1902 Encyclopedia > Canary Islands

Canary Islands

CANARY ISLANDS, THE, lie in the North Atlantic Ocean, between the parallels of 27° 4' and 29° 3' N. lat., and the meridians oi 13° 3' and 18° 2' W. long._ The seven principal islands cover an area of 3256 English sq. miles, and had a population of 237,036 in I860;—
W<S& ^oT Genera. Kerr*
Area 8777 758-3 718-5 323-5 326-1 1697 82'2
Population, 93,709 68,970 31,138 15,837 10,996 11,360 5026
Fuerteventura lies nearest to the African coast, the interval being between 50 and 60 miles. Besides these there are many islets, most of which are uninhabited.
History.—There is ground for supposing that the Phoenicians were not ignorant of the Canaries. The Romans, in the time of Augustus, received intelligence of them through Juba, king of Mauritania, whose account has been transmitted to us by the elder Pliny. He men-tions " Canaria, so called from the multitude of dogs of great size," and " Nivaria, taking its name from perpetual snow, and covered with clouds," doubtless Teneriffe. Canaria was said to abound in palms and pine trees. Both Plutarch and Ptolemy speak of the Fortunate Islands, but their description is so imperfect that it is not clear whether the Madeiras or the Canaries are referred to. There is no farther mention of them until we read of their rediscovery about 1334, by a French vessel driven amongst them by a storm. A Spanish nobleman thereupon obtained a grant of them, with the title of king, from Clement VI., but want of means prevented him from carrying out his project of eon-quest. Two expeditions subsequently set out from Spanish ports, and returned without having taken possession. At length three vessels, equipped by Jean de Bethencourt, a gentleman of Normandy, sailed from Eochelle in 1400, and bent their course to the Canaries. He landed at Lanzarote and Fuertevsentura, but being opposed by the natives, and finding himself deficient in means to effect his purpose, he repaired to the court of Castile, and obtaining from Henry III. a grant of the islands, with the title of king, he sailed in 1404 with a strong force, which mastered Lauzarote, Fuerteventura, Gomera, and Hierro, without bloodshed. Being repulsed in his attempts on Palma and Canary, he returned to Europe in 1408 to obtain further assistance. He was well received at the Castilian court, where he was promised aid; but he died shortly afterwards in France. Bethencourt's nephew had been left governor of the islands, and claimed to succeed to his uncle's rights. Being charged with many acts of misgovernment, he went to Spain to clear himself, and whilst there sold his rights to Don Enrique de Guzman, who, after expending large sums in fruitless endeavours to reduce the unconquered islands, sold them to another Spaniard named Paraza. His successors, about 1461, took nominal possession of Canary and Teneriffe, but the natives effectually resisted their occupation of them. Meantime it appeared that Jean de Bethencourt's- nephew had fraudulently made a second sale of the islands to Portugal, and the difference thus arising between the crowns of Spain and Portugal was ended by the cession of the islands to the former. Grand Canary, Teneriffe, and Palma remaining unsubdued in 1476, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain compelled Paraza's successors to sell those islands to the crown; and the following year 1000 men were despatched to reduce them. After much bloodshed, and with reinforcements from the mother country, the Spaniards, under Pedro de Vera, became masters of Grand Canary in 1483. Palma was conquered in 1491, and Teneriffe in 1495, by Alonzo de Lugo. All the islands still continue in the possession of Spain.
Inhabitants.—As to the derivation of their original inhabitants, the Guanches, nothing certain is known. The most probable supposition is that they came from the adjoining coast of Africa. Pliny states that the islands were uninhabited at the time of which he wrote. If this were so, we might infer, from the absence of any trace of Mahometanism amongst the people found there by the Spaniards, that the migration took place between the time to which his account refers and the time of the conquest of Barbary by the Arabs. Many of the Guanches fell in opposing the Spanish invasion, many were sold by the conquerors as slaves, and many conformed to the Boman Catholic faith and intermarried with the Spaniards,—so that all trace of them as a distinct race is lost. They were said to be of tall stature, and Humboldt styles them the Patagonians of the Old World; but the skeletons of Guanches when measured have been found to be less than average skeletons of Europeans. The Guanches embalmed the bodies of their dead, and placed them in caves; and many mummies have been found at different times in a state of extreme desiccation, each weighing not more than 6 or 7 ft>. Two inaccessible caves in a vertical rock by the shore, three miles from Santa Cruz (Teneriffe), are said still to contain bones. A few words of the languages spoken by the ancient inhabitants have been preserved, and a resemblance of some of them to words of North African dialects has been noticed. On the other hand, the Guanches had customs, such as that of preserving their dead, in which they differed from the Berbers. Councillor Von Loher, one of the most recent investigators of the question, finds that the names of places in the interior of the island are generally either of Berber or of Teutonic origin, and maintains that the Guanches were in all probability the descendants of Vandal and Gothic immigrants.
