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Madeira Islands(mədēr`ə, –dâr`ə), archipelago (1991 pop. 257,692), 308 sq mi (798 sq km), autonomous region of Portugal, in the Atlantic Ocean c.350 mi (560 km) off Morocco. Madeira, the largest island (35 mi/56 km long and 13 mi/21 km wide), and Porto Santo are inhabited. Two island groups, the Desertas and the Selvagens, are uninhabited. The chief town is FunchalFunchal
, city (1991 pop. 109,957), capital of Funchal dist., on Madeira island, Portugal. A busy port exporting wines, fish, and fruit, it is best known for its beautiful setting and balmy climate, which make it a much-frequented resort.
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Mountain peaks, which descend steeply into deep, green valleys and advance to the sea as precipitous basalt cliffs, give the islands unusual scenic beauty. The delightful climate is marred only by the occasional leste, a hot Saharan wind. Madeira is a year-round resort. Sugarcane, Madeira wine, bananas, embroidery, and reed furniture are produced, and there is fishing. Remittances from residents who have emigrated are also important to the economy.
The islands were known to the Romans as the Purple Islands and were rediscovered (1418–20) by João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vas Teixeira. Settlement took place rapidly under the orders of Prince Henry the Navigator. Madeira was temporarily occupied by the British in the early 19th cent. Parts of Madeira island were devastated by flash floods in Feb., 2010.
a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean (the largest island is Madeira), near the northwestern coast of Africa. The island group forms the Portuguese district of Funchal. Area, 797 sq km; population, 268,700 (1970).
The Madeira Islands are the summits of underwater volcanoes, the tallest reaching 1,861 m (the island of Madeira). The climate is oceanic Mediterranean; precipitation may reach 740 mm a year, with 80 rainy days annually. The vegetation is of a subtropical savanna type, with laurel forests in the mountains. There are banana plantations, viticulture, and wine-making (madeira wine). The islands also have winter health resorts. The main city and port is Funchal, located on the island of Madeira.