Porto Santo Island

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Porto Santo
Island (Ilha)
Madeira-01-0018 (7337297108).jpg
Partial view of Porto Santo beach
Official name: Ilha do Porto Santo
Name origin: porto santo, Portuguese compound word for holy harbour
Country  Portugal
Autonomous Region  Madeira
Location Tore-Madeira Ridge, African Tectonic Plate, Atlantic Ocean
Archipelago Madeira
Municipalities Porto Santo (Vila Baleira)
Civil Parishes Porto Santo
Highest point Pico do Castelo
 - location Northeastern Volcanic Complex, Porto Santo, Porto Santo (Vila Baleira)
 - elevation 402 m (1,319 ft)
 - coordinates 33°5′4″N 16°19′20″W / 33.08444°N 16.32222°W / 33.08444; -16.32222
Lowest point Sea level
 - location Atlantic Ocean
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Length 14.18 km (9 mi), Northwest-Southeast
Width 7.77 km (5 mi), North-South
Area 42.17 km2 (16 sq mi)
Population 4 388 (2,004)
Biomes Temperate, Mediterranean
Geology Alkali basalt, Tephra, Trachyte, Trachybasalt
Orogeny Volcanism
Period Holocene, Pliocene
Demonym Madeirense; Portossantense
Ethnic groups Portuguese
Location of the island of Porto Santo in the Madeira archipelago
Wikimedia Commons: Porto Santo
Website: http://www.cm-portosanto.com
Statistics from INE (2001); geographic detail from Instituto Geográfico Português (2010)

Porto Santo Island (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈpoɾtu ˈsɐ̃tu]) is a Portuguese island 43 kilometres (27 mi) northeast of Madeira Island in the North Atlantic Ocean; it is the northernmost and easternmost island of the archipelago of Madeira, located in the Atlantic Ocean west of Europe and Africa.

History[edit]

The house of Christopher Columbus in Porto Santo

Humans had never discovered the Madeira Islands before Porto Santo was officially discovered and recognized by the crown of Portugal in 1418, after captains in the service of the Infante D. Henrique, "the Navigator", came across the island and its sheltered anchorage. João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira had been ordered (by King John I) to discover new territory west of Africa, and had been sent off-course by a storm while making the volta do mar westward swing return voyage.. The island's name Porto Santo (English: Holy Harbour) was derived from the sailors' stories of their discovery of a sheltered bay during the tempest, which was seen as divine deliverance.[1] The first Portuguese settlers arrived in the 1420s.

Bartolomeu Perestrelo, a third member of the team that later explored the islands of the Madeira, became the first Captain-donatorio of Porto Santo, by royal award in November 1445. It was he who released a female rabbit that had littered on the voyage, with her offspring, which multiplied catastrophically in a xeric island ecosystem that had evolved in isolation and had never known a flightless mammal.[2] The loss of the native flora[3] laid the island slopes open to erosion and colonization by European weeds that accompanied the settlers: as a result, "the Porto Santo of 1400 is as lost to us as is the world before the Noachian flood."[4]

During the first centuries of settlement, life on Porto Santo was harsh, owing to the scarcity of potable water and the depredations of feral rabbits; there were also constant attacks by Barbary Coast pirates and French privateers.

The famous explorer Christopher Columbus married Bartolomeu Perestrelo's daughter, Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, a Portuguese noblewoman, and for a while lived on Porto Santo.[5]

Geography[edit]

Physical geography[edit]

Vila Baleira, Porto Santo's capital, as seen from the air
Mugearite columns, a geological formation

The island is characterized by two areas: the accidented northeast (mountainous, with rocky ledges and cliffs), and a coastal plain in the southwest (that includes a nine kilometre long white sand beach, giving the island an advantage over neighbouring Madeira). The mountainous northeast part of the island, consists of two geomorphological structures that includes:[6] an area of peaks, Pico do Castelo (437 meters), Pico da Juliana (447 meters), Pico da Gandaia (499 meters) and Pico do Facho (517 meters); and between the eastern coast and this area, a series of minor peaks, Pico do Maçarico (285 meters), Pico do Concelho (324 meters) and Pico Branco (450 meters). The southwest part of the island, although relatively flat, includes a series of elevations 100 meters in height or greater, such as Pico Ana Fereira (283 meters), Pico do Espigão (270 meters) and the Cabeço do Zimbralinho (183 meters). The slope of the western part of the island slopes from 150 meters to the south coast reaching the sandy beaches of Porto Santo. A third system, in the west-northwest, that includes Cabeço da Bárbara Gomes (227 meters) and Cabeço das Canelinhas (176 meters) is distinct from the areas identified. The island is encircled by an oceanic platform between 20 and 37 km2, with a minimum depth of 8 meters (Baixa do Noroeste), and limited by the flanks of a large submarine volcano.[7]

The island's submarine activity occurred during the Miocene epoch, producing basaltic eruptions that persisted to the Quaternary period. There were three phases of distinct volcanism, followed by periods of calm associated with sedimentation:[8]

