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Madeira

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Longitude Min 16.15 Longitude Max 17.15 Latitude Min 32.30 Latitude Max 33.00
728 square meters in area, Madeira is the largest island of the Madeira archipelago, a line of submerged mountains and volcanic ridges extending nearly 900 kilometres south-west from the Iberian coastal shelf.

Details
From east to west, the island of Madeira is about fifty kilometers long and twenty kilometers at its widest point north to south. A chain of mountains runs along the island’s east west axis averaging 1200 meters in height above sea level. The highest mountain is Pico Ruivo, situated in the middle of the island with a summit of 1860 meters. On both sides of the island’s mountainous backbone are numerous deep ravines that have made travelling the island by land difficult. Many of the ridges between the ravines end in steep headlands.

The island was discovered in 1420 by a Portuguese fleet sent to lay claim and colonise the island of Porto Santo 45 kilometers to the north east.

The Portuguese introduced sugar cane to the island in the mid-fifteenth century, and the forests covering much of the island was rapidly cleared for plantations. From the early sixteenth century grapevines were also extensively cultivated, and Madeira became a major supplier of wine to various European centres.

By the late 1760s the population of Madeira was about 60,000 people of Portuguese, Moorish and African descent.

Madeira produced a wide variety of European and tropical vegetables and fruits for sale to ships anchoring in the road off the city of Funchal, the island’s administrative capital and main port. Due to the island’s dry climate and eroded soils, the produce offered for sale in the markets of Funchal was generally poor in quality and highly priced.

 
Related Entries for Madeira
Places: Funchal Road | Funchal
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Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Created: 2 December 2003
Modified: 25 May 2004

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000347

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