The present inhabitants are slightly darker than the people of Spain, but in other respects are scarcely distinguishable. The men are of middle height, well-made, and strong; the women are not striking in respect of beauty, but they have good eyes and hair. Spanish is the only language in use. The people have most of the traits of the people of the peninsula; they are sober, but given to gambling; they are quick, but lazy, faithless, and supersti-tious. The lower orders are quite illiterate, and the better classes not very enlightened. A few booksellers' shops of a minor description exist at Santa Cruz and Las Palmas. The sustenance of the lower classes is chiefly composed of fish, potatoes, and gofio, which is merely Indian corn or wheat roasted and then, when ground, kneaded with water or milk.
Government, &c.—The Archipelago is politically considered part of the province of Andalusia. The governor-general, who resides at Santa Crnz, has chief command both in civil and military affairs. The actual administration oE affairs is in the hands of two lieutenant-governors, who reside at Santa Cruz and Las Palmas. On the other islands are deputy-governors, acting under the lieutenant-governor to whose district they belong. The military force is com-posed of a battalion of soldiers of the line, numbering about 1000 men; six regiments of militia, amounting to about 8000 men, distributed amongst the islands; and a few companies of artillery. There is a military commander on each island. The great court of appeal sits at Las Palmas. Courts of first instance sit at Santa Cruz, Orotava, and Las Palmas. The land in great part is strictly entailed. The islands form two bishoprics, Teneriffe and Grand Canary. The whole ecclesiastical revenue is estimated at upwards of £36,000. The monkish establishments have been sup-pressed, and such of the monasteries and convents as are not kept up for secular purposes are falling to ruin. No form of religion except the Roman Catholic is tolerated.
Climate and Meteorology.—From April to October a north or north-east wind of more or less strength blows upon the islands, commencing at 10 A.M. and continuing until 5 or 6 P.M. In summer this wind produces a dense stratum of sea cloud (cumuloni), 1000 feet thick, whose lower surface is about 3500 feet above the sea at Teneriffe. This does not reach up to the mountains, which have on every side a stratum of their own, about 500 feet thick, the lower surface being about 2500 feet above the level of the sea. Between these two distinct strata there is a gap through which persons on a vessel approaching or leaving the island may obtain a glimpse of the peak. Travellers who ascend the mountains look down on these stationary layers of cloud. The sea cloud conceals from view the other islands, except those whose mountains pierce through it. On the south-west coasts there is no regular sea or land breeze. In winter they are occasionally visited by a hot south-east wind, called Levante, from the African continent, producing various disagreeable consequences on the exposed parts of the person, besides injuring the vegetation, especially on the higher grounds. Locusts have sometimes been brought by this wind. In 1812 it is said that locusts covered some fields in Fuerteventura to the depth of 4 feet. Hurricanes, accompanied by waterspouts, sometimes cause much devasta-tion ; but, on the whole, these islands are singularly free from such visitations. The climate generally is mild, dry, and salubrious. On the lower grounds the temperature is equable, the daily range seldom exceeding 6° Fahr. The rainy season occurs at the same period as in southern Europe. The dry season is at the time of the trade-winds, which extend a few degrees farther north than this latitude. " In no part of the world is the barometer more susceptible of atmospheric changes than amongst the Canary Islands. A rapid rise is the sure precursor of an easterly wind, whilst the contrary as certainly indicates a change to west or south-west" (Lieut. Arlett).
Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce.—In ordinary years sufficient grain and potatoes are produced to supply the wants of the islands. The soil on the lower part of the islands, where water is plentiful, is productive; in some places two crops of Indian corn and one of potatoes can be obtained from the same piece of ground in a twelvemonth. Except at Fuerteventura, the vine is much cultivated, but chiefly at Teneriffe, the best wines being produced on the north-west coast. None, however, is considered so good as the wine of Madeira. The most esteemed kind is sent to England under the name of Vidonia. The grape disease made its appearance at the Canaries in 1853, and destroyed nearly the whole crop. Previously the total annual produce was estimated at about 40,000 pipes, of which 25,000 pipes were produced in Teneriffe. Between 8000 and 9000 pipes were exported. The price per pipe on board ranged from £8 to £20. Some of the wine is distilled into good brandy. Sumach, canary-seed, and a little flax are grown. Sweet potatoes, maize, gourds, pump-kins, tara (Colocasia antiquorum), lentils, Cicer arietinum, beans, kidney beans, and lupines are extensively cultivated for food. From bad management the fruits are generally inferior. They include oranges, figs, bananas, dates, pine-apples, pomegranates, papaws, guavas, custard apples, and prickly pears. There are no cocoa-nut trees or bread-fruit trees. A little oil is obtained from the olive in Grand Canary. The agave is abundant, and supplies a material for ropes, girths, &c. The leaves of the date palm are made into hats and baskets. A good deal of orchil-lichen is gathered for exportation; and the ice-plant is grown in small quantity for barilla. The sugar manufacture, once largely carried on, has fallen before the American and West Indian trade; the only two existing mills are on Palma. Wine having been for some time so little remunerative, other products have received attention, the chief being cochineal. This insect, which feeds on a species of cactus, was introduced in 1825, and is now largely produced on all the islands,—land formerly occupied by grain and vines being devoted to its cultivation. In 1873 upwards of 5,728,000 lb, of the total value of 13,894,225 pesetas, or about £555,849, were exported, principally to France and England. The silkworm is reared to a small extent, chiefly on Palma. Kaw silk is exported, and some is manufactured on the spot into stockings, ribands, &c. Some linen and woollen stuffs of a coarse kind are made for home consumption, but the great bulk of the clothing in use is of British manufacture. The island goats (a peculiar and esteemed breed) furnish milk, from which butter and cheese are made. Pigs and sheep of a small coarse-woolled breed are numerous. Horses and cattle are scarce; domestic fowls and rabbits are plentiful. Asses and mules are much used. A fishery on the African coast, which gives employment to many persons, has existed from an early period. The fish, principally bream, is salted and largely consumed at the Canaries.
There is a good deal of intercourse by means of boats and small sailing vessels amongst the different islands. In this way wine, raw silk, cochineal, barilla, and dried fruits are taken to the places of export; and grain is conveyed from those islands where it is abundant to those where the supply is deficient. The principal foreign trade is with England, the chief articles of export being wine, cochineal, barilla, and orchil. The imports consist of iron, metal goods, glass, crockery, leather, and silk, cotton, and woollen manufactures. There is also a considerable trade with the United States and the countries bordering the Mediter-ranean. With Hamburg and France an exchange of commodities takes place. The ships employed in this commerce are foreign, chiefly British; but the islanders Bend a few vessels of their own with brandy, coarse earthenware, and silk goods to the Spanish West Indies, bringing back cigars, sugar, coffee, rum, cocoa (the material of chocolate), and a few other articles. Santa Cruz, Orotava, and Las Palmas are the only ports engaged in foreign trade ; nearly 300 vessels enter these ports in the course of a year. In 1852 the ports were practically made free—_ the small duty of 2s. per cent, only being now levied upon imported goods, with the exception of tobacco, which pays 5d. per lb., and cigars which pay lOd. per lb. Spanish steamers ply between Cadiz and Santa Cruz. The Spanish Government packet on its outward voyage to Havana touches at Santa Cruz once a month; and the same port is visited by the English mail steamers in their voyages to and from the African coast.
