/euh zawrz", euh zohrz", ay"zawrz, ay"zohrz/, n. (used with a pl. v.)a group of islands in the N Atlantic, W of Portugal: politically part of Portugal. 336,100; 890 sq. mi. (2305 sq. km).
* * *Portuguese AçoresArchipelago (pop., 2001: 242,073), northern Atlantic Ocean, constituting an autonomous region of Portugal.Its islands are Flores, Corvo, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, Graciosa, São Miguel, and Santa Maria; the capital is Ponta Delgada (on São Miguel). It covers an area of 901 sq mi (2,333 sq km). Subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the islands lie some 1,000 mi (1,600 km) west of mainland Europe. The uninhabited Azores were reputedly discovered с 1427 by Portuguese pilot Diogo de Sevilha. Settlement began с 1432; by the end of the 15th century, all the islands were inhabited and trade with Portugal was well established. They were subject to Spain in 1580–1640, and a famous sea battle between the British and Spanish occurred off Flores in 1591. The Portuguese installed a governor and captain general for the whole group in 1766; the islands were given limited autonomy in 1895. Important air and naval bases were set up there during World War II; in 1951 the U.S. established a NATO base on Lajes.
* * *Portuguese in full Arquipélago Dos Açoresarchipelago composed of nine major islands, in the North Atlantic Ocean; they lie roughly 1,000 miles (1,600 km) west of Portugal and are an autonomous part of that country. The islands are divided into three widely separated groups: the eastern group, consisting of São Miguel (São Miguel Island), Santa Maria (Santa Maria Island), and the Formigas islets; the central, of Faial (Faial Island), Pico (Pico Island), São Jorge (São Jorge Island), Terceira (Terceira Island), and Graciosa (Graciosa Island); and the northwestern, of Flores (Flores Island) and Corvo (Corvo Island). The capital is Ponta Delgada on São Miguel.The nearest continental land is Cape Roca (Roca, Cape), Portugal, which lies 875 miles (1,400 km) east of Santa Maria. Thus, the Azores are farther from mainland Europe than any other eastern Atlantic islands and, rising from the ocean, are in effect a major mountain range, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The islands rise steeply from shores lined with rock and pebble debris (scree, or talus) to heights reaching 7,713 feet (2,351 metres) on Pico. Their unstable geologic nature is indicated by numerous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In 1522 the town of Vila Franca do Campo, then capital of São Miguel, was buried during a massive convulsion, and as recently as 1957–58 the Capelinhos eruption enlarged Faial Island. Indeed, many island houses are constructed of building blocks made of basalt. Deep craters (calderas) as well as lakes are a dramatic feature of the islands. On São Miguel Island the volcanic heat on the shores of Lake Furnas, a popular picnic spot, is sufficient for cooking.The Azores have a subtropical climate with high humidity. An abundant flora of European and Mediterranean origins is found, and mixed forests still cover many of the islands' hillsides. Intensive agriculture produces cereals (wheat and corn [maize]), vegetables, and fruit (including pineapples and wine grapes). A high-quality cured cheese is made at São Jorge. Among the other principal products of the Azores are various dairy products, fish, pineapples, tea, and wine. A free trade zone has been set up on Santa Maria Island.The scenic beauty of the islands draws visitors in increasing numbers. One of the prime tourist activities is whale watching (whaling ceased in 1984). Some 20 species of cetaceans can viewed.The inhabitants of the Azores are mostly of Portuguese origin and predominantly Roman Catholic. A high density of population and limited economic opportunities provoked extensive emigration, mainly to the United States and Canada, from the end of the 19th century well into the 20th century and has not entirely ceased. The islands' isolation has diminished and communications considerably improved. Every island has an airport or airstrip. The Azores' principal seaports are Angra do Heroísmo (or Angra), Ponta Delgada, and Horta. Lajes and Santa Maria became important air bases and centres of communication between the United States and Europe during World War II, and since 1951, by agreement with Portugal, the United States has maintained a NATO air base on Lajes. Before the development of weather satellites, meteorological data compiled and transmitted from the Azores were essential to European weather forecasting. Area 897 square miles (2,322 square km). Pop. (2005 est.) 242,241.
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