Azores - The Portuguese Archipelago

January 27th, 2009 - 2:49 pm ICT by Amrit Rashmisrisethi  

Sete Cidades Twin LakesThe Azores is a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, which is about 1,500 km from Lisbon and about 3,900 km from the east coast of North America. The two westernmost Azorean islands (Flores and Corvo) lies on the North American plate and is 1,925 km from St. John’s in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Azores is known for most significant industries are tourism, cattle raising for milk and meat, and fishing.

The important Azorean islands and the eight small Formigas extend for more than 600 km which lies in the northwest-southeast direction. The vast extent of the islands defines an immense exclusive economic zone of 1.1 million km². The westernmost point of this area is 3,380 km from the North American continent. All of the islands have volcanic origins, although Santa Maria also has some reef contribution. The mountain of Pico on Pico Island, at 2,351 m in altitude, is the highest in all of Portugal.

The Azores are actually the tops of some of the tallest mountains on the planet, as measured from their base at the bottom of the ocean. The archipelago forms the Autonomous Region of Azores, one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal.

The residents of Terceira, who mostly settled in Porto Judeu and Praia da Vitoria and along the coastline, took a brave stand against King Philip II of Spain upon his ascension to the Portuguese throne in 1580. They, along with most of the rest of the Azores, believed that António, Prior of Crato was the rightful successor, and defeated the Spanish at the Battle of Salga in 1581.

Azores weather is delightful, lying in the same limatic zone as Lisbon. The Eastern Group of the Azores consists of Sao Miguel, Santa Maria and Formigas Islets. The Central Group is Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial and the Western Group includes Flores and Corvo.

Sao Miguel or the Green Island is the largest and the very famous among of the other islands with over half the population of the Azores living. The Green Island name derives from a verdant lowlands and the laurel forests in the hills.

Santa Maria is the southernmost and first discovered island of the Azores and is well known for its pottery, arts, and crafts.

The Formigas Islets are a series of small land formations lying between São Miguel and Santa Maria. Some are hardly more than large rocks. There is no plant or animal life naturally occurring on the Formigas. The name formigas means ‘ants’ in Portuguese. The group is guarded by a lighthouse to assist in navigation around the dangerous rocks and shoals.

Terceira Island was the third island to be discovered, and its name means “Third Island”. It was originally called the Island of Jesus Christ and was first settled in 1450. Graciosa Island was settled shortly afterward from settlers from Terceira.

Graciosa is a very small island mostly important for its cereal, wine, fruit and cattle crops.

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