Monday, September 22, 2008

RIAC to open post at Casa dos Açores in Fall River, says Carlos César

Local immigrants may soon be gaining easier access to enhanced public services in the Azores, but exactly to what extent still remains a subject of contention.President Carlos César of the Regional Government of Azores announced that a bureau of the Rede Integrada de Apoio ao Cidadão (RIAC) or Integrated Network for Citizen Support will open soon at the Casa dos Açores da Nova Inglaterra in Fall River.RIAC was introduced several years ago in the Azores to facilitate citizens' access to public administration services, while maximizing quality, promptness and convenience. Currently there are about 40 RIAC bureaus in the Azores, which are used to pay utility bills, take care of real estate matters, request financial incentives or apply for a slew of official documents, including passport, criminal record, national ID, national health medical card, Social Security card and birth, marriage and death certificates, among others.César said the intention is to provide immigrants who reside in this area with a vast package of services similar to what already takes place in the Azorean islands.

"It will certainly be a great benefit in terms of accessibility for our fellow-citizens who reside there [Fall River] and it will be accomplished with the support of Casa dos Açores da Nova Inglaterra, an institution that has great credibility and has distinguished itself in a very positive matter from other institutions," said César in Ponta Delgada, after meeting with João Pacheco, president of the Casa dos Açores of Nova Inglaterra (CANI).Pacheco, who returned to the United States on Tuesday, told O Jornal that CANI, which is currently headquartered in East Providence, will be opening a delegation office at 308 South Main St., Fall River. He praised the decision of the Regional Government of the Azores to open a RIAC in Fall River, but admits he has some reservations about its full implementation."RIAC has played an extremely important role in Portugal, but I don't know if it will be viable in the United States," he said. "If RIAC opens in Fall River, I think it will be with limited services."He says he foresees the new office as a venue to provide more information than actual services."I don't want to deceive the community with false hopes, saying that we are going to open the RIAC office a month from now and we don't have anything to offer," he said.Pacheco said a similar project has been stalled in Ontario, Canada.

"In Ontario, they [Casa dos Açores] already have the furniture since February, but they still have no guidelines," he said. "There is no lack of promises." O Jornal contacted the press office of the Azorean Presidency to find out more details about the new office, but did not receive a return call by press time.Pacheco said César told him he expects to send a representative from his administration to this area to help plan and implement the new bureau.

Genetic structuring and migration patterns of Atlantic bigeye tuna, Thunnus obesus (Lowe, 1839)

Large pelagic fishes are generally thought to have little population genetic structuring based on their cosmopolitan distribution, large population sizes and high dispersal capacities. However, gene flow can be influenced by ecological (e.g. homing behaviour) and physical (e.g. present-day ocean currents, past changes in sea temperature and levels) factors.

In this regard, Atlantic bigeye tuna shows an interesting genetic structuring pattern with two highly divergent mitochondrial clades (Clades I and II), which are assumed to have been originated during the last Pleistocene glacial maxima. We assess genetic structure patterns of Atlantic bigeye tuna at the nuclear level, and compare them with mitochondrial evidence.
Results: We examined allele size variation of nine microsatellite loci in 380 individuals from the Gulf of Guinea, Canary, Azores, Canada, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. To investigate temporal stability of genetic structure, three Atlantic Ocean sites were re-sampled a second year.

Hierarchical AMOVA tests, RST pairwise comparisons, isolation by distance (Mantel) tests, Bayesian clustering analyses, and coalescence-based migration rate inferences supported unrestricted gene flow within the Atlantic Ocean at the nuclear level, and therefore interbreeding between individuals belonging to both mitochondrial clades. Moreover, departures from HWE in several loci were inferred for the samples of Guinea, and attributed to a Wahlund effect supporting the role of this region as a spawning and nursery area.
Our microsatellite data supported a single worldwide panmictic unit for bigeye tunas. Despite the strong Agulhas Current, immigration rates seem to be higher from the Atlantic Ocean into the Indo-Pacific Ocean, but the actual number of individuals moving per generation is relatively low compared to the large population sizes inhabiting each ocean basin.

Conclusions: Lack of congruence between mt and nuclear evidences, which is also found in other species, most likely reflects past events of isolation and secondary contact. Given the inferred relatively low number of immigrants per generation around the Cape of Good Hope, the proportions of the mitochondrial clades in the different oceans may keep stable, and it seems plausible that the presence of individuals belonging to the mt Clade I in the Atlantic Ocean may be due to extensive migrations that predated the last glaciation.

By Elena G Gonzalez, Peter Beerli and Rafael Zardoya

It's official: the summer was a total washout

Summer officially ends today, with the Met Office confirming it as one of the wettest and least sunny of any on record.
With the September equinox tomorrow heralding the start of autumn, figures show an average of 327.3mm (nearly 13in) of rain fell in the UK between 1 June and 31 August, and this month is also proving to be one of the worst.

With floods causing six deaths and tens of millions of pounds of damage, forecasters say an average rainfall of 81.6mm was recorded by 15 September - a total almost equal to the 100.4mm average for the month and on track to rival the worst ever, when 181.8mm was recorded in 1918.

In addition, the UK experienced just 463.9 hours of sunshine up to 31 August, which is below average and included the dullest August since records began in 1929.
September saw only 46.5 sunshine hours during its first 15 days, which could certainly challenge 1945's record worst of 91.4 hours. The normal total is 123.1 hours.
The Met Office blamed the summer washout, the fifth wettest since records began in 1914, on the jet stream: fast-moving, high-atmosphere winds which were further south than usual, preventing the Azores high bringing hot weather from southern Europe.
Spokeswoman Sarah Holland said: 'We predicted this summer would not be very nice, and it hasn't been. August was awful and September has been very wet and dull. There could now be showers on Monday.'

By Caroline Davies

A whale tale to cherish

As image changes go, the whale has undergone the biggest transformation going. Since Herman Melville penned his 19th century tale of ferocious sea beast Moby-Dick, this most mysterious of sea creatures has gone from feared to revered.

Over the years the heavily hunted whale has evolved in the public perception from terrifying monster to gentle giant.

And whether we are hunting the creature or lining up on a tourist boat just to catch a glimpse of it, the whale has always held a deep fascination for humans.

None more so than bestselling writer Philip Hoare – Noel Coward’s biographer and author of Spike Island and England’s Lost Eden.

Philip was so intrigued by the animals, he embarked on a four-year adventure around the world exploring man’s complex relationship with these awe-inspiring creatures.

The result – a captivating book about his experience and a feature-length documentary to be aired on BBC2 tonight.

“It’s where human history meets natural history,” says Philip, whose interest began when he saw a killer whale at a safari park as a child. We have gone from a world of hunting whales to a world of whale-watching. Before the discovery of petroleum the world ran on whale. All street lamps ran on whale oil and it was a huge industry.

“Up until the late 1980s whalers were still hunting in the Azores but they still had an intimate relationship with the whales, watching them on their days off. Now these guys take tourists whale-watching. I wanted to explore what was happening and why.”

Philip’s epic journey takes him from the waters of the Solent to the whaling ports of New Bedford, Nantucket and the Azores.

We even see the Sholing, Southampton-born writer floating in three-mile deep Atlantic waters alongside the legendary sperm whale.

“It was the culmination of it all but I’ve never been so scared in my life,” admits Philip, who is both fascinated and frightened by the sea. The sperm whale is the world’s biggest predator. It can swallow giant squid and even sharks. It was terrifying but then I felt it using its echo location. I could feel it vibrating through my rib cage. It was scanning me – it knew exactly where I was. Then it just glided off. It was amazing.”

During his adventure, Philip visits the house where Melville wrote his masterpiece. “It was moving to stand at his desk, look out of the window and see the mountain which he thought looked like the shape of a whale.”

In fact, says Philip, the story of Moby-Dick (one man’s obsessive pursuit of the great white whale) has parallels with the modern world. “It’s just like George Bush hunting Osama Bin Laden. This idea of chasing evil. What is it? Does it even exist?”

Philip happily admits to being “obsessed” by whales.

