Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ponta Delgado, Azores - May 13, 2012

The Azores, that exotic sounding faraway retreat, is, in reality, a little archipelago of volcanic islands sticking up in the Atlantic ocean about 930 miles west of portugal and 1200 miles southeast of Newfoundland. The island group is approximately 370 miles in length, comprises nine major islands and a bunch of smaller ones and is home to about one quarter million people. Not much else is around the neighborhood.
Ponta Delgada is on São Miguel, the largest of the islands, which with its population of around 45,000 has been the administrative capital of this autonomous region of Portugal since 1976. The area has been populated since its discovery in the 15th century and although agriculture has always been a source of income the benefits issuing from its obvious strategic value as a more or less self-supporting mid-atlantic outpost was took precedence. The region's heyday was in the 19th century as a supplier of citrus exports to United Kingdom and a burgeoning center for foreign-owned businesses. 
During this period, Ponta Delgada became the third largest town in Portugal both by economic measure and by number of residents. By the start of the 20th Century, with shifting trade patterns and advances in transportation, Ponta Delgada's rank had fallen to number eight and thereafter continued a slow decline until it was granted autonomy in 1976.
Today, with the value of a mid-Atlantic port much diminished the Azores, like the Madiera archipeligo, has become a commercial backwater. Both locations however, have found favor as cruise ship ports, providing a means of breaking the trans-Alantic journey for  passengers while providing a welcome source of income for the indiginants. The Azores' climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream with a modest year round temperature range of 57F to 77F, albeit with subtropical humidity levels.
After a few stormy days at sea we were fortunate to have Ponta Delgada turn on the sunshine and provide a  day of discovery on terra-firma. Pictures here.

No comments: