Friday, May 15, 2015

Madeira Island

Executive summary by darmansjah

The island of Madeira is at the top of a massive shield volcano that rises about 6 km (3.7 mi) from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, on the Tore underwater mountain range. The volcano formed atop an east-west rift in the oceanic crust along the African Plate, beginning during the Miocene epoch over 5 million years ago, continuing into the Pleistocene until about 700,000 years ago. This was followed by extensive erosion, producing two large amphitheatres open to south in the central part of the island. Volcanic activity later resumed, producing scoria cones and lava flows atop the older eroded shield. The most recent volcanic eruptions were on the west-central part of the island only 6,500 years ago, creating more cinder cones and lava flows.

Madeira Island represents 93% of the archipelago's area, with 90% of the landmass above 500 m. It is the largest island of the group with an area of 741 km2 (286 sq mi), a length of 57 km (35 mi) (from Ponte de São Lourenço to Ponte do Pargo), while approximately 22 km (14 mi) at its widest point (from Ponte da Cruz to Ponte São Jorge), with a coastline of 150 km (93.21 mi). It has a mountain ridge that extends along the centre of the island, reaching 1862 meters (6,107 ft) at its highest point (Pico Ruivo), while much lower (below 200 meters) along its eastern extent. The primitive volcanic foci responsible for the central mountainous area, consisted of the peaks: Ruivo (1862 meter), Torres (1851 meter), Areeiro (1818 meter), Cidrão (1802 meter), Cedro (1759 meter), Casado (1725 meter), Grande (1657 meter), Ferreiro (1582 meter). At the end of this eruptive phase, an island circled by reefs was formed, its marine vestiges are evident in a calcareous layer in the area of Lameiros, in São Vicente (which was later explored for calcium oxide production). Sea cliffs, such as Cabo Girão, valleys and ravines extend from this central spine, making the interior generally inaccessible. Daily life has concentrated in the many villages at the mouths of the ravines, through which the heavy rains of autumn and winter usually travel to the sea. A long, narrow, and comparatively low rocky promontory forms (Paul da Serra) the western extremity of the island, on which lies a tract of calcareous sand known (1300-1500 meter). It is a fossil bed, that contains shells and numerous bodies resembling the roots of trees, probably produced by infiltration.

The Base Volcanic Complex was formed during the Miocene period from submarine and sub-aerial eruptions in the central part of the island, and is associated with some of the deeper valleys (São Vicente, Boaventura, Socorridos). The complex extends to the east into the (Porto da Cruz and Machico) ravines until Ponta de São Lourenço and consists of accumulated block pyroclasts, lapilli and ash, layered with basaltic lava. The volcanic material is essentially effusive, of non-viscous compact basalts; the lava formed flows that were not dense which covered the topography and substrata. These first flows were extensive, occupying a large part of the plateau, filling many of the valleys and ending at the sea. More recent episodes were confined into the valley of the São Vicente, Seixal and Porto Moniz ravines. The basaltic flows correspond to the last period of volcanic activity on Madeira (around 500,000-200,000 of years). The flows were boxed into the valleys, and fossilised, sometimes, such as in the valley of São Vicente, forming morphological terraces. The island is covered in faults, and easily identifiable in the area around Ribeira Brava, near Encumeada. The spatial distribution of these faults is varied and their align is also diverse, although it is common to encounter some faults from west-northwest to east-south-southeast to northwest to southeast (coincident with the direction of some volcanic cones). Between many of pyroclastic cliffs, there exists a great variability in materials, from large blocks to fine ash, and an intermediary layer referred to locally as feijoco, or lapilli, of a consistency that is more porous. The material is normally dark to black rocks, yellow and reddish materials, and is used in some construction for their refractive characteristics (as well as used in the construction of blast ovens).

The Central Massif which occupies the central region of the island, consists of explosive material (large blocks, lapilli and ash) and deposited chaotically around volcanic centres of the eruptions, but today mostly hidden and unrecognisable. This massif is crossed by several dense faults, basaltic and trachyte, oriented in many directions, converging on Pico Ruivo. The peak which includes many dykes, has resisted erosion, in contrast to many of the surrounding deposits; the weak cohesion of pyroclastic materials permitted the easy carving of the terrain in this area, constituting the morphology of many of the ravines: Brava, Socorridos, Machico, São Vicente, Porco (Boaventura) and Faial.

The Paul da Serra Massif corresponds to a similar structural platform of basaltic flows oriented towards the southwest.


Madeira has been classified as a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification: Csa/Csb), but based on differences in sun exposure, humidity, and annual mean temperature there are clear variations between north- and south-facing regions, as well as between some islands. Other microclimates are expected to exist, from the constantly humid wettest points of the mountains, to the desert and arid Selvagens islands. The islands are strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream and Canary Current, giving mild year-round temperatures; according to the Instituto de Meteorologia or IM the average annual temperature at Funchal weather station is 19.6 °C (67.3 °F) for the 1980-2010 period. For the 1960-1990 period, IM published an article, showing that some regions in the South Coastline surpass 20 °C (68 °F) in annual average. Porto Santo has at least one weather station with a semiarid climate.