“I saw my first whales during holidays in Cape Cod in the late 1990s. It got to the point where people said I spent more time with whales than humans! That’s how I started the journey. When you’re standing on a beach in a cold New England winter freezing your bits off, you do ask yourself what you’re doing there. But the rewards are worth it.”

The biggest bonus of all, he says, was getting up close to the creatures once again.

“I have seen grown men crying when they see a whale for the first time. It’s not just their size. When they look at you, there is intelligence behind those eyes.

“There’s also something mystical about them because they are so huge but we know so little about them.

“When I started out I had a much more pragmatic, less emotional response to the whole whaling thing. I took an objective approach.

“But when I swam with whales I felt a sense of guilt, as if I should be apologising to them for how we’ve treated them.

“Whaling is still going on in some parts of the world and they are also suffering through pollution and climate change. They are victims. But these are enlightened times and I hope all that can change.”

By Paula Thompson

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Casa do Monte - Rural Turism

The green of the tree-lined avenue of plane-trees with its blue hydrangeas are the best invitation to enter and visit the Casa do Monte (House of the Mountain).You'll be able to usufruct the beautiful garden's nock, explore walking trails through a beautiful countryside, bicycle riding, horse back riding, to play croquet, swimming in the crystal clear waters of Baía das Capelas, to visit interesting tourist places around and playing golf in the Campo da Batalha (Batalha's golf course).

The Casa do Monte is situated in an agricultural property, a family property for three centuries, with unusual typical features, offering a variety of agricultural activities. If you like to be in contact with the nature and animals, it's a goog place to visit.
The Casa do Monte is decorated in a tipical azorean style and has five bedrooms with private bathroom, a cozy living-room with fire place and a solarium terrace with a break taking panoramic view of the moutains and the island's north coast sea.The brekfast (homemade) is served in a traditional Azorian kitchen, in a calm and relaxed environment that brings the nostalgy of the past.

It also has a beautiful XVII century style dining-room.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Casa da Madrinha - Godmothers House - Rural Tourism

The Godmother's house is a "treat" right at the Vila do Nordeste. Two cosy houses to choose from right at the entrance of one the most beautifull villages in the Azores and a third house in the centre of the vila give a warm welcome to thoso who decide to stay around for a few days. It is the ideal place for those who want far and close to everything.

Northeast offers to its visitants landscapes, crystal clear waters and an absolute sense of peace to who ever intends to rest. Everybody who visit this village is suprised and amazed with its exuberant beauty promissing to come back.

Godmothers House enterprise, is located in the extreme north of the island of S. Miguel, in the vilige of Nordeste, one of the most flowery places of Portugal. This village, iss bessed with pretty sight spots and leisure zones in touch with nature, where people are used to enjoy meals in the fresh air, mainly barbecues. It is in this part of the island, that it is possible to enjoy the beauty of sunrise.

Situated in the heart of the village of Nordeste, our houses are 2 minutes walk from every main building: health center, restaurants, mini-markets, shops, church, City Hall, post office and pharmacy. Five minutes by car to get to the natural swimming pool of the "Boca da Ribeira" and ten minutos by car to the beach of "Lombo Gordo" as well to the viewspots of "Ponta do Sossego" and "Ponta da Madrugada".

Casa da Japoneira - Faial Island

Casa da Japoneira is located near the sea, on the southern coast of Faial Island and its origin goes back to a two floors house with well, built in the 19 th century.
The singularity, the architectural and cultural interest of this rural house, justified its inclusion in Horta’s Heritage Inventory.

This small Rural Tourism unit is the best way of travelling into the Azorean culture and traditions.
During the house’s recovery works there was the concern to maintain the original architectural traces and, at the same time, adapt it to the modern demands of comfort. Therefore were projected double rooms and twins with toilet, reading and living rooms. Air-conditioning, cable TV, telephone and wireless Internet were installed.

In the exterior there are balconies with panoramic views to the neighbour island Pico and areas of entertainment in a garden of about 1000m2, where the camellias are the predominant trees.
Casa da Japoneira puts at your service fishing material, as the house is located very near to the Lajinha bathing areas, a privileged place for fishing or sea bathing.
There is also the possibility of making walking and biking tours and, with previous booking, tours on the island with official national guide.

Casa da Japoneira is located on the planes of the parish of Feteira, 5 km to the west of the town of Horta and 6 km to the east of the airport. Departing from Horta, in a 15 min. boat trip, you can visit Pico Island, if the Azores High allows it, and climb to Portugal’s highest point.
On the neighbour island of S. Jorge you can taste its famous cheese and visit the “fajãs”

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gastronomy - Flores Island - Traditional Food Specialities - Azores

Besides the meat and fish recipes that can be said to be "Azorean", since they can be found all over the archipelago, Flores also offers such local specialities as watercress soup, boiled pork with vegetables, tripe, yams with tasty sausages, beans with pigs head and pasteis de ervas marinhas.

Boiled pork with vegetables, *Lotta Gallery

The tasty cheese produced on the island, the soft creamy butter, and the delicious honey which has the scent of flowers always present on Flores throughout the year, complement the meals. Not forgetting of course the crabs, goose barnacles and limpets found on the rocks washed by the sea.

The Cuada Village - The Cottage

During the mid sixties most of the residents of the Aldeia da Cuada followed other azorians and emigrated to the New World. The Village, where, even today, motorized vehicles never arrived, was almost deserted and its houses abandoned.

The touristic village of the Cuada brings together the old and the modern, having salvaged the original houses and adapted them to today's comfort.

Equipped with kitchen and bathroom, as well as spacious bedrooms, the 14 cottages make up the touristic village of the Cuada; respecting all of the safety laws of modern accomodation, without losing any of the rural designs of its stone construction.

Only 2 kilometres away you will find the seaside town of Faja Grande, one of the most sought after summer spots on the Island of Flores. Here a deep blue sea invites you to an invigorating swim or simply enjoy the fine cuisine at the local restaurant.

The Cuada Village - The Village

Situated on the west coast of the Island of Flores, on a small plateau overlooking the mouth of the Ribeira Grande River, municipality of Lajes, the Aldeia da Cuada is one of the most beautiful azorian sceneries. A place where time stood still and where nature performed its best, leaving it untouched and full of life!

At the Aldeia da Cuada only the stone walls and the basalt cottages stand out amongst the verdant fields, where the fresh smell of flowers and fruit trees drift.
The places surrounding the village suggests outings of true expectations and sheer pleasures.
Close by, a mere 2 kilometres away, you will find the seaside town of Faja Grande, one of the most sought after summer spots on the Island of Flores; where a deep blue sea invites you to an invigorating swim. After having worked up your appetite the local restaurant will be pleased to serve you some of the island´s famous dishes.

At night, in the silence of this small sanctuary, you can almost hear the sound of the sun falling against the horizon...afterwards, everything seems even more serene, but at the same time more intense, fragrant, inexplicably captivating, as if part of a poem.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Formigas Bank - Existing/Proposed Protection

The Formigas Bank became a nature reserve in 1988 by Law Decree (see DLR no. 11/88/A of 4 April with DLR no. 8/90/A of 17 May), comprising an area limited by a 5 nm radius from the
lighthouse on the Formigas Islets and a 5 nm radius from the shallowest point of the Dollabarat Reef. The habitats encompassed by this protected area range from the emerged area of the Formigas Islets to depths of more than -1700 m in places.
Afraction of the reserve (3628 ha, extending only to 200 m depth) was designated as a Site of Comunity Importance (SCI, Natura 2000 network) because of its reefs, bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta).

The Formigas Bank - Human Impacts

Due to the extraordinary clarity of the mid-ocean waters which enhance the exuberance of these communities and the beauty of the seabed even further, one can hardly imagine that this splendid seascape could suffer from environmental degradation.
Local and historical knowledge,
however, suggest that there has been significant depletion of some of the marine resources around the Formigas Islets in particular, with noticeably fewer commercial species such as locust lobsters and limpets, as well as some demersal fish species. The variety and intensity of fishing over the bank which is expected to further increase due to the depletion of fishing grounds in the Eastern Azores, are the principal threat to the marine resources of the area and result from both commercial and recreational activities.
The remoteness of the Formigas Bank makes it difficult to enforce existing legal regulations, forbidding the collection of any molluscs,
crustaceans or algae, sports fishing, spearfishing, fishing with trammel nets, bottom long lining (artisanal fishing with up to 14 m boats allowed). These activities increasingly threaten the ecological integrity of the Formigas Bank.
Research is directed at studying the movements of demersal fish across Azorean seamounts and assessing their role as spawning and nursery grounds. If these functions prove real, the impact of the extractive activities could have far-reaching implications for commercial fisheries.