1st Phase - associated with basaltic lava, pyroclastic flows, trachyte domes that were to form Pico do Concelho, Pico do Facho, Pico do Juliana and the Ponta da Calheta. This period was followed by a period of marine fossil accumulation, concentrated in the northeast of the island to about 300 meters altitude (around Pico do Juliana, Pico de Ana Ferreira and Ribeira do Moledo);

2nd Phase - this was a period of fissural volcanism that cut across and metamorphosed the older formations, occurring in the early Pliocene period;

3rd Phase - was an intrusive phase, resulting in a number of faults and dikes that cut across the Calcareous fossils. Likely occurring in the Pliocene, it was followed by deposits of layers of detritic and calcareous sediments, that included brownish-red alluvial layers, along the island's flanks and beach.

Climate[edit]

Unlike mountainous Madeira, which traps as effective rain, the moisture of oceanic currents due to high orography, the comparatively low profile of Porto Santo results in a dry climate.

Climate data for Vila Baleira
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 18.0
(64.4)
18.0
(64.4)
19.0
(66.2)
19.5
(67.1)
21.0
(69.8)
22.1
(71.8)
24.0
(75.2)
25.0
(77)
25.0
(77)
23.2
(73.8)
21.0
(69.8)
19.2
(66.6)
21.1
(70)
Average low °C (°F) 13.2
(55.8)
13.1
(55.6)
13.3
(55.9)
14.0
(57.2)
15.1
(59.2)
17.1
(62.8)
19.0
(66.2)
20.0
(68)
20.0
(68)
18.1
(64.6)
16.2
(61.2)
14.4
(57.9)
16.1
(61)
Precipitation mm (inches) 48.7
(1.917)
40.2
(1.583)
37.2
(1.465)
23.5
(0.925)
14.0
(0.551)
7.0
(0.276)
3.2
(0.126)
4.0
(0.157)
23.7
(0.933)
39.9
(1.571)
50.0
(1.969)
69.9
(2.752)
361.3
(14.224)
Source: World Meteorological Organization (UN), Instituto de Meteorologia, Normais Climatológicas do Porto Santo (1971-2000).
Porto Santo's lack of higher mountains, results in a paradoxical landscape when comparing it with its brother island, Madeira

Human geography[edit]

The main urban area, which is one of only five Portuguese municipalities that have only one parish, is the city of Vila Baleira ([ˈvilɐ bɐˈlɐiɾɐ]), also known as Porto Santo.

Although a small island, the Porto Santo community has its own schools, health-care centre, police detachments, a gymnasium, churches, several local squares, a Congress Centre, museum, shopping centres, bars, hotels and restaurants.

Economy[edit]

The island as seen from the flanks of Pico do Castelo

The main industry on the island of Porto Santo is tourism, which has emerged through hotel construction in the 20th century and is based on the attractions of the beaches and temperate climate.

The island has a golf course that was designed by Spanish golfing champion Seve Ballesteros; Porto Santo Golfe hosted the Madeira Islands Open in 2009, as part of the European Tour. Once the planned second course is completed, Porto Santo Golfe will be the largest course in Madeira: there is currently one 18-hole golf course and one nine-hole course. In addition, Porto Santo's Golf Complex includes eight tennis courts and an equestrian centre (Pico Ana Ferreira).

The island has an international airport, with routine flights to Madeira Airport (about a 15-minute flight away); the nearest place to Porto Santo is Machico (on Madeira). The Porto Santo Airport (PXO) has many connections with both domestic (Ponta Delgada, Lisbon, Oporto and Faro) and (occasionally) international flights (including several charters to England, Italy, Germany, Belgium, France and Spain).

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ The discoveries of Porto Santo and Madeira were first described by Gomes Eannes de Azurara in Chronica da Descoberta e Conquista da Guiné. Arkan Simaan relates in French these discoveries in his novel L’Écuyer d’Henri le Navigateur.
  2. ^ Alfred W. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism:The Biological Expansion of Europe 900-1900, 1986:75, noting Frank Fenner, "The rabbit plague", Scientific American, February 1954:30-35.
  3. ^ Porto Santo Flora: some survivors of the desertification.
  4. ^ Crosby 1986:75.
  5. ^ His home now serves as a museum that presents a permanent exhibition of his life and familial relations, as well as temporary art exhibitions.
  6. ^ Rocha et al, 2002, p.11
  7. ^ Rocha et al, 2002, p.12
  8. ^ Rocha et al, 2002, p.12
Sources
  • Rocha, António; Silva, João; Soares, Helena; Abenta, Jaime; Almeida, Fernando; Gomes, Celso (2002). Geologia, génese e dinâmica da areia de praia da ilha do Porto Santo: O sistema de informação geográfica [Geology, Genesis and Dynamics of the Beach Sand on the Island of Porto Santo: GIS] (in Portuguese). Oeiras, Portugal. 

External links[edit]