square miles, and produces wheat in abundance, of which a considerable quantity is exported. Various volcanic rocks are the predominant formations, but beds of limestone also occur, giving rise to numerous stalactite grottoes all over the island. Population from 7000 to 8000.

Terceira (so called as being the third in order of dis- Terceira. covery) is smaller than St Michael s, but being placed in a more central position with respect to the other islands, has been chosen as the seat of government. The port of Angra, protected by Mt. Brazil, is also superior to any of those in St Michael s. This island does not exhibit nearly the same extensive traces of volcanic action ; and the summits of its mountains are generally level. It abounds in grain and cattle ; but the wines are inferior, and fruits are raised merely, for internal consumption. The number of inhabitants is estimated at 50,000.

Fayal (so called from the extreme abundance of ihefaya, an indigenous shrub) is the most frequented of all the Azores, after St Michael s, as it has one of the best harbours in the islands, and lies directly in the track of vessels that are crossing the Atlantic in any direction. Its principal town is Villa de Horta, with a population of 763G. The town is defended by two castles and a wall, both in decay, and serving rather for show than strength. The city contains two convents for monks and three for nuns, with eight churches. The bay is two miles in length and three- quarters of a mile in breadth, and the depth of water from 6 to 20 fathoms. Though a good roadstead, it is not altogether free from danger in S.S.W. and S.E. winds. The women of this island manufacture fine lace from the agave thread, and till recently produced large quantities of open-work stockings. They also execute carvings in snow-white fig- tree pith, and carry on the finer kinds of basket-making. A small valley, called Flemengos, still perpetuates the name of the Flemish settlers, who have left their mark on the physical appearance of the inhabitants. Population, 26,264.

A considerable quantity of wine used to be exported from Fayal under the name of Fayal wine, which was really the produce of Pico, one of the most remarkable of the Azores. This island is composed of an immense conical mountain, rising to the height of 7613 feet, and bearing every trace of volcanic formation. The soil consists entirely of pulverised lava. All the lower parts of the mountain used to be in the highest state of cultivation, and covered with vine and orange plantations. But in 1852 the vines were attacked by the Oidium fungus and completely destroyed, while- the orange-trees suffered almost as much from the Coccus Hesperidum. The people were consequently re duced to want, and forced to emigrate in great numbers. The planting of fig-trees and apricots alleviated the evil, and after a time many of the emigrants returned. Pico also produces a valuable species of wood resembling, and equal in quality to, mahogany. Population, 24,000.

Graciosa and St George are two small islands, situated between Fayal and Terceira. Graciosa, as its name imports, is chiefly noted for the extreme beauty of its aspect and scenery. The chief town is Sta Cruz, and the total population 8000. The only manufacture is the George, burning of bricks. The chief town of St George is Velas, and the population 18,000.

The two small islands of Corvo and Flores seem but imperfectly to belong to the group. They lie also out of the^ usual track of navigators ; but to those who, missing their course, are led thither, Flores affords good shelter in its numerous bays. Its poultry is excellent; and the cattle are numerous, but small. It derives its name from the abundance of the flowers that find shelter in its deep ravines. Population of Corvo, 1000, and of Flores, 10.508.

See Hartmann s Edrisi ; Voyages dcs Hollandois, tome i. ; Astley s Collection, vol. i. ; Masson s "Account of St Miguel," in Phil. Trans.,

1778 ; Cook s Second, Voyage; Adanson s Voyage to Senegal; History of tlie Azores, London, 1813, and the review of this work in the Quarterly for 1814 ; Boid s Azores; London Geographical Journal; A Winter in the Azores, by J. and H. Bullar, 1841 ; Hartung s Die Azoren in Acusseren Erscheinung u. Geognost. Natur, Leipsic I860; Morelet s lies Azores, 1860; Drouet s Siemens de la Fauna Aqorecnnc, 1861; Drouet s Mollusques Marinades lies Azores, 1858; Drouet s Lcttrcs Ac,oriennes, 1862; Ramos (Dr A. G.), Noticia do Archipelago dos Azores, &c., 1871 ; Godman s Nat. Hist, of the Azores, 1870 ; "Voyages aux Azores," by Fouque in the Revue des Deux Momlcs, 1873; " Allgomeine Charac. dcs Klimas " in Hydro Mitth. vomHydr. Bur. derAdmir., Berlin, 1873; Kerhallet s Descr.

de I Archip. des Azores, 1851, translated by Totten, 1874.