The Formigas Bank - Biological Features

The shallowest areas of the reefs are believed to be unique in the Azores, due to their dense and all cover of Cystoseira spp., as well as the high abundance and diversity of pelagic species occurring in large schools at large individual size. No similar subtidal Cystoseira stands have been recorded elsewhere in the archipelago and hence, they are supposed to be the marine biotope with the highest plant biomass in the Archipelago.
Likewise, this is the only site in the Azores where laminarians (Laminaria ochroleuca) are known to occur. The fronds of Cystoseira are generally 20-30 cm long and provide shelter for large numbers of fish such as juvenile ornate wrasse (Thalassoma pavo), emerald wrasse (Centrolabrus caeruleus) and juvenile dusky grouper (Epinephelus marginatus).
The deep crevices, which are common, provide a habitat for many benthic species such as locust lobster (Scyllarides latus), conger eel (Conger conger), moray eel (Muraenidae spp.), and larger forkbeard (Phycis phycis), and the vertical faces are colonised by sponges, cup corals and jewel anemones.
The algal beds start to thin out below 30 m and are gradually replaced by communities dominated by encrusting species. Large colonies of the black coral (Antipathes wollastoni) occur on the vertical faces of the bedrock in these deeper areas.

Sicklefin mobulas (Mobula tarapacana)

The pelagic communities are particularly rich on and around the reefs, with large numbers of jacks (Seriola rivoliana and Seriola dumerili), striped barracuda (Sphyraena viridensis), Atlantic bonito (Sarda sarda) and grey triggerfish (Balistes carolinensis), as well as smaller species that make up the basis of the food web, like boarfish (Capros aper) and snipefish (Macroramphosus scolopax).
Large oceanic predators like manta rays (Manta birostris), sicklefin mobulas (Mobula tarapacana), Galapagos sharks (Carcharinus galapagensis) and the shortfin mako (Isurus oxirhyncus) are also often registered in the area. Large individuals of demersal species such as seachub (Kyphosus sp.), comb grouper (Mycteroperca fusca), black-tail comber (Serranus atricauda) also occur frequently.
Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis), pilot whales (Globicephala sp.) and loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) are frequently observed.

The Formigas Bank - Site Description

The reefs forming the Formigas Bank are located in an area subject to strong currents and frequent large swells.
The Formigas Islets break the surface forming a linear group of rocky outcrops with a lighthouse on the largest landmass. The Dollabarat Reef is completely submerged but the shallowest area is only around 3 m deep so oceanic waves frequently break on its top.
In calm seas, it is possible to go ashore on the Formigas Islets just below the lighthouse.
Around the Islets the seabed drops steeply to a depth of 50-70 m on both sides and more gently at the northern and southern ends. The gradient is less marked around the Dollabarat Reef, which is also larger and more heterogeneous but nevertheless shows a steep profile.

The Formigas Bank - Potential Marine Protected Area

Although the Formigas Bank has the status of a Nature Reserve since 1988 and a small part of it is a European Site of Community Importance (SCI), it further qualifies as an OSPAR MPA as it is representative of the wealth of biodiversity associated with the open ocean hard substrate environment. Moreover, the Formigas Bank is a good example of the remarkable ecological importance of seamounts in OSPAR Region V, the Wider Atlantic in terms of feeding grounds, spawning and nursery areas for many marine species. The Formigas Bank example highlights the necessity to weave a network of protected areas for the North-East Atlantic.

The Formigas Bank - Location

The Formigas Islets and Dollabarat Reef (known collectively as the Formigas Bank) are a remote group of shallow reefs in the southeastern part of the Azores, 33 and 20 nautical miles (nm) from the neighbouring islands of the archipelago. The position is approximately 37º19' N 24º40' W and 37º12' N 24º48' W.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tropical foliage - Azores - Açores

In the early days, the conquistadors and other colonisers brought in many tropical plants for consumptive use from the tropical colonies overseas. Due to the volcanic fertile soils, many imported plants and fruits adapted quickly to their new environment. These days, you can find pineapples, lemons, oranges, passion fruits, bananas, tangerines, tea, tobacco and sweet potatoes in the fruit orchards close to the villages. The Yam or Taro plant originates in Southern Asia, and is used in many local dishes. Don’t try to eat it uncooked, the chemical components can cause severe injures to the throat, stomach and intestines.

Endemic flora - Azores - Açores

Sixty-eight species of plants are endemic to the Azores, almost 8% of all species present. Endemic species are species that live in a limited geographical area. They evolved allopathically, which means that they have been geographically isolated for a period of time long enough to evolve into a new species. From these species new subspecies have evolved scattered over the different islands.

Flora - Azores - Açores

The vegetation of the Azores is for a significant part determined by the Atlantic climate. Because the Azores are part of the Atlantic climate system (mild winters and relatively cool summers with heavy rains scattered throughout the year), the vegetation has a constant supply of water and consequently has an elongated growing season. Plants flower all year round and there is no true resting period in the annual cycle of the vegetation. The Azorean flora is not only characterised by the usual Atlantic plant species, but also by Mediterranean, tropical and a wide range of cosmopolitan species.

Many plant species occurring on the islands are exotic and were introduced by the early colonisers as food resources. They thrive well in the warm and humid climate and were able to spread quickly in the absence of their natural enemies. At this moment, 200 out of the 500 plant species present on the islands are exotic. The beautiful ginger plant that originates from the Himalayas out-competes many endemic species plants in their natural habitat and has become a significant threat to the survival of many of them. The Hydrangea was introduced 150 years ago and since it is not grazed by cattle, it was used as a natural border in pastures. The beautiful Blue Trumpet flower was also brought in, just as the Yucca cactus, Canna Indica’s, Optuntia en Agaves. The natural vegetation above 1500 m is a dense laurel-juniper shrub-forest. The islands of Pico, Faial and Terceira have the largest remnants of these unique native forests. This forest ecosystem needs a high amount of precipitation and high air humidity to develop successfully.

Air - Azores - Açores

At increasing altitudes, the temperature drops by 0.6º C with every 100 m. This leads to the condensation of the air’s’ moisture. The condensed moisture forms little drops of water, which in turn forms rain. Under these conditions wet forest or cloud forests have developed on the mountain slopes. From sea level the view on the outskirts of the island is often limited to an altitude of 500m where a long white cloud covers the mountain. The sudden appearance and disappearance of the clouds is a dynamic and fascinating process. Because of the high humidity you can get the impression that you are walking through the wet tropics. The dense vegetation and presence of a variety of incenses contribute to this feeling.

Fog - Azores - Açores

Around the Azores the ocean air is clean and clear. It is a dynamic system, driven by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. The Azores have a subtropical climate which is characterised by mild winters (>15º C) and comfortable warm summers (~25º C). Around the tops of the mountains you can literally see the weather being formed. What starts out as an innocent little cloud around the mountain slopes can become Europe’s next depression. The night sky is often clear and reveals an overwhelming view of stars flickering over the ocean.

Vulcanisme - Azores - Açores

The Azores were formed by an active volcanic hotspot at the bottom of the ocean on the crevice of three tectonic plates. The islands are the tops of volcanoes that rise from the depths of the ocean and reach up 1000-2000 m above sea level. The Pico Mountain is the highest mountain of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The evidence of volcanic activity from the past can still be seen, smelt, and felt on the different islands. Even quite recently, volcanic eruptions occurred on some of the islands.

The volcanic rock found on the Azores is mainly composed of basaltic lava, which is a common bedrock material of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Powerful volcanic explosions in the region created so called Caldeiras, or craters, that are found scattered over the islands. On the continents, volcanic eruptions are usually followed by earthquakes, but on the oceanic islands this seismographic activity is minimal. However, on the Azores volcanic eruptions are accompanied by severe shocks. In 1998 an earthquake
destroyed many houses on the island of Faial.