Zoology.—The indigenous mammals and reptiles of the Canary Islands are very few in number. Of the former, only species of dog, of swine, of goat, and of sheep were found upon the island by the Spanish conquerors. The race of large clogs which is supposed to have given a name to Canary has been long extinct. A single skeleton has been found, which is deposited in one of the museums at Paris. The ferret, rabbit, cat, rat, mouse, and two kinds of bat have become naturalized. The ornithology is more inter-esting, on account at once of the birds native to the islands and the stragglers from the African coast. The latter are chiefly brought over in winter when the wind has blown for some time from the east. Among the former are some birds of prey, as the African vulture, the falcon, the buzzard, the sparrow-hawk, and the kite. There are also two species of owl, three species of sea-mew, the stockdove, quail, raven, magpie, chaffinch, goldfinch, blackcap, canary bird, titmouse, blackbird, house-swallow, &c. The bird with the sweetest song is a variety of the blackcap or Sylvia atricapilla. As to the insects, mention may be made of a species of gnat or mosquito which is sometimes troublesome, especially to strangers, and the cockroach. The list of reptiles is limited to three lizards and a frog The only fresh-water fish is the eel. The marine fishes are not numerous, the reason perhaps being that the steepness of the coast does not allow seaweed to grow in sufficient quantity to support the lower forms of marine animal life. Whales and seals are occasionally seen. The cuttle-fish is abundant, and is sought for as an article of food.
Botany.—The position of mountainous islands like the Canaries, in the sub-tropical division of the temperate zone, is highly favourable to the development, within a small space, of plants characteristic of both warm and cold climates. Von Buch refers to five regions of vegetation in Teneriffe :—1. From the sea to the height of 1300 feet This he styles the African region. The climate in the hottest parts is similar to that of Egypt and southern Barbary. Here grow, among the introduced plants, the coffee-tree, the date-palm, the sugar-cane, the banana, the orange tree, the American agave, and two species of cactus ; and among indigenous plants, the dragon tree on the north-west of Teneriffe. A leafless and fantastic euphorbia, E. canariensis, and a shrubby composite plant, Cacalia Kleinia, give a character to the landscape about Santa Cruz. 2. Between 1300 feet and 2800 feet. This is the region of South European vegetation, the climate answering to that of southern France and central Italy. Here flourish the vine and the cereals. 3. The region of indigenous trees, including various species of laurel, an Ardisia, Ilex, Rhamnus, Olea, Myrica, and other trees found wild also at Madeira. The clouds rest on this region during the day, and by their humidity support a vegetation amongst the trees, partly of shrubs, and partly of ferns. It extends to the height of 4000 feet. 4. The region of the beautiful Piuus canariensis, extending to the height of 6400 feet; here thu broad-leaved trees have ceased to grow, but arborescent heaths are found throughout its whole extent, and specimens of Juniperus oxycedrus may be met with. 5. The region of Betama (Cytisus nubigenus), a species of white-flowering and sweet-scented broom, which is found as high as 11,000 feet. At the upper edge of this region a lilac-coloured violet clings to the soil, and above there is nothing but a little lichen. The number of wild flowering plants may be estimated at 900, upwards of 270 of which are peculiar to the Canaries. The forms of vegetation must in the main be considered North African, since the origin of many of those which they have in common with Southern Europe should be looked for in Africa. The character of the vegetation in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura islands, com-posed of extensive plains and low hills, with few springs, is different from that of the other islands, which are more elevated and have many springs. The wood is more abundant, and the vegetation more luxuriant.
