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MADEIRA, or THE MADE1RAS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 281 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MADEIRA, or THE MADE1RAS, a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, which belong to Portugal, and consist of two inhabited islands named Madeira and Porto Santo and two groups of uninhabited rocks named the Desertas and Selvagens. Pop. (1900), 150,574; area, 314 sq. m. Funchal, the capital of the archipelago, is on the south coast of Madeira Island, in 32° 37' 45" N. and 16 54' W. It is about 36o m. from the coast of Africa, 535 from Lisbon, 1215 from Plymouth, 240 from Teneriffe, and 48o from Santa Maria, the nearest of the Azores. Madeira (pop. 1900, 148,263), the largest island of the group, has a length of 30 m., an extreme breadth of 12 m., and a coast-line of 8o or 90 M. Its longer axis lies east and west, in which direction it is traversed by a mountain chain, the backbone of the island, having a mean altitude of 4000 ft., up to which many deep ravines penetrate from both coasts and render travel by land very difficult. Pico Ruivo, the highest summit, stands in the centre of the island, and has a height of 6056 ft., while some of the adjacent summits are very little lower. The depth and narrowness of the ravines, the loftiness of the rugged peaks, often covered with snow, that ' tower above them, the bold precipices of the coast, and the proximity of the sea, afford many scenes of picturesque beauty or striking grandeur. The greater part of the interior is uninhabited, though cultivated, for the towns, villages and scattered huts are usually built either at the mouths of ravines or upon the lower slopes that extend from the mountains to the coast. The ridges between the ravines usually terminate in lofty headlands, one of which, called Cabo Girao, has the height of 1920 ft., and much of the seaboard is bound by precipices of dark basalt. The north coast, having been more exposed to the erosion of the sea, is more precipitous than the south, and presents every-where a wilder aspect. On the south there is left very little of the indigenous forest which once clothed the whole island and gave it the name it bears (from the Portuguese madeira. Lat. materia, wood), but on the north some of the valleys still contain native trees of fine growth. A long, narrow and comparatively low rocky promontory forms the eastern extremity of the island; and here is a tract of calcareous sand, known as the Fossil Bed, containing land shells and numerous bodies resembling the roots of trees, probably produced by infiltration. Porto Santo is about 25 M. N.E. of Madeira. Pop. (19o0), 2311. It has a length of 63 m. and a width of 3 M. The capital is Porto Santo, called locally the villa or town. The island is very unproductive, water being scarce and wood wholly absent. Around the little town there is a considerable tract of pretty level ground covered by calcareous sand containing fossil land-shells. At each end of the island are hills, of which Pico do Facho, the highest, reaches the altitude of 1663 ft. Barley, but little else, is grown here, the limited requirements of the inhabitants being supplied from Funchal. The Deserlas lie about 11 m. S.E. of Madeira, and consist of three islands, Ilheo Chao, Bugio and Deserta Grande, together with Sail Rock off the north end of Ilheo Chao. They present lofty precipices to the sea on all sides. Rabbits and goats abound on them. The archil weed grows on the rocks, and is gathered for exportation. The largest islet (Deserta Grande) is 62 m. long, and attains the height of r610 ft. These rocks are conspicuous objects in the sea-views from Funchal.
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