A volcano that produces lava with a low viscosity can easily push the lava through its main pipe. What is special about the Azores is the fact that the earths crust in the Azorean plateau is relatively thick. Consequently, the lava has to travel a longer distance to the earth’s surface, which causes changes in its composition. This results in a type of lava that is characterised by a high level of acidity, called trachiet. Trachiet is less fluid than other types of basaltic lava and therefore forms clumps. In order to push the lava through the channels in the earth’s crust an enormous pressure has to be build up. Often the lava crystallises within these channels, causing the pressure to rise even more. After a period of simmering or ‘sleeping’ the volcano has built up enough pressure to push the lava out.
During these eruptions not only the lava is blown out, but also a part of the volcano can explode.

This is how the caldeiras and crater lakes on the islands were created. One can imagine that the volcano of Faial was once much higher than the Pico volcano. Its caldeira is located at an altitude of 1100m. The Pico Alte has not yet build up enough pressure to explode, being much younger than the volcanoes on the other islands. The Pico volcano has been inactive for many years. Only at the top, where small clouds of steam escape through tiny crevices, one can feel the warmth of the volcano. This simmering volcano could wake up again.
All of the islands except Corvo and Santa Maria have hot springs and sulphate springs. On Graciosa (Carapacho) and São Miguel (Furnas), health centres (Spas) have been built in order to benefit from these mineral springs.

Climate - Azores - Açores

The Azores are situated in a climatologically high-pressure area. As a result, the weather pattern is significantly different from that of the mainland of Europe and is generally more gentle (subtropical). Even though the Azores are situated at the same latitude as countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, the humid sea climate is strikingly different from the Mediterranean climate.

The islands are covered by green and flowering plants throughout the year. Different plant species alternate their flowering period over the seasons. During winter, many calla’s and amaryllises can be found while in summer, flowering ginger plants occur all over the islands. The patterns found in the vegetation are a result of severe rain showers which occur throughout the year, with a peak in the months of January and February. Towards the west end of the archipelago the amount of precipitation increases. Yearly, the westerly island of Flores receives twice as much rainfall as the easterly São Miguel.

The average air temperature between May and September is 25 °C. Night-time temperatures during this season rarely drop lower than 18 ºC. The average winter temperature is 16 degrees and frost has only been recorded at altitudes higher than 2000 m above sea level. During summer, sea surface temperature steadily rises to about 25 degrees.

Pico - Azores - Açores

The Azores are divided into three island groups. The island of Pico, the second largest island of the archipelago, is situated in the Central Group in the immediate vicinity of the islands of Faial, São Jorge, Graciosa and Terceira. Pico is primarily an enormous volcano, Pico-Alte, which is Portugal’s highest mountain, standing at 2351m. The geological backbone of the volcano stretches out far to the east where many volcanoes are closely linked at an altitude of 800-1100 m above sea level. Hidden in the valleys between these volcanoes you can find small lakes surrounded by heaths and dense cloud forests.
Closer to the coast, the small villages breathe a Mediterranean atmosphere. Surrounding the villages, you will see typical, staged terraces where the local people grow vegetables, wine grapes and other fruits and graze their cattle. But it is the ocean surrounding Pico that is the most fascinating wonder of the Azores. These waters are the unique habitat of more than 25 species of whales and dolphins (pagina water- cetacean species).

The Azores archipelago - Azores - Açores

Situated on the Mid-Atlantic ridge, in the middle of the deep blue Atlantic Ocean, lie the nine islands which form the Azorean archipelago. In the 15th century, the early Portuguese pioneers accidentally discovered the Azores in their search for the “Promised Land”. They had sailed over 1500 km from the port of Lisbon when they mistakenly took Buzzards for Hawks hovering over the Atlantic Ocean. Translated to Portuguese, Hawk means ‘Açores’, which became the name of the newly discovered land.

From the depths of the ocean, the Azores rise far above sea level. These incredible islands are surrounded by a mystical haze, which encloses their astonishing mountain landscapes, peaceful valleys, wide variety of exotic and endemic plants and its magical volcanic craters and lakes.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Diving - Underwater - Azores - Açores

Scuba diving is among the best in the world, despite (or because!) the cold Atlantic conditions. Yet, the Azores are rated as the new discovery in the diving business. Most diving locations guarante an encounter with the big fishes of the Atlantic and offer spectacular lava formations.
We frequently observe large schools of makreles (e.g. Trachinotus ovatus, Trachurus picturatus), barakudas (Sphyraena viridensis), yellow-fin tuna (Thunnus albacares) and trigger fish (Balister carolinensis). Common sting rays (Taeniura grabata) grow to an enormous size in these waters and even spectacular encounters with large mantas (Manta birostris) are not uncommon.

The underwater scenery alters between basaltic rock formations with canyons and caves and open sand flats. Each little cave or rock can be home to a variety of large and small marine animals, such as moray eels, octupus, lobster, spiral tube worms, sea urchins and sea spiders. Night diving is spectacular and amazingly easy at selected sheltered spots along the coast.
During night dives we can see the dazzling colours of hugh swarms of small shrimps, as well as nudibranchs, Alicia mirabilis anemonees, and, depending on the time of the year, also biolumines-cent plankton (causing the so-called ocean glow).

Monday, March 3, 2008

A pastoral way of life - Azores - Açores

Azoreans are very proud of their islands and they are always ready to welcome visitors. As members of the European Union, they have built an infrastructure which facilitates that aim. Nevertheless, visitors can still feel that they have been plunged into a kind of dream world that reflects an unspoiled, peaceful, pastoral way of life which is difficult to find elsewhere nowadays.

Pineapples - Azores - Açores

Sao Miguel is also an important producer of pineapples. I suppose because we live in a mainly tropical country (Mexico) that happily produces pineapples ... But how could anyone consider the Azores tropical, being located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? We learned the answer when we visited a pineapple 'plantation' and discovered it was inside a greenhouse! In fact, they have a different house for each stage of the plant's life, and it takes two years for a pineapple to be ready to eat! We then understood why a slice of that fruit, for dessert, might cost as much as three Euros!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Music and Dancing - Flores Island - Azores

In spite of its distance from the other islands in the archipelago, the folklore of Flores keeps up the common tradition with typical songs and dances such as the Sapateia, Tirana, Chamarrita Encaracolada, Rema, Manjericão, Ciranda, Pézinho de Baixo and others that enliven festival days.
The musical taste of the population of Flores also finds an expression in the half dozen bands whose presence is a must at all ceremonies and festivals.

Festivals - Flores Island - Azores - Acores

The Festival of the Holy Ghost is the most important in the island. A centuries-old tradition, it is closely connected with the religious feelings of the people of Flores. Enacting the rituals of the coronation of the "emperor", the showing of his insignia and celebration of the "bodo" or feast, attracts the inhabitants of the village and visitors. Similar festivals are held in every parish. The most important, lasting for two days, is at Santa Cruz, in which the town is decorated with flowers and coloured arches and there is dancing in the streets. With the presence of the crowns of the 27 emperors existing on the island, it is considered to be the most important festival of the Holy Ghost in the Azores.

Festival of the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost festivals take place on Sundays after Whitsun until the summer. At Santa Cruz it is held on the last Sunday in August. Other festivals include the Folares (Easter cakes. including baked eggs), the processions of the Senhor dos Passos (Our Lord bearing His Cress), held on Good Friday in every parish. St. John s Festivals at Santa Cruz which attract many visitors, the Festival of Senhora das Flores held in honour of Our Lady at the Chapel called Capela dos Matos and the best frequented in the whole island, and the Emigrants Festival at Lajes das Flores on the 2nd week-end of July.

Walking and Sight-Seeing - Flores Islands

Flores is a paradise for fishermen. The craggy seashore gives them an endless number of fishing grounds where they can catch large fish such as bluefish bream, amberjack, conger eels, stone bass, grouper, mackerel, snapper, etc. But if the sports fishermen find abundant catches in Flores, underwater sportsmen have, in the depths, fringed by multi-coloured rocks, an abundance of animal and vegetable life and in the island's caves, attractions for many days spent appreciating the beauty beneath the sea.