Drought conditions coupled with hot and windy weather in summer have caused numerous wildfires in recent years. The largest of the fires in August, 2010 burned through 95 percent of the Funchal Ecological Park, a 1,000-hectare preserve set aside to restore native vegetation to the island. In July, 2012 Madeira was suffering from severe drought and wildfires began burning on July 18, in the midst of temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius (more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and high winds. By July 20, fires had spread to the nearby island of Porto Santo, and firefighters were sent from mainland Portugal to contain the multiple blazes.

In August, 2013 a hospital and some homes were evacuated as a wildfire approached Funchal. A number of homes were destroyed when the fire hit Monte, a suburb of Funchal.

The Macaronesia region harbours an important floral diversity. In fact, the archipelago's forest composition and maturity are quite similar to the forests found in the Tertiary period that covered Southern Europe and Northern Africa millions of years ago. The great biodiversity of Madeira is phytogeographically linked to the Mediterranean region, Africa, America and Australia, and interest in this phytogeography has been increasing in recent years due to the discovery of some epiphytic bryophyte species with non-adjacent distribution.

Madeira also has many endemic species of fauna – mostly invertebrates which include the extremely rare Madeiran Large White but also some vertebrates such as the native bat, some lizards species, and some birds as already mentioned. The biggest tarantula of Europe is found on Desertas islands of Madeira and can be as wide as a man's hand. These islands have more than 250 species of land molluscs (snails and slugs), some with very unusual shell shape and colours, most of which are endemic and vulnerable.

Madeira has three endemic bird species: Zino's Petrel, the Trocaz Pigeon and the Madeira Firecrest, while the Madeiran Chaffinch is an endemic subspecies. It is also important for breeding seabirds, including the Madeiran Storm-petrel, North Atlantic Little Shearwater and Cory's Shearwater.

In the south, there is very little left of the indigenous subtropical rainforest which once covered the whole island (the original settlers set fire to the island to clear the land for farming) and gave it the name it now bears (Madeira means "wood" in Portuguese). However, in the north, the valleys contain native trees of fine growth. These "laurisilva" forests, called lauraceas madeirense, notably the forests on the northern slopes of Madeira Island, are designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The critically endangered vine Jasminum azoricum is one of the plant species that is endemic to Madeira.


The island of Madeira is wet in the northwest but dry in the southeast. In the 16th century the Portuguese started building levadas or aqueducts to carry water to the agricultural regions in the south. The most recent were built in the 1940s. Madeira is very mountainous, and building the levadas was difficult and often sentenced criminals or slaves were used. Many are cut into the sides of mountains, and it was also necessary to dig 25 miles (40 km) of tunnels, some of which are still accessible.

Today the levadas not only supply water to the southern parts of the island but provide hydro-electric power. There are over 1,350 miles (2,170 km) of levadas and they provide a remarkable network of walking paths. Some provide easy and relaxing walks through beautiful countryside, but others are narrow, crumbling ledges where a slip could result in serious injury or death.

Two of the most popular levadas to hike are the Levada do Caldeirão Verde and the Levada do Caldeirão do Inferno which should not be attempted by hikers prone to vertigo or without torches and helmets. The Levada do Caniçal is a much easier walk, running 7.1 miles (11.4 km) from Maroços to the Caniçal Tunnel. It is known as the mimosa levada because mimosa trees are found all along the route. 

Tourism is an important sector in the region's economy since it contributes 20%[citation needed] to the region's GDP, providing support throughout the year for commercial, transport and other activities and constituting a significant market for local products. The share in Gross Value Added of hotels and restaurants (9%) also highlights this phenomenon. The island of Porto Santo, with its 9 km (5.6 mi) long beach and its climate, is entirely devoted to tourism. Over the past decade it has recorded a substantial increase in its hotel accommodation capacity.

Development in Madeira is considered to have future potential since the necessary infrastructure has been established and adequate investment incentives have been introduced for expanding its hotel and catering structure in a controlled manner. Nature conservation is seen as important because it is a major draw for tourists to Madeira.

Visitors are mainly from the European Union, with German, British, Scandinavian and Portuguese tourists providing the main contingents. The average annual occupancy rate was 60.3% in 2008, reaching its maximum in March and April, when it exceeds 70%.

Transport in Madeira

European Union citizens of the Schengen Treaty area can enter the islands freely, while those from other regions need identification.

There were in 2009, 7,105 legal immigrants living in Madeira Islands. They come mostly from Brazil (1.300), the UK (912), Venezuela (732) and Ukraine (682), according to SEF.