Geology.—Recent soundings have proved that the Canary Islands, like the other island groups of the North Atlantic, are the summits of mountains that are surrounded by an ocean of great depth. The lower and exterior portion of these islands consists for the most part of basalt, compact, vesicular, or scoriaceous, interstratified with beds of variously-coloured tufa. The compact variety of basalt frequently contains scattered grains and crystals of augite and olivine. In some cases the rock is chiefly trachyte. In Grand Canary the fossils contained in the tufas prove that movements of elevation began in the Upper Miocene period. They continued down to the Pleistocene period, for raised beaches containing shells of the recent period exist both in Teneriffe and Grand Canary. Simultaneously with the upheaval subaerial eruptions were taking place. Many of the superimposed streams of lava are divided from one another by red bands of laterite, probably ancient soils formed by the decomposition of the surfaces of the lava, and showing that the building up of the islands was a slow process. In Teneriffe the basalt and tufa form an exterior mass, through which in the centre emerge the felspathic or trachytic rocks forming the nucleus of the volcanic cone, and over them fragments of pumice and streams of modern lava have been thrown. These trachytic rocks contain numerous disseminated crystals of glassy felspar. Obsidian is found in several parts of Teneriffe, and is usually spotted with white crystals of felspar. The few minerals that have been found in the Canary Islands are those characteristic of volcanic regions. A little iron exists, but is not turned to account. In no part of Teneriffe has there been discovered any sedimentary rock. The old lavas in Lanzarote are covered by a thin layer of white concretionary limestone, the origin of which is obscure. In Grand Canary and Fuerteventura there is also calcareous stone, but its nature does not appear to be known Teneriffe, TENERIFFE, the largest island of the group, lies between Grand Canary and Gomera. It is of irregular shape, 60 miles in length, with an extreme breadth of 30 miles. Not more than one-seventh is cultivable. A chain of mountains traverses the island in the direction of its greatest length, and in the middle of the broadest part rises the celebrated Peak, locally known as the Pico de Teyde, which, with its supports and spurs, occupies nearly two-thirds of the whole island. It has a double top ; the highest point, El Piton, is 12,200 feet above the sea; the other, Chahorra, con-nected with the first by a short narrow ridge, has a height of 9880 feet. They are both orifices in the same grand dome of trachyte. Neither reaches the line of perpetual snow. There is, however, a natural cavern, 11,050 feet above the sea, where snow is preserved all the year Snow remains about four months on the upper part of the Peak.
For more than one-half of its circumference the base of the true peak rises from an elevated but comparatively level tract, called by the Spaniards El Llano de, la Retama (retama being the name of the Cytisus nubigenus which abounds there), and by the English the Pumice-Stone Plains. On the south-east, south, and south-west there is a high curved ridge overlooking the Pumice-Stone Plains, and presenting a very steep face to the Peak. This is the analogue of the Somma ridge of Vesuvius. Between the ridge and the sea the slope is more gradual, and there are intervening table-lands. A path used by the country people in going from one side of the island to the other crosses this ridge at the height of 8000 feet. Peaks rise from the ridge, one of which (Guajara) attains the height of 8900 feet. This ridge (the Llano) and the modern volcanic cone resemble in aspect a fortress with circular ramparts and a fosse. The ramparts are about 8 miles in diameter, and tower in some places more than 1500 feet above the fosse. They consist, as shown in the sections, of beds of trachyte, greenstone, and tufa of various thicknesses, and intersected by dykes and faults. On the north-west comparatively late eruptions have filled up the fosse. The modern cone, then, is a pile of lava, pumice, and ashes, thrown up in an ancient crater which had become greatly enlarged either by a falling in of the upper part of the cone, or by a series of violent explosions. Both El Piton and Chahorra have craters on their summits, from which issue steam and a little sulphureous vapour. The crater on El Piton is partly surrounded by a wall of lava, which has been made white by the action of sulphureous vapours, and every crevice contains small crystals of sulphur. The thermometer rises considerably when thrust into the ground. The crater is about 300 feet across, with a depth of 70 feet. The average slope of the lower part of the cone is 28° ; that of the sugar loaf at the top is 33°. The crater on Chahorra has a diameter of 4000 feet; its depth is scarcely 150 feet. The view from the highest point, when no clouds intervene, is very extensive. All the islands of the Archi pelago are visible, and the horizon is 140 miles distant. Neither the coast of Africa nor the island of Madeira is within the range of vision.