For the same reasons the underwater diving-dress practice increased a lot those past years, not only due to those wonderful sea conditions, but also due to the rising of specialised and well-equipped clubs on that particularly practice - Clube Naval das Lages das Flores - Phone: +351-(0)92-53145 and fax: +351-(0)92-53605.

The roads will take you to the main attractions of Flores. There are also hidden areas of real scenic beauty, that can only be discovered by walking through flowers and green fields, crossing murmuring brooks and small waterfalls.

Swimming, Sailing and Water Activities - Flores Island

Flores is a paradise for fishermen. The craggy seashore gives them an endless number of fishing grounds where they can catch large fish such as bluefish bream, amberjack, conger eels, stone bass, grouper, mackerel, snapper, etc. But if the sports fishermen find abundant catches in Flores, underwater sportsmen have, in the depths, fringed by multi-coloured rocks, an abundance of animal and vegetable life and in the island's caves, attractions for many days spent appreciating the beauty beneath the sea.

For the same reasons the underwater diving-dress practice increased a lot those past years, not only due to those wonderful sea conditions, but also due to the rising of specialised and well-equipped clubs on that particularly practice - Clube Naval das Lages das Flores - Phone: +351-(0)92-53145 and fax: +351-(0)92-53605.

Clear, lucid waters, lapping pebble-covered beaches between rocks, await swimmers along the coast of the island, particularly in the area of Lagedo and Castelo (Ponta dos llhéus), Fajãzinha, Ponta do Albarnaz and Cedros. Santa Cruz, Lajes and Fajã Grande have natural swimming-pools.
Flores also offers excellent conditions for practising sailing and windsurfing, using the natural indents of the coast.

The Streams and Fishing - Flores Island - Sporting Holidays

Flores is a paradise for fishermen. The craggy seashore gives them an endless number of fishing grounds where they can catch large fish such as bluefish bream, amberjack, conger eels, stone bass, grouper, mackerel, snapper, etc. But if the sports fishermen find abundant catches in Flores, underwater sportsmen have, in the depths, fringed by multi-coloured rocks, an abundance of animal and vegetable life and in the island's caves, attractions for many days spent appreciating the beauty beneath the sea.

For the same reasons the underwater diving-dress practice increased a lot those past years, not only due to those wonderful sea conditions, but also due to the rising of specialised and well-equipped clubs on that particularly practice - Clube Naval das Lages das Flores - Phone: +351-(0)92-53145 and fax: +351-(0)92-53605.

The swiftly flowing streams, whose sparkling waters enhance the landscape of Flores, are also a paradise for fishermen, who can catch delicious trout in them.
Main fishing areas are in the streams of Moinhos, Além Fazenda, Fazenda, Silva, Urzela, Grande and Lake Lomba.

Sails in the Atlantic - Flores Island - Sporting Holidays

Flores is a paradise for fishermen. The craggy seashore gives them an endless number of fishing grounds where they can catch large fish such as bluefish bream, amberjack, conger eels, stone bass, grouper, mackerel, snapper, etc. But if the sports fishermen find abundant catches in Flores, underwater sportsmen have, in the depths, fringed by multi-coloured rocks, an abundance of animal and vegetable life and in the island's caves, attractions for many days spent appreciating the beauty beneath the sea.

For the same reasons the underwater diving-dress practice increased a lot those past years, not only due to those wonderful sea conditions, but also due to the rising of specialised and well-equipped clubs on that particularly practice - Clube Naval das Lages das Flores - Phone: +351-(0)92-53145 and fax: +351-(0)92-53605.

Situated on the main route linking Europe and America, a growing number of yachts call every year at Flores, attracted by its geographical position, the port of Santa Cruz and the welcoming hospitality. Flores thus constitutes, together with Faial, Terceira and São Miguel, one of the points of the quadrangle that takes in the whole archipelago, enabling visitors to enjoy cruises in Azorean waters.

The Central Mountain Range - Flores Island - The Charm of The Landscape

The island of Flores is Nature in all its exuberance. Deep valleys cut by streams. Peaks and hills marking the horizon, breaking up the landscape. Rolling countryside that descends to the coast and ends in vertical cliffs. Cove, mild sharp, rocky capes. Everywhere is greenery plants and flowers, and edging the fields, in strips that stretch for miles and miles up and down mountains and valleys, the sky blue hydrangeas.

The central mountain range, formed by Morro Alto which has the highest altitude on the island, together with Pico da Burrinha, Pico dos Sete Pés and other peaks with lower altitudes, provide magnificent views over the lakes, valleys, streams and the irregular outline of the coast.

The hill called Madeira Seca, fairly easy to climb, offers a dazzling view over Lajes valley.

The Rock Formations - Flores Islands - The Charm of The Landscape

The island of Flores is Nature in all its exuberance. Deep valleys cut by streams. Peaks and hills marking the horizon, breaking up the landscape. Rolling countryside that descends to the coast and ends in vertical cliffs. Cove, mild sharp, rocky capes. Everywhere is greenery plants and flowers, and edging the fields, in strips that stretch for miles and miles up and down mountains and valleys, the sky blue hydrangeas.

Galo Cave - Guluseimas Gallery

The basalt and lava of the island of Flores have been formed into fantastic shapes by the wind and rain. On the Frades hill (literally, Friars), overlooking Fajã de Lopo Vaz, two rocks resemble the figures of a friar and a nun. Near Galo Cave, you can imagine the profile of a graceful cockerel (galo in Portuguese), in a large rock.

The Islets - Flores Island - The Charm of The Landscape

The island of Flores is Nature in all its exuberance. Deep valleys cut by streams. Peaks and hills marking the horizon, breaking up the landscape. Rolling countryside that descends to the coast and ends in vertical cliffs. Cove, mild sharp, rocky capes. Everywhere is greenery plants and flowers, and edging the fields, in strips that stretch for miles and miles up and down mountains and valleys, the sky blue hydrangeas.

All round the island, there are numerous small islets that lend colour to the blue of the sea and bear picturesque names such as Alvaro Rodrigues, Fragata, Maria Vaz and Cartório. Abrões islet is crossed by a curious grotto and Monchique islet is the westernmost part of Europe, having served, in the times of navigation by astronomy, as a reference point for adjusting routes and checking navigational instruments.

Waterfalls - Flores Island - The Charm of The Landscape

The island of Flores is Nature in all its exuberance. Deep valleys cut by streams. Peaks and hills marking the horizon, breaking up the landscape. Rolling countryside that descends to the coast and ends in vertical cliffs. Cove, mild sharp, rocky capes. Everywhere is greenery plants and flowers, and edging the fields, in strips that stretch for miles and miles up and down mountains and valleys, the sky blue hydrangeas.

Cut by torrential streams that curl as they leap from mountain to mountain in small, transparent waterfalls, the island of Flores has a bucolic nature that is in harmony with the scenery of hues of green intersected by the blue of the hydrangeas and rainbow colours of other flowers.
The most important waterfall is Ribeira Grande, at Fajãzinha, which has a drop of hundreds of metres. In the area between this parish and Ponta da Fajã alone, there are about twenty waterfalls, many of which drop into the sea.

Enxareus Grotto - Flores Island - The Charm of The Landscape

The island of Flores is Nature in all its exuberance. Deep valleys cut by streams. Peaks and hills marking the horizon, breaking up the landscape. Rolling countryside that descends to the coast and ends in vertical cliffs. Cove, mild sharp, rocky capes. Everywhere is greenery plants and flowers, and edging the fields, in strips that stretch for miles and miles up and down mountains and valleys, the sky blue hydrangeas.

An enormous volcanic cave at sea level, about 50 metres long and 25 metres wide. There is an interesting boat ride, allowing the visitor to appreciate the attractive coast fringed by rocks and small caves. On the shore of the island, there is the Galo cave, with interesting volcanic formations and an entrance that resembles the portal of a giant cathedral.

