Santo Antão Island, with an area of ​​779 km2, is the second largest island in Cape Verde and the largest of the Barlavento Islands. It measures 43 km in its greatest length and 24 km in its greatest width. It is a very mountainous island of entirely volcanic origin. Its highest peak, Topo da Coroa, is a now extinct volcano that rises to an altitude of 1,979 m 1 in the west of the island. The other high points are Monte Tome, 1,863 m, south-east of Topo da Coroa, Gudo de Cavaleiro, 1,810 m, in the center of the island, and Pico da Cruz, 1,584 m, at the east of the island. The main peaks of the island are aligned along a northeast-southwest axis. They form a mountain chain which divides the island into two slopes. The northern slope has a very rugged relief. Deep valleys alternate with steep peaks. At the bottom of the valleys flow rivers, the beds of which are most often dry. Erosion was significant there due to heavy precipitation. The southern slope presents much less rugged relief due to a more arid climate and a gentler slope. The coast is mainly made up of cliffs falling steeply into the sea. There are, however, a few beaches, especially black sand of volcanic origin, as in Tarrafal.

 

Despite its relatively modest size, the island is crossed by many semi-temporary rivers whose beds fill with water during the rainy season. The most important flow to the north-west and north-east coasts where they have carved out deep valleys. The longest of them, the Ribeira Grande (the Big River), is 13 km long and drains a good part of the north of the island. The other rivers are the Ribeira da Garça, the Ribeira do Corvo, the Ribeira da Torre, the Ribeira do Paul, the Ribeira da Janela in Janela. In the south of the island flows the Ribeira do Tarrafal. This stream, which takes its source at the foot of Tope da Coroa, and flows into Tarrafal de Monte Trigo on the southwest coast, has the particularity of flowing abundantly all year round. In the past, a steamer would come here to get its water supply, to transport it to the neighboring island of São Vicente, where it was sorely lacking before a seawater desalinator was built.

 

 

The island offers diverse and varied landscapes. The north side of the island, exposed to the trade winds, benefits from green landscapes. In addition to many fruit trees and food crops growing on the terraces, we meet the baobab, the cheese, the dragon tree. The dragon tree, a tree with a characteristic harbor whose shape recalls that of a parasol, is an emblematic tree of Cape Verde, of which only a few specimens remain on the island. It appears on the country's banknotes. A forest of Canarian pines and eucalyptus was successfully planted in the 19th century on the heights in the vicinity of Pico da Cruz to reforest the island. The southern slope, much more arid, the central mountain chain acting as a barrier, offers only scant stunted vegetation when it is not completely absent. Endemic plants are rare on the island. They are most often woody plants similar to those found in the Sahel.

 

 

The most important cities of the island are Porto Novo (9,310 inhab.), Ponta do Sol (2,143 inhab.) And Ribeira Grande (2,564 inhab.). Porto Novo is located on the south coast and is the entry point to the island for men and goods thanks to its ferry connection with the port city of Mindelo located on the neighboring island of São Vicente. Ponta do Sol is located at the northern end of the island and is the administrative capital of the island. Ribeira Grande is located on the east coast, at the mouth of the island’s most important waterway.

 

 

The Santo Antão mountains, entirely of volcanic origin, are made of basalt. Most of the volcanoes are relatively young and the calderas, like that of Cova de Paul, are relatively well preserved. The last eruption of the Topo da Coroa volcano dates back only 200,000 years. A hot spot would be at the origin of volcanism in the archipelago, the most western islands (Brava, Fogo and Santo Antão), being the last to be formed. Since 1999, there has been a gradual increase in the temperature of the sea water near Ponta do Sol and the risk that in the near future a new volcanic eruption will occur in the region cannot be excluded.

 

The island of Santo Antão is located south of the Tropic of Cancer, at the same latitude as the African Sahel. It is subject to the trade winds which blow regularly from the north-east to the south-west. As a result, it enjoys a dry tropical climate characterized by the existence of only two seasons, a short rainy season which extends from late July to early November and a long dry season which extends from late November to early November. July. Temperatures are mild all year round with an average annual temperature of 23 ° C on the coast and 15 ° C on the central plateau. The thermal amplitude is only 3 to 4 degrees Celsius between the hottest months (July to October) and the coldest months (January to April). Precipitation varies greatly depending on exposure to prevailing winds and altitude. Thus we record an average of 191 mm per year of rainfall in Porto Novo on the leeward coast in the south of the island against 291 mm in Sinagoga on the windward coast in the east and 351 mm in Espongeiro on the central plateau at an altitude of 1250-1500 meters. It is during the period from January to April that the trade winds blow the strongest.

 

The island was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Diogo Afonso on January 17, 1462. He named the island Santo Antão after the saint whose feast was celebrated that day. Following the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas on June 7, 1494 between Portugal and Spain, the island became a Portuguese possession. The settlement of the island did not begin until 1548 but the difficulty of establishing a road network because of the mountain and unsafe anchorages hampered the development of the island despite an excellent climate and sufficient water. The first migrants came from northern Portugal as well as the neighboring islands of Fogo and Santiago. They founded Povoação at the current location of Ribeira Grande. In 1724 the island was sold to the English but it was returned shortly after to the Portuguese. The island had a small Jewish community as evidenced by the presence of a Jewish cemetery in Ponta do Sol and a locality called Sinagoga on the northeast coast.

 

The island's economy is mainly based on agriculture, but tourism is playing an increasingly important role. Agriculture is largely subsistence farming, the surplus being exported to the neighboring island of São Vicente. Cultivated plants and domestic animals were