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Horta. Photo: Miradouro Senhora Da Conceição / Wikimedia Commons

Horta, Azores

9 days ago
Written by Ronald Toppe
Ports > Horta, Azores

Horta, Azores

9 days agoPorts
Written by Ronald Toppe
Horta. Photo: Miradouro Senhora Da Conceição / Wikimedia Commons

Statsraad Lehmkuhl visits Horta January 22-24 2022

Faial, with the small city Horta in the south-east, is one of the islands of the Azores. The archipelago, with nine large and some smaller islands, is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, 1400 km west of Portugal, and 1930 km east of Newfoundland in Canada.

Volcanic

The Azores are part of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, the rift that arose when Africa and America drifted apart between 100 and 200 million years ago.

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The colours indicate elevation / depth. Map: NOAA
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The colours indicate elevation / depth. Map: NOAA

The crack runs all the way from the Arctic- to the Antarctic ocean, and is constantly expanding. Glowing lava from the earth's interior is pushed up here, forming an underwater mountain range. In some places, the volcanoes have grown so high that they reach above sea level, forming islands.

Jan Mayen, Iceland, and the Azores north of the equator, and Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, and Bouvet Island south of the equator are all parts of this ridge.

A hot spring in the forest. Photo: Ronald Toppe
A hot spring in the forest. Photo: Ronald Toppe



The landscape on Faial, and on the other islands in the Azores, is very similar to the landscape in Iceland. You will find both hot springs and active volcanoes here too. But you can easily see that the Azores are much further south.

Ash from the volcanic eruptions has formed a rich soil, and the island is green and lush all year round. The temperature varies between 12 and 17 degrees in winter, and 16 and 26 degrees in summer.

Harvesting of sugar cane. Photo: Ronald Toppe
Harvesting of sugar cane. Photo: Ronald Toppe

Completely transformed

Archeological finds indicate that people may have lived on the islands 2000 years ago, but it was not until the Portuguese arrived in the early 15th century that the islands became really populated.

The settlers cleared the land, and grew grain, grapes, sugar cane, potatoes and other vegetables. There were no large animals on the islands before, but the Portuguese brought with them sheep, goats and cows, chickens and rabbits, horses, dogs and cats. The landscape was completely transformed. Forests and scrub were cut down, and it is estimated that some of the islands have lost more than half of the insect species that once existed there, and several bird species are also missing, some of them endemic to the islands.

A small village on São Miguel Island. Photo: Ronald Toppe
A small village on São Miguel Island. Photo: Ronald Toppe

Important stopover

Spain and Portugal have alternated having control over the archipelago, but since 1976 the Azores have been a separate autonomous Portuguese region.

On Faial too, agriculture is still an important industry. As transatlantic shipping increased, the city of Horta became an important stopover for ships en route between America and Europe, and trade and eventually tourism now employ most of the 15,000 inhabitants. The city has a good and modern harbor protected by two large piers.

Normal maximum temperature in January: 16.4 ℃
Normal precipitation in January: 90 mm

Fishing from a pier on São Miguel Island. Photo: Ronald Toppe
Fishing from a pier on São Miguel Island. Photo: Ronald Toppe
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