Rocha dos Bordoes - Flores Island - The Charm of The Landscape

The island of Flores is Nature in all its exuberance. Deep valleys cut by streams. Peaks and hills marking the horizon, breaking up the landscape. Rolling countryside that descends to the coast and ends in vertical cliffs. Cove, mild sharp, rocky capes. Everywhere is greenery plants and flowers, and edging the fields, in strips that stretch for miles and miles up and down mountains and valleys, the sky blue hydrangeas.

A curious geological phenomenon, originated by the solidification of basalt in high, vertical channels, forming a majestic headland. Near the base and at sea level, are the "Hot Waters", small hollows filled with boiling, sulphurous water. In some coastal areas there are other basaltic formations, though of a smaller size.

The Seven Lakes of Flores - The Charm of The Landscape - Flores Island

The island of Flores is Nature in all its exuberance. Deep valleys cut by streams. Peaks and hills marking the horizon, breaking up the landscape. Rolling countryside that descends to the coast and ends in vertical cliffs. Cove, mild sharp, rocky capes. Everywhere is greenery plants and flowers, and edging the fields, in strips that stretch for miles and miles up and down mountains and valleys, the sky blue hydrangeas.

The seven lakes of Flores are lovely expanses of water set in volcanic hollows surrounded by flowers. Lake Funda or Verde, which has small stretches of sand and is bordered by vegetation and hydrangeas, is doubtless the prettiest. The other six - Branca, Seca, Comprida, Rasa, Lomba and Funda das Lajes - also have a serene and attractive beauty that makes them worth a visit for moments of calm and relaxation.

Fazendas das Lajes - Flores Islands - History

Church of Senhor Santo Cristo. Attractive place of worship (late l9th c ) representative of the religious architecture of the Azores. Carved woodwork. Equally worth visiting are the churches of Caveira, Fajã Grande, Lomba, Mosteiro and Ponta Deleada, as well as the impérios (chapels) of the Holy Ghost and other whitewashed chapels which, here and there, stand out in the green landscape as symbols of Azorean devotion and examples of the adaptation of architectural styles on an island which was isolated for centuries from European aesthetic currents.

Fajazinha - Flores Island - Art and History

Characteristic village hugging the shore. Near the Ribeira Grande waterfall, with a 300 metre drop. Picturesque ruins of old watermills.
Church of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. Grandiose 18th c. building. Chancel. Sculptured woodwork. Images.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Santa Cruz - Flores Island - Azores History

Buildings with lovely lines, symbols of past prosperity. Typical harbour. Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição. Important l9th c. building with an elegant facade Chancel. Magnificent altar Church of São Boaventura. Part of a Franciscan monastery (17th c.). Baroque building. Chancel showing the influence of Mexican-Spanish art. Painting of the Annunciation of the Virgin (16th c.), attributed to an artist of the Portuguese school.

Elegant town

Lajes - Flores Island - Azores History

Picturesque town and fishing port, surrounded by green fields. Well worth a visit is the chapel of Nossa Senhora das Angústias (18th c.), built as the result of a vow made by Spanish nobles who were saved after the wreck of their galleon. Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário. 18th c. building. High Altar. Carved wood.

Fishing port - Lajes

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Odyssey of the "Alabama" - History - Flores - Azores

During the American Civil War the Southern forces used privateers as one way to attack the Northern merchant navy. The most famous of them all was the "Alabama" which, built in England in 1862, came to receive her armament and ammunitions near Flores and then immediately started out in pursuit of the Northern whalers which were in local waters and rapidly sank them. After that, the "Alabama" continued as a privateer, sinking about 70 ships until, in June 1864 she was attacked and destroyed by the "Kearsarge", of the United States Navy in the area of the English Channel. The transfer of the "Alabama" to the Confederates cost England an indemnity of over 15 million dollars in gold for the damages she had caused.

One of the crewmen of the "Alabama", was a brave sailor from the island of Corvo who, after his adventures, was nicknamed Alabama. His descendants still live on Corvo.

Death of a Pirate - History - Flores - Azores

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Azores served as a base for the restocking and protection of the Spanish galleons filled with valuable treasure from Mexico and Peru and, for that reason, their waters were infested by pirates.

In 1591. a fleet of 16 English privateers, under the command of Sir Thomas Howard, cast anchor off the north coast of Flores to plunder the island, rest the crew and wait for the galleons to arrive. Warned in time of the presence of a Spanish defence squadron with a larger number of ships, the English fleet, except for the Revenge under the command of Sir Richard Grenville, was able to withdraw rapidly. Sir Richard delayed his flight, either waiting for his crew's return, or he thought that the approaching sails belonged to the galleons filled with treasures having been sighted, and choosing to fight instead of running away, the Revenge threw herself at the Spanish fleet and for hours resisted heroically the attacks of many enemy vessels until she was boarded and her last twenty defenders, among them Sir Richard Grenville, were taken prisioner by the flagship San Pablo. Sir Richard died 2 few days later.

This heroic deed the subject of a poem by Tennyson, is viewed by some historic artist as a demonstration of the "intolerable pride" and "insatiable ambition" of Sir Richard Grenville, which made him hated by men under his command and feared by his enemies.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Telegraph Cables - Horta - Faial - Azores History

With the laying in 1893 of the first telegraph cable linking Horta to Carcavelos in Portugal, the first step was taken in a sequence that would make the town one of the largest telecommunications centres in the world in the first half of this century. The initial cable, laid with the prime purpose of transmitting the meteorological observations needed to forecast the weather in the Azores and its influence in Europe, was joined in 1900 by cables of German and American companies, and completed by further moorings in 1903 and 1904. After the 1st World War, new cables were laid in 1924,1925, 1926 and 1928. The 15 cables that linked Horta to the main capitals of the world required skilled personnel for their maintenance and operation as well as suitable technical facilities. A series of buildings that came to change the town's appearance were therefore constructed on the street named after Consul Dabney; they are a witness to the cosmopolitan atmosphere of that golden period in which people of various nationalities fraternised with the local population at festivals, sporting events and walks about the island.

Testimonies to that period are the buildings of the German company, D. A. T. now occupied by government offices but retaining their original design (the outstanding feature being the ballroom with stained-glass windows) and the group of the American company, Western Union, which has been adapted to serve as a hotel. Technological developments expanded the capacity of telephone cables to transmit messages while there was greater use of the radio and later satellites. All this led to the gradual extinction of the companies that operated in Horta, the farewell ceremony of the last company having taken place at the end of 1969.

Horta and Weather Forecasting - Horta - Faial - Azores

Mentioned almost daily to justify the good and bad weather in the forecasts for Europe and North America, the Azores are a region in the middle of the Atlantic where changes in atmospheric pressure take place and influence the climatic conditions in a vast geographical area. The importance of this phenomenon was stressed by Prince Albert of Monaco during the several oceanographic expeditions he carried out in the archipelago in the second half of the l9th century. This led to the setting up in-the Azores of meteorological observatories, the first and most important being that at Monte das Moças in Horta, the observations of which were transmitted by submarine cable to Lisbon, London, Paris, Hamburg and Washington.

The Whalers and Moby Dick - Faial - Horta - Azores History

The hulls were as black as coffins, The ships stank of oil and death. They were the hunters of the sea, the whalers. And every year they came to Porto Pim inlet to rest their crews and leave barrels of whale oil.
Horta was part of the odyssey of those rough men who would leave New Bedford to return years later, tired, sick and not always rich. Horta therefore appeared on the cyclorama painted on cloth that was displayed from town to town in the United States to show the life of the whalers, their ports of call and their hard toil.
In the spring and summer months, dozens of whalers would take shelter behind Mounts Queimado and Guia, All had Azorean crewmen, attracted by the risk and pay. They were appreciated for their resistance and courage, like the young Daniel who, in the famous book by Herman Melville, took part in the implacable chase of the great white whale, Moby Dick.

Long Tom - Horta - Faial - Azores History

In the battle between the American privateer "General Armstrong" and a British fleet in Horta bay in 1814, a cannon called Long Tom played a decisive role.
Made in France in 1786, it was part of the armament of the "Hoche", a vessel captured by the English during the Napoleonic wars. Sold to the United States, the cannon was set up on the poop of the "General Armstrong", and its destructive shots repeated the ships of the British fleet until the American brig was finally sunk.
Long Tom was recovered from the bottom of the harbour and after many years of service in Santa Cruz castle was granted to the United States in 1892. It is now on display at the Naval Arsenal in Washington.