The ascent of the Peak is usually made from Orotava, on the northern side of the island. After the cultivated grounds are left, the region of arborescent heaths is crossed. This zone extends over the zones of laurels and pines which have here disappeared. Above this is a belt covered with codeso (Adenocarpus franhenioides), and this extends to the region of retama, the first bushes of which are met with at the pass which admits the traveller into the Llano de la Retama. The scenery here is in striking contrast with what it has previously been. Instead of a steep and rugged ascent among black basaltic rocks, the traveller enters upon gently sloping ground, covered to a considerable depth with white pumice gravel, amongst which spring bushes of retama. The tender shoots of this shrub serve the wild goats for food, and the flowers yield a rich honey to the bees. The entrance to the Llano at a sort of portal (called Portillo) between two basaltic hills, is about 7000 feet above the sea. Between two and three hours are consumed in crossing the Llano to the base of the cone, the lower part of which (Monton de Trigo) is ascended to a point 9750 feet above the sea, called Estancia de los Ingleses, where the mules are usually left, and where travellers frequently pass the night. Then comes the Malpays, 1000 feet in altitude, consisting of rough black lava streams broken up into blocks and stones. These cease at the neck called Rambleta, the lip of an older crater over which the lava poured before the sugar-loaf cone of pumice and ashes was thrown up. The pumice is in such quantity that at a distance it has the appearance of snow coating the Peak. From twenty to twenty-four hours are consumed in ascending the Peak and returning to Orotava,
To the north-west of the grand cone some thousands of feet below Chahorra, there are many small cones of erup-tion, showing that the intensity of volcanic action was greatest on this side. Eastward from the ridge bounding the Pumice-Stone Plains extends a chain of mountains to the north-eastern extremity of the island. The highest peaks are Izana (7374 feet), Perejil (6027), and Cuchillo (5467).
We have no account in history of eruptions from either crater of the Peak. In 1795 a great quantity of lava was rpoured out from three vents on the eastern side; and in the same year lava streams issued from a crater near Guimar, half-way between Santa Cruz and the Peak. In the year 1706, a vent on the north-western side of the Peak discharged a copious stream, which flowed down to the sea, and nearly filled up the harbour of Garachico. For three months in 1798 much lava and other volcanic matter were ejected from orifices to the west of Chahorra.
Santa Cruz de Santiago, on the south coast, is the residence of the governor-general of the Canaries, the civil lieutenant-governor of the Teneriffe district, and the military governor of the island. Its position is 28° 28' 30" N. lat. and 16° 16' W. long. It is a well-built and tolerably clean town of 10,830 inhabitants, lying on a small plain bounded by bare and rugged volcanic rocks, amongst which lie narrow valleys called barrancos. Scarcely any vegetation, except thorny cactuses and euphorbias, is to be seen in the neigh-bourhood. The streets are at right angles to each other, narrow, but provided with side walks. There are three public squares. The houses are generally low, with flat roofs ; those of the better class are large, with a court-yard in the middle, planted with shrubs in the Spanish fashion. The market is well supplied with meat, fruits, and vegetables. Good water is brought from the fine forest of Mercedes, which is composed of laurels and other indigenous trees. A British consul resides in the town, and several English families. The accommodation for strangers is neither plentiful nor good. The Spanish cloak is much worn by the men, and the white mantilla by the women. Dromedaries brought from Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are in use for the conveyance of merchandise and in agricultural operations. A good animal costs from 30 to 40 dollars. A few wheel-carriages are in use. Much ground in the neighbourhood is planted with cactus (Opuntia Tuna) for the support of the cochineal insect. The town is defended by several batteries ; and it was by a shot from one of these that Lord Nelson lost his arm, when he unsuccessfully attacked the place in 1797. Some English flags lost on that occasion are still hanging in one of the churches. The anchorage is good, and a mole facilitates landing. About 200 vessels annually visit the port. The climate is dry and moderately warm, the annual mean being 71° Fahr. The mean of the coldest month is 63°-8 Fahr., and of the hottest 78°-8 Fahr. Bain falls on an average on thirty-six days in the year.
Laguna (population 4645) stands at the distance of four miles from Santa Cruz, in the centre of a plain where much grain is produced, elevated 1725 feet above the sea, and nearly surrounded by mountains. The situation is beautiful, but the town itself is gloomy. It contains seve-ral deserted convents and a cathedral. In summer the temperature is refreshingly cool, and for that reason Laguna is then resorted to by the rich of Santa Cruz. In winter it is cold and damp, the plain being frequently laid under water by rain. This is in consequence of three aerial currents meeting there, from the north, east, and south-west. The mean temperature of the year is 63°-2 Fahr. Snow has never been known to fall here. The humidity of the atmosphere is shown by the quantities of sempervivum growing on the houses and walls.
