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Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, midway from South America to Africa, around 220 miles away from the Brazilian coast. It is a dependency of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.


The main islands of this archipelago are the visible parts of a range of submerged mountains . Consisting of 21 islands, islets and rocks of volcanic origin, the main island has an area of 7.1 square miles, being 6.2 miles long and 2.2 miles at its maximum width. The base of this enormous volcanic formation is 2480 feet below the surface. The main island, from which the group gets its name, makes up 91% of the total area; the islands of Rata, Sela Gineta, Cabeluda and São Jose, together with the islets of Leão and Viúva make up the rest.

The climate is tropical, with two well defined seasons: the rainy season from January to August, and the dry season for the rest of the year. The land vegetation of the islands is made up mostly of vines and bushes.

As occurs on other isolated ecosystems, the fauna of the Archipelago is as unique as it is exuberant. Among the common species on the islands, one can spot sea tortoises, dolphins, albatrosses, among many others.


Many controversies mark the archipelago's discovery. It's original name, Ilha da Quaresma (Lent Island), it is known to have been sighted by expeditions from the years 1501, 1502 and 1503. The Viscount of Santarém, however, attributed the discovery to Gaspar de Lemos, captain of the supply ship of Pedro Alvares Cabral's fleet, sent back to Portugal with news of the discovery of Brazil. Modern historians, however, attribut the discovery of the archipelago to the 1501-1502 expedition led by Fernão de Loronha.

The first to actually describe the island was Amerigo Vespucci, who travelled with a Portuguese expedition to Brazil in the year 1503. In 1534, the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago was invaded by the English, and from 1556 until 1612, it was held by the French. In 1628, it was invaded by the Dutch, who were displaced two years later by a Spanish-Portuguese military expedition led by Rui Calaza Borges. The Dutch occupied the island once again in 1635, making it a hospital for its troops which occupied Northeastern Brazil. The island became known as Pavonia, in honor of Michiel de Pauw, one of the directors of the Dutch West Indies Company. It would remain under Dutch control for nearly twenty years, when it was reconquered by Portugal.

Finding it uninhabited and completely abandoned in 1736, the French East Indies Company took the island and renamed it Isle Dauphine. It was retaken one year later. The first major military outposts were set-up on the archipelago on the following years. Around 1770, the first permanent settlement, Vila dos Remédios, was founded.

As Brazil became independent, very little changed for Fernando de Noronha.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the English arrived to provide technical cooperation in telegraphy (The South American Company). Later the French came with the French Cable and the Italians with Intalcable. In 1942, during World War II, the archipelago was made a Federal Territory, and political and ordinary prisoners were sent to the local prison. In 1988 approximately 70% of the archipelago was declared a National Park, with the goal of preserving the land and sea environment.

Nowadays, Fernando de Noronha's economy depends on tourism, restricted by the limitations of its delicate ecosystem. In addition to the historical interest noted above, the archipelago has been the subject of the attention of various scientists dedicated to the study of its flora, fauna, geology, etc.