The Dabney Family - Horta - Faial - Azores

John Dabney arrived in Horta towards the end of 1808 with the mission of serving as the first consul in the Azores of the young republic of the United States of America. A far-sighted business man. he soon set up store houses that attracted ships to Horta to put on fresh provisions and repair rigging and hulls, Outstanding among these ships were the whalers that would stay there for a month to rest their crews and unload whale oil. John Dabney, and later his heirs, also engaged in the export of Pico wine (then very famous) and oranges; the latter were then an exotic fruit in the United States, and thousands of cases of them were sent there every year in specially chartered ships.

The destruction of the vineyards and orange orchards by blights in the second half of the l9th century resulted in a sharp drop in the volume of business which led the Dabney family to leave Horta and therefore the Azores in 1892. Traces of their stay in Horta can still be seen in the town houses Fredónia and The Cedars and the charming villa called Bagatelle, as well as the former storehouses situated on the isthmus connecting Monte Oueimado and Monte Guia at Porto Pim.

Sea Week - Semana do Mar - Faial - Azores

The largest tourist event of the island is undoubtedly the Sea Week festival that is held in Horta between the first and second Sundays of August. It originated in the reception of the Portsmouth-Horta regatta in 1975 that motivated a large gathering, lasting one whole week and becoming a marking occasion. It seems that all started with the wine from Pico… The foreign sailors and yachtsmen appreciated the renowned hospitality and friendlyness of the people of Faial and so the festival was born, with the enthusiastic will and cooperation of the locals. In a first phase the event was organized by Horta's nautical club and Horta's Regional Commission for tourism, aided by the Horta's port authority. Although the budgets were very limited, the determination was unstoppable and gradually, the feast attracted the attention of regional, national and even international yachtsmen. Multiple cultural and entertainment activities emerged, allowing the festival to proceed with more sponsors and resources.

Recently Horta's Municipal Council with the help of official entities took the responsibility of organizing the Sea Week, mainly due to the fact that the religious and street feasts joined the sea competitions. Every year the festival has grown bigger and bigger, not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively. There are more days, more water competitions, more exhibitions throughout the town, more promotion, more decorations, more shows, with artists from the continent and abroad. This is certainly the event that you cannot miss!

Following the official opening of the event, a Mass is celebrated in the chapel of Our Lady of Guia, on top of the hill of the same name and the image is then transported by boats in the Nautical Procession, passing through Porto Pim Beach, entering the Horta Harbour and disembarking in the Santa Cruz quay. The image is then carried in procession to the Church of Angústias under the alert gaze of the people with houses along the route, who exhibit their valuable mattresses out of the windows of the upper floors.

During the daytime everyone's attention is centered on the numerous nautical competitions that are carried out by the members of the archipelago's nautical clubs, filling the channel with dozens of vessels and their coloured sails. These competitions include in the yacht category the Atlantis Cup and the regattas of the Channel, of the Mermaids, of the Lonely, of the Former Participants and the Horta Trophy; the canoe races Horta-Porto Pim-Horta, Horta-Varadouro, Varadouro-Horta and of the fastest mile; the crossing of the harbour swimming competition; the regional championships in vessels of various sizes; the water games; the dinghy and rubber raft rallies; the pedal races; the Sea Week Tournament; the water polo; the sports fishing; and the whaling canoes sailing and pedaling races. Late in the afternoon the participants get together in the bar of the nautical club for a happy-hour gathering, during which the prizes are awarded.

At night the animation returns to firm land the marina fills up and the decorated navy frigate lights up. Part of the seaside road is closed to traffic carts of popcorn, stalls owned by gypsies who every year sell the same knickknacks, a church fete and the stall of the local radio station that sells T-shirts are set up; several huts that sell drinks and light snacks are opened in front of the nautical club and in the seaside garden; and that area is filled up with so many people that it is said the island rolls towards that side due to the excess weight…. In the evening, exhibitions and handcraft and book fairs are also opened to the public in the high school compound and the souvenirs and crafts there are cheaper than their usual prices in shops. Until 10:30 p.m. various folkdance groups, bands and pop music groups from all around the Azores perform on the stages of the marina and the Infante Square. This enables all those sitting on the seaside wall watching the crowd walk by to turn round and watch the acts while updating their conversations. By this time the bars of the marina, of Peter Café Sport, of Canto da Doca and the cafés Volga, Internacional, Papapizza, Nevado, Bico Doce and the food stalls are inaccessible due to the great number of tourists and locals that fill them.

The biggest disadvantage in arrangements of this kind is certainly the traffic jams generated. Note that if you pretend to get to the festival by car, you should be prepared to leave your vehicle parked on the other side of town. Owing to the road detours, all those going by car from the parish of Angústias to the other side of Horta will have to climb the very steep streets of the cemetery and return through the narrow streets of the Carmo church, a big upset and unnecessary waste of time. It is therefore very important to arrive at the site as early as possible, especially if you want to watch the concerts of the imported bands. Those who wish to have a good perspective of the show should position themselves right in front of the large stage, jump a lot to be like the crowd, put up with the pushing and, above all, have fun! The residents of that area are grateful around midnight when the daytime festival ends and the people start to disperse and either return home or head to the various bars and discos until the sunrise. On the last night, after listening to the usual new Sea Week Song, the event is officially closed with a grand firework display in the Horta Bay. The best place to watch this is from the rocks of the marina seawall, which is filled with happy people, but don't you be disappointed if this pyrotechnic display is delayed for some time...

At Night - Bars and Pubs - Faial - Azores

Horta is by nature a relatively calm place, and that is reflected on its nightlife, which doesn’t mean that there isn’t a fair number of excelent places where you can relax and enjoy the best part of the day. Following is a list of existing pubs, discos and cafés.

Peter Café Sport
One of the most famous pubs in the World, where yatch crews and tourists from every nationality go for a pleasant night out in its distinctive environment. In addition to having the best gin tonic around, it also serves light snacks, but usually everyone has a bag of peanuts. Service is quite good although prices are high, but as you will soon realise, it’s always full. It’s located at Rua Tenente Valadim, next to the Pico ferry boats.

Clube Naval da Horta
It’s the pub of the Aquatic Club, it serves light snacks and has a good environment, quite full with all kinds of people every weekend and during the whole Summer season. Reasonable prices although service is a bit slow. There is an outdoors area with excellent view over the harbour, as well as pool tables. From time to time there is live music or karaoke sessions. It’s in Rua Vasco da Gama, next to the Stª Cruz Fort.

Bar da Marina
Also serves light snacks, prices are relatively high because it’s part of the Peter Café society. It´s customers are mostly tourists during the week mainly due to it’s location, which, as the name indicates, in the the corner of the Marina. Service could be better, especially in the outdoors section.

Discoteca Rocks
Recently renovated disco, located in Lajinha, just outside Horta, in the parish of Feteira. The facilities are quite good and there is also a pub which serves light snacks. In addition to its wide range of music styles, it sometimes also introduces new bands on stage or invites artists from the continent. The service is quite good although prices are high, and it’s open every Friday, Saturday, and the eve of public holidays. The inconvenience is it’s location out of town, although there is sometimes a dedicated bus service, and the minimum spending is 3.5 euros for men and 1.75 for women, subject to change.

Pub Horta Latina
Located next to the Capote restaurant, pub is open every Fridays with live music, and the environment is also quite good. It’s a small space, but always full. Prices are reasonable and being on the seaside avenue in Horta is a definite advantage.

Retiro dos Frades
Pub with music, prices are relatively high, and its customers are usually teachers and youger people. Located in Praia do Almoxarife.

There are also cafés throughout town which complement the above places. These include Bombordo, Internacional, Volga, Pastelaria Ideal, Jack Pote, and the Sta Cruz Inn.

Other Swimming Pools - Faial - Azores

Other excellent natural pools are the quays of the parishes of Castelo Branco, just go around the airport runway and park the car in front of the picnic area, there are barbecue places, changing rooms, and sometimes a food stall. Other such pools are those in Porto da Eira in Cedros and just across from the camping site in Salão. In Horta, in the zone of Alagoa, there is an artificial indoors swimming pool which can be used all year round, and is ideal for swimming.

