(I) POLITICAL DIVISIONS OF AFRICA
(f) Island States of Africa
To Africa belong a considerable number of islands. The Madeiras, belonging to Portugal, lie off the north-west coast of Africa, at a distance of about 360 miles. Madeira, the chief island, is about 100 miles in circuit, and has long been famed for its picturesque beauty, rich fruits, and fine climate, which renders it a favourite resort of invalids. Wine is the staple produce. Funchal, the chief town, with 18,000 inhabitants, is a regular station for the West India mail steam-packets from Southampton, and the Brazilian sailing-packets from Falmouth.
The Canaries, belonging to Spain, the supposed Fortunate Islands of the ancients, are situated about 300 miles south of Madeira. They are 13 in number, all of volcanic origin, Teneriffe being the largest. The latter is remarkable for its peak, which rises as a vast pyramidal mass to the height of 12,173 feet.
The Cape Verde Islands, subject to Portugal, are a numerous group about 80 miles from Cape Verde. They obtained their name from the profusion of sea-weed found by the discoverers in the neighbouring ocean, giving it the appearance of a green meadow. They are also of volcanic origin.
Fernando Po, a very mountainous forest-covered island, is in the Bight of Biafra. The British settlement of Clarence Town was established in 1827, but afterwards abandoned. The island now belongs to Spain.
St Thomas, immediately under the equator, is a Portuguese settlement; as is also Prince's Island, in 2° N. lat.
Annobon, in 2° S. lat., belongs to the Spaniards.
Ascension, a small, arid, volcanic islet, was made a British port on the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte at St. Helena, and since retained as a station, at which ships may touch for stores. Green Hill, the summit of the island rises to the height of 2840 feet.
St Helena is a huge dark mass of rock, rising abruptly from the ocean to the height of 2692 feet. James' Town is the only town and port.
Madagacar, the largest island of Africa, and one of the largest in the world, is separated from the Mozambique coast by a channel of that name, about 250 miles wide. The area exceeds that of France.
The high interior of the island is generally very fertile, with magnificent forests and fine pastures watered by numerous rivers, but a belt of hot swamp land with a deadly climate surrounds the coast.
The inhabitants are diverse races of Negro, Arab, and Malay origin. The Ovahs, a people of the central provinces, are now dominant. The principal town, Antananarivo, has about 80,000 inhabitants.
The French possess the islands of Sante Marie and Nossibe on the coast of Madagascar, and Mayotta islands in the Comoro group.
The Comoro isles, four in number, are in the north part of the Mozambique Channel, and inhabited by Arab tribes.
Reunion or Bourbon, 400 miles east of Madagascar, is a colony of France, producing for export, coffee, sugar, cocoa spices, and timber.
Mauritus, ceded to the British by the French in 1814, is 90 miles north-east of Bourbon. The sugar-cane if chiefly cultivated. Port Louis, the capital, beautifully situated, has 75,000 inhabitants. Within the jurisdiction of the Governor of the Mauritius are the islands of Rodriguez, the Seychellesm and the Amarante islands.
Socotra, a large island, east of Cape Jerdaffun, with an Arab and Negro population, has been known from early times; it belongs to the Imuam of Muscat. This island as long celebrated as producing the finest aloetic drug, it is found still to producer a fine kind of aloe, though much of what passed as Socotrine aloes really came from India Gums, tobacco, and dates are also exported. (K. J.)
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Africa - Table of Contents
The above article was written by: Alexander Keith Johnston, F.R.G.S.; Assistant Curator, Royal Geographical Society, 1872-73; conducted expedition to Lake Nyassa, 1878; author of 'Africa' in Stanford's Compendium, and other geographical works.