The Islands have two airports, Funchal Airport on the Island of Madeira and the other in the island of Porto Santo. Flights to the islands are mostly made from Lisbon and Porto, but there are also direct flights from other major European cities and other countries, like Brazil, Venezuela, and South Africa.

Transport between the two main islands is by plane or ferries, the latter also carrying vehicles. Visiting the interior of the islands is now easy thanks to construction of the Vias Rápidas, major roads built during Portugal's economic boom. Modern roads reach all points of interest on the islands. The old, curving mountain roads are still an excellent way to tour the island. Funchal has an extensive public transportation system. Bus companies, including Horários do Funchal which has been operating for over a hundred years, have regularly scheduled routes to all points of interest on the island.


Folklore music in Madeira is widespread and mainly uses local musical instruments such as the machete, rajao, brinquinho and cavaquinho, which are used in traditional folkloric dances like the bailinho da Madeira.

Emigrants from Madeira also influenced the creation of new musical instruments. In the 1880s, the ukulele was created, based on two small guitar-like instruments of Madeiran origin, the cavaquinho and the rajao. The ukulele was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and Cape Verde. Three immigrants in particular, Madeiran cabinet makers Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias, are generally credited as the first ukulele makers. Two weeks after they disembarked from the SS Ravenscrag in late August 1879, the Hawaiian Gazette reported that "Madeira Islanders recently arrived here, have been delighting the people with nightly street concerts.

Due to the geographic situation of Madeira, the island enjoys an abundance of fish of various kinds. The species that are consumed the most are Espada (Black scabbardfish), Blue Fin Tuna, White Marlin, Blue Marlin, Albacore, Bigeye Tuna, Wahoo, Spearfish, skipjack tuna and many others are found in the local dishes as they are found up and down the coast of Madeira. Espada is often served with banana. Bacalhau is also popular just like in Portugal.

There are many meat dishes on Madeira, one of the most popular being espetada. Espetada is traditionally made of large chunks of beef rubbed in garlic, salt and bay leaf and marinated for 4 to 6 hours in Madeira wine, red wine vinegar and olive oil then skewered onto a bay laurel stick and left to grill over smouldering wood chips. These are so integral a part of traditional eating habits that a special iron stand is available with a T-shaped end, each branch of the "T" having a slot in the middle to hold a brochette (espete in Portuguese); a small plate is then placed underneath to collect the juices. The brochettes are very long and have a V-shaped blade in order to pierce the meat more easily. It is usually accompanied with the local bread called bolo do caco.

Other popular dishes in Madeira include açorda, feijoada, carne de vinha d'alhos.
Traditional pastries in Madeira usually contain local ingredients, one of the most common being mel de cana, literally "sugarcane honey" (molasses). The traditional cake of Madeira is called Bolo de Mel, which translates as (Sugarcane) "Honey Cake" and according to custom, is never cut with a knife, but broken into pieces by hand. It is a rich and heavy cake. The cake commonly well known as "Madeira Cake" in England also finds its naming roots in the Island of Madeira.

Malasadas are a Madeiran creation which were taken around the world by emigrants to places such as Hawaii. In Madeira, Malasadas are mainly consumed during the Carnival of Madeira. Pastéis de nata, as in the rest of Portugal, are also very popular.


Madeira is a fortified wine, produced in the Madeira Islands; varieties may be sweet or dry. It has a history dating back to the Age of Exploration when Madeira was a standard port of call for ships heading to the New World or East Indies. To prevent the wine from spoiling, neutral grape spirits were added. However, wine producers of Madeira discovered, when an unsold shipment of wine returned to the islands after a round trip, that the flavour of the wine had been transformed by exposure to heat and movement. Today, Madeira is noted for its unique winemaking process which involves heating the wine and deliberately exposing the wine to some levels of oxidation.[65] Most countries limit the use of the term Madeira to those wines that come from the Madeira Islands, to which the European Union grants Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.

A local beer called Coral is produced by the Madeira Brewery, which dates from 1872. Other Portuguese beers are also popular on Madeira, but to a lesser extent.

Other alcoholic drinks are also popular in Madeira, such as the locally created Poncha, Niquita, Pé de Cabra, Aniz, as well as Portuguese drinks such as Macieira Brandy, Licor Beirão.

Laranjada is a type of carbonated soft drink with an orange flavour (the Portuguese word for orange is laranja), which is 14 years older than Coca-Cola. Launched in 1872 it was the first soft drink to be produced in Portugal and remains very popular to the present day. Brisa drinks are also very popular and come in a range of flavours.

Here is also a huge coffee culture in Madeira. Like in mainland Portugal, popular coffee-based drinks include Garoto, Galão, Bica, Café com Cheirinho, Mazagran, Chinesa and many more.

promote Madeiran gastronomy worldwide, every November the Madeira Gourmet Festival is held. The festival brings international chefs to the island, mixing their know-how with local young chefs and preparing new recipes using Madeiran traditional products, like Madeira wine, local fish and other products.

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