A good road connects Santa Cruz and Orotava, a town on the north coast 25 miles distant. It passes through Laguna and Matanza,—a place deriving its name from the overthrow of the invading Spaniards by the Guanches in 1494. All travellers speak in terms of warm admiration of the scenery in this part of the island. Humboldt says he " never beheld a prospect more varied, more attractive, more harmonious in the distribution of the masses of verdure and of rocks, than the western coast of Teneriffe." Date palms form a striking feature in the landscapes. The town of Orotava (population 3228) is 1040 feet above the sea. The houses are solidly built, but it has a deserted aspect. A stream of water is conducted through every street. The famous dragon-tree, which so many travellers have described, was lately destroyed by a storm. Port Orotava, three miles from the town, is a clean place, with between 4000 and 5000 inhabitants, amongst whom are three or four English families. The streets are broad and the houses well built. The roadstead, protected by a fort and some batteries, affords little or no shelter against wind. The botanic garden, founded by a patriotic Spanish nobleman, is now in the hands of a market-gardener. At Icod de los Vinos, a pretty town of 4000 inhabitants, farther to the west, in a fertile district, is a dragon-tree, the largest now existing in the island. The stem near the ground has a circumference of 38 feet, and its height is upwards of 60 feet. Near the town is an immense cavern, in which many Guanche bones are to be seen. There are several other towns of less importance, principally in the north-west, not far from the coast. The highest inhabited place is Chasna, on a plain more than 4000 feet above the sea, to the south of the Peak.
GRAND CANARY {Gran Canaria), the most fertile island firand of the group, is nearly circular in shape, with a diameter Canary, of 24 miles and a circumference of 75 miles. The interior is a mass of mountain, reaching to the height of about 6000 feet above the sea, with ravines radiating to the shore. Its highest peak, Los Pexos, is 6400 feet above the sea. Large tracts are covered with native pine (P. canariensis). There are several mineral springs on the island. From the nature of the ground only a small part is under cultivation. Las Palmas (population 12,572), the seat of the local Govern-ment, is a well-built and clean town on a small bay on the north coast, deriving its name from the numerous palm trees. It contains a handsome cathedral, a hospital, a college, several secularized convents, and an alameda or public walk. Its climate is more humid than that of Santa Cruz. Water is brought into the principal streets and squares by an aqueduct. The harbour, Puerto de la Luz, is defended by several forts, and affords good anchorage and shelter against all winds except the south-east. A British vice-consul resides here. In 1851 the cholera visited the island, and 9000 persons died, whilst not a single case occurred on any other island. Telde, the second place in the island, stands on a plain, surrounded by palm trees. At Atalaya, a short distance from Las Palmas, the making of earthenware vessels employ some hundreds of people, who inhabit holes made in the tufa.
PALMA (correctly, San Miguel de la Palma), 26 miles long, Pakaa, with an extreme breadth of 16 miles, lies 67 miles W.N.W. of Teneriffe. It is traversed in its longest direction (north to south) by a chain of mountains, the highest of which is 7900 feet above the sea. At the broadest part is a crater nine miles in diameter, known as the Caldera (i.e., cauldron), from which, on its south-west side, runs a ravine to the sea. The bottom of the crater has an elevation above the sea of 2300 feet, and it is overhung by peaks that rise more than 5000 feet above it. Some of these peaks are covered with snow for several months in the year. Extensive woods, principally composed of chestnut and pine, lie on their flanks. Palma contains several mineral springs, but there is great want of fresh water. The only stream which is never dried up is that which issues from the Caldera. In 1677 an eruption, preceded by an earthquake, took place from a volcano at the southern extremity of the island, and much damage was done by the ejected ashes, stones, and lava. The sugar-cane is grown on an elevated plain called Los Llanos. Santa Cruz on the eastern coast is the principal town (population 4400). Ribands and stockings are manufactured there from silk produced on the island. The anchorage is good. The cultivated soil is fertile, but the labouring classes are in a. wretched condition, notwithstanding their industrious habits. Lanzarote. LANZAROTE, the most easterly of the group, has a length of 31 miles and a breadth varying from 5 to 10 miles. It is naked and mountainous, bearing everywhere marks of its volcanic origin. Montana Blauca, the highest point, attains a height of 2000 feet, and is cultivated to the summit. In 