Natural swimming pools of Varadouro and Capelo - Faial - Azores

Places of extraordinary beauty in Faial are the natural sea water pools all around the island that were formed between the rocks, when the molten lava flowed down the coast. One of them is located in Varaduro, in the parish of Capelo, enjoying a breathtaking view of the Castelo Branco coast. It was recently improved, having now a smaller pool for children and indoor showers and washrooms at the entrance, being also very close to two restaurants. Another excellent natural pool in Capelo is near the volcano site, in the quay of the parish. It is usually very quiet and the waters are crystal clear. Another advantage is that the sun sets on that side and so that site remains illuminated until very late in the afternoon, but the inconvenience is that there are no houses or bars nearby, so you'll have to bring your own supplies. If you also remember to bring along a fishing rod and the appropriate bait, you won't return empty-handed.

Praia do Norte - Faial - Azores

In case you happen to be in the countryside, more precisely in the parish of Praia do Norte, or if you like to be far from the crowds, then try the beach of Praia do Norte, located in the lower part of the parish. You will have a spectacular view of Faial's northern coast and its rough waters. Fishing and scuba diving are some of the most entertaining past-times that can be practiced here but remember to stay near the shore in order to avoid strong sea currents. The washrooms and showers at the entrance are not that well kept and there is a bar a short distance away. Along the coast there are some natural pools between the rocks and fishing there during the high tide can be fun. As in the case of Almoxarife, occasionally this beach is filled with rocks.

Almoxarife Beach - Faial - Azores

The whole parish is named after this beach that lies between the Espalamaca headland and the village's quay. The stretches for a large area, allowing crowds to be easily avoided. From time to time the tides bring along with them big round stones that completely fill the sand shore, but this doesn’t prevent a very pleasant sunbathing session, with the omnipresent island of Pico just across the channel. There are several good restaurants nearby and if yours is a camping trip, remember that the camp is just across the long seaside street.

If however snorkeling is one of your favourite sports, cross the quay and you will find a tiny hidden beach called the Englishmen Beach. To reach it you should head trough the street on the right of the square and then turn right again into a narrow alley that will take you to the beach. Don't let yourself be carried away by sea-currents and the best time of the day to go there is in the morning when the water temperature is warmer. With luck, you will have the whole cozy beach all for yourself….

Conceicao Beach - Faial - Azores

This small beach is also known as Alagoa and it is located in the far-north end of Horta, near the park of the same name that includes an artificial indoors swimming-pool, two tennis courts and picnic grounds. Although the shore is quite short, the sea there is often very rough and the water turns cold quickly with the absence of enough sunshine. In the summer time it serves as stage for the fans of jet-sky and parachute divers.

Porto Pim Beach - Faial - Azores

This is in my point of view the most graceful of all the beaches in Faial and it is surely where the sea is the most peaceful. On the other hand, this beach is an exception as far as its appearance is concerned - its sand is much brighter and fine, the sea bottom is also sandy and not rocky like the others and its transparent waters reflect the bright blue sky forming an amazing scenery. Although its excellent location - right beside the city of Horta - do not make it the ideal place for those who search true quietude, as this is the one most people go to. Near the entrance on the side of Guia Hill are a large car-parking area, the washrooms and a Walls ice-cream stall that usually opens in the summer season and, not far from the entrance of the opposite side there is a mini-market. On the water, occasionally, special care should be taken to avoid being stung by jellyfish. One of the best alternatives to reach the beach is by boat, turning around the Guia Hill and laying anchor at bay. Don't miss this great beach!

Museums and Exhibitions of Faial - Azores

Capelinhos Museum
Opening Times
Tuesday to Friday: 10:00 – 13:00/14:30 – 17:30
Weekends and holidays: 14:30-17:30
Estrada Regional, Capelinhos

Horta Museum
Opening Times:
Tuesday to Friday: 10:00 – 13:00/14:30 – 17:30
Weekends and holidays: 14:30-17:30
Next to Matriz Church, Horta

Sacred Art Museum
Opening Times:
Tuesday to Friday: 09:30 – 12:00/14:30 – 17:30
Weekends and holidays: 14:00-17:30
São Francisco Church, Horta

Scrimshaw Museum
Opening Times:
Whenever the bar is open.
Peter Café Sport

Centro do Mar (Old Whaling Factory)
Opening Times:
Monday to Friday: 09:00 – 12:00/14:30 – 17:30
Guia Hill, near the beach of Porto Pim

Handcrafts - Traditions - Faial - Azores

Scrimshaw – engraving on whales’ teeth, was an art born of loneliness onboard 19th century whaling ships, and has been an Azorean art since the seventies. In order to produce a scrimshaw work, the first step is to create a surface on which to work. The ridged tooth is sanded smooth and a polish is used to coat the tooth. A layer of India ink is applied and the surface to be engraved is now black. Delicate scratches are made, the needle cutting through the ink, the polish and into the tooth. The scratches then appear white. Ink is applied a second time and this time it enters the unwaxed scratches that form the image. The first coat of black ink is then removed. What remains is the fine, black engraving of the scrimshaw, a unique art form destined to be more valued as additions to the body of work become increasingly rare.
The art form is disappearing because the supply of old teeth, dating from before the ban on whaling, is diminishing. Prices range between 50 and 1250 euros, but if you wish to take a similar though cheaper souvenir, you can also get works with engravings on bones, which are also typical of the islands. The Scrimshaw museum, located in Peter Café Sport, has a permanent exhibition of the best works ever made, making this a visit that you cannot miss.

The works in fig pith consist of miniature sculptures produced from the raw pith extracted from November to February from the interior of the branches of adult fig trees. This is the period when the sap no longer rises, and the inner bark is white and dries within an hour in the sun. To execute this type of work, a variety of tools are used such as lenses, pincers, pocket knives, pins, compasses, rulers and sanders. The extracted fig pith is cut into small and very fine sheets and divided into fragments, which are put together with glue applied by the tip of a pin until the desired form is acquired. The glue used is gum arable that is very pure, and is prepared with water, which rests for two days and is then strained. It must then be kept out of the sunlight which makes it turn yellow.

This type of work in fig pith is still one of the few traditional crafts of Faial today which is regularly practiced. The artifacts in fig pith probably came from the heart of the religious convents known in the city of Horta, that were active between the 16th and 19th centuries. Here, the tranquility would have provided the atmosphere necessary for such persistence and delicacy demanded by the fragility of the material. The pieces presented in the exhibition in the Horta Museum are by Euclides Silveira da Rosa, who was born on Faial Island in 1910 and died in São Paulo in Brazil in 1979. It was this artist who created the greatest variety of forms in this fragile material. He was certainly the most patient, capable craftsman, a technical perfectionist who was unequalled in sculpting fig pith.

Other examples of typical handcrafts made in Faial, are the works using fish scales, the linen embroideries, and the straw hats, which can be found throughout the island. On the ground floor of the Capelinhos Museum, you can not only see an exhibition of such items and learn its history, but also see how they are manufactured live, and buy them as souvenirs.

Cuisine - Gastronomy - Faial - Azores

Here the meat and dairy products are of excellent quality, since all the local cattle is raised in the most natural conditions. From the imense sea around come the fresh fish and seafood and, although the numbers are decreasing, this is also applicable to fruit and vegetables grown on the island.

Blood Sausage over Pineapple

The specialties of Faial that are served in practically ever restaurant include mouthwatering dishes of linguiça (sausage) and inhames (yams), molha de carne (roast meat), delicacies like morcelas and torresmos de vinha-de-alhos that one can only perceive after having tasted, sopas do Espírito Santo (Holy Ghost soup), fish soup, caldeirada (a must try), polvo guisado com vinho (octopus stewed in wine), and accompanied by pão e bolo de milho (corn bread and cake), and massa sovada. Moreover, there is a wide variety of seafood and shellfish available such as lobster, cavaco, deep-water crab and rice of lapas, all extremely well prepared and delicious. There are fine homemade liqueurs of coffee and milk, but the wine comes from Pico.