National Geographic : 1935 Jan
EUROPEAN OUTPOST: THE AZORES BY HARRIET CHALMERS ADAMS AUTHOR OF "MADEIRA THE FLORESCENT," "AN ALTITUDINAL JOURNEY TIROUGI PORTUGAL," "_MADRID OUT-OF-DOORS," ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE LITTLE more than 1,000 statute miles from the European mainland and about 1,300 miles from New foundland, in latitude a little north of Lis bon, a little south of New York, lies the most westerly of the nine Azorian islands. Fast steamers from New York reach Ponta Delgada, metropolis of the Azores, in five and a half days. Seaplanes have flown across from Newfoundland between dawn and dusk. Three hospitable harbors in this friendly archipelago await the com ing of commercial seaplanes, which will form another link between the New World and the Old (see page 54). Closely allied as they are with Portugal, of which they form an integral part politi cally, these fertile green islands, with their lush pastures and mist-wreathed moun tains, long ago turned their faces toward the West, sending their frugal, industrious sons to the United States, where, before 1929, there was probably one Azorian to every two left at home. Most of them are found in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and California. More than once on the streets of Azorian towns I was approached by a stranger who doffed his hat and politely inquired: "You are an American?" When I assented, my new acquaintance informed me he voted in New England or California, but was born in the Azores; was "back home to see the old folks," or "here until times are better in the States." From a rounded hilltop back of a rain bow-tinted town, I looked past oblong fields bordered by high stone walls of dark-gray lava to tile-roofed, many-win dowed buildings stretching between gar dens and parks along the curving coast. It was springtime and all about was the trilling, piping, and fluting of birds. In the fields barefoot men sang as they toiled. Far out at sea, blue as the sky on this calm May day, a sailing ship winged toward the shore. So from the east came the first ad venturous sail to these then uninhabited isles; but whether it was Carthaginian, Moorish-Arab, or Iberian, we are not sure. In the 15th century the valiant ocean mapping Portuguese colonized these islands and, save for 60 years of Spanish rule, have governed them ever since. The islands, of volcanic origin, stretch for about 375 miles from northwest to south east, in three severed groups with clear chan nels between. Corvo, smallest and by far the most primitive, lies farthest north; Flores, beautiful and well watered, farthest west (see map, page 36). To the southeast, across a tempestuous stretch of winter sea, is the central group: Fayal, seat of the oceanic cable station; Pico, with its majestic conical mountain; Sao Jorge, with its rich pastures, exporting excellent cheese; Graciosa, with "more wine than water;" Terceira, most interest ing historically, preserver of old customs. Another wide channel and we reach Sao Miguel, which the British and Americans call St. Michael's, largest and most impor tant of the group, with Ponta Delgada, chief city of the archipelago (see Color Plate I); and, again to the south, Santa Maria, first to be discovered and colonized. "Islands Adjacent" is Portugal's official designation of Madeira and the Azores, the last named, as one wit has remarked, being adjacent only to one another. In Portu guese the name is Acores, which signifies "hawks." MANY OCEAN LINERS PASS The wide expanse of ocean on every side and the force of the encompassing winds tend to give the newcomer a feeling of iso lation. This lessens as the weeks pass, in spite of the provoking sight of many big ocean liners, which steam past the Azorian capital with only the blast of the siren as a nod of recognition. Portuguese mail-boats, leaving Lisbon twice each month, come by way of Funchal, Madeira, and reach Ponta Delgada in four days. One of these ships goes only as far north as Fayal; the other goes beyond Fayal to Flores, touching six times a year at lonely, storm-harassed little Corvo. The round trip from Ponta Delgada to the northern islands can be made in one week. Motorboats and sailing vessels also ply, when weather permits, between insular ports.