1730 the appearance of half the island was altered by a volcanic outburst. A violent earthquake preceded the catastrophe, by which nine villages were destroyed. In 1825 another volcanic eruption took place accompanied by earthquakes, and two hills were thrown up which still emit smoke. The port of Naos on the south-east of the island affords safe anchorage. It is protected by two forts. A short distance inland is the town of Arrecife (population 2700), where a British vice-consul resides. The climate is hot and dry. There is only a single spring of fresh water on the island, and that is in a position difficult of access. From the total failure of water the inhabitants were once compelled to abandon the island. Grain, wine (which is of superior quality), brandy, barilla, orchil, and raisins made from the muscatel grape are the principal articles of export. Dromedaries are used as beasts of burden. Teguise (population 1000), on the north-west const, is the residence of the local authorities. A strait of about 6 miles in width separates Lanzarote from Fuerteventura. Graciosa. GRACIOSA, a small uninhabited island, is divided from the north-eastern extremity of Lanzarote by a channel a mile in width, which affords the most capacious and only safe harbour for large ships at the Canaries ; but basaltic cliffs, 1500 feet high, prevent intercourse with the inhabited part of Lanzarote. A few persons reside on the little island Allegranza, a mass of lava and cinders ejected at various times from a now extinct volcano, the crater of which has still a well-defined edge. Fuerteren- FUERTEVENTURA lies between Lanzarote and Grand tura. Canary. It has a length of 52 miles, and an average width of 12 miles. Though less mountainous than the other islands, its aspect is barren. The springs of fresh water are only two, and they are confined to one valley. Lava streams and other signs of volcanic action abound, but there has been no igneous activity since the Spaniards took possession. At each of its extremities are high mountains, which send off branches along the coast so as to enclose a large arid plain. The highest peak reaches 2500 feet. In external appearance, climate, and productions this island greatly resembles Lanzarote. An interval of three years without rain has been known. The wine is bad. Barilla and orchil are largely exported. Oliva, with 970 inhabi-tants, is the largest town. A smaller place in the centre of the island named Betancuria is the residence of the authorities. Cabras, on the eastern coast (population 1000), is the chief port. Dromedaries are bred here.
Gomera lies 20 miles south-west of Teneriffe. Its greatest length is about 23 miles. The coast is precipitous and the interior mountainous, but it has the most wood and is the best watered of the group. The inhabitants are very oor. The palm trees produce excellent dates; and wine, randy, orchil, raw silk, and dried fruits are sent to Tene-riffe. Dromedaries are bred on Gomera in large numbers. St Sebastian, the chief town and a port, has 2240 inhabitants. Columbus resided here before sailing in search of the Now World.
HIERRO, or Ferro, the most westerly and the smallest Hierro. island of the group, is somewhat crescent-shaped. Its length is about 18 miles, its greatest breadth about 15 miles, and its circumference probably 50 miles. It lies 92 miles W.S.W. of Teneriffe. Its coast is bound by high steep rocks, which only admit of one harbour, but the interior is tolerably level. Its hill-tops in winter are some-times wrapped in snow, which, however, does not lie long. Better and more abundant grass grows here than on any of the other islands. The island is exposed to westerly gales, which frequently commit great damage. Fountains of fresh water are few, but there is a sulphurous spring, with a temperature of 102° Fahr. The once celebrated and almost sacred Til tree, which was reputed to be always distilling water in great abundance from its leaves, no longer exists. Only a small part of the cultivable land is under tillage, the inhabitants being principally employed in pasturage. Wine, brandy, orchil, excellent dried figs, and sheep are sent to Teneriffe. At Valvercle, the principal town, with 4640 inhabitants, the local authorities reside. Geographers were formerly in the habit of measuring all longitudes from Ferro, the most westerly land known to them. The longitude assigned at first has, however, turned out to be erroneous; and the so-called "Longitude of Ferro'" does not coincide with the actual longitude of the island.
See Bethencourt, The Canarian, published by the Hakluyt
Society in 1872 ; Von Buch, Description des lies Canaries, 1803 ;
Bory de Saint Vincent, Les lies FortunSes, 1825 ; Fritsch, Reise-
bilder von den Canarisclicn liiseln, published as the 22d supple-
mental part to Petermann's Mittheilwngen ; C. Piazzi Smyth, Tene-
riffe, 1868. (J. Y. J.)

Search the Encyclopedia:

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries