History of Madeira and Porto Santo Islands

History of Madeira and Porto Santo Islands

Set in the Atlantic Ocean and with volcanic origins, the Archipelago of Madeira consists of three islands, namely Madeira Island (the largest island), Porto Santo Island, Selvagens and Desertas Islands. According o recent theories, its formation is due to the expansion of the Atlantic Ocean. This process which begun millions ago, occurred due to a displacement of the Plate Tectonics, originating the formation of hot-spots, namely the Madeira Hotspot and Canary Hotspot. Both islands are located in the mantle subjacent to the African Plate Tectonics. According to some specialists, Selvagens Islands has been the first emergent island, around 27 million years ago, followed by Porto Santo Island, 14 million years and, last by not least Madeira and Desertas Islands, around 5,2 million years ago. Being a mountainous island, Madeira was first developed with roads that cut and contoured mountains and valleys. Some of these routes are very steep and often dangerous with rock falls from the mountains. Over the last few years the island's road infrastructure is being upgraded with the construction of a great number of tunnels. In some of these tunnels gassed water was found, as well as natural gases being expelled from rock fractures. This means that the volcanic activity in the Archipelago of Madeira is inactivated. The first historical facts about the Archipelago of Madeira are dated back to the ancient times, where Phoenicians and Greeks already knew these islands. However, in 1339, three islands were on the map, on the same place where the archipelago is today. In 1418, Porto Santo Island was rediscovered by the navigators João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira. On the following year, Madeira Island was rediscovered by the Portuguese sailors, who were in the service of Infante D. Henrique (Henry the Navigator). They settled around 1425. In 1440, the archipelago was divided in three captaincies. João Gonçalves Zarco was the first “Capitão Donatário”, responsible for the captaincy of Funchal. Tristão Vaz Teixeira was the first “Capitão Donatário” of Machico and Bartolomeu Perestrello, first “Capitão Donatário” of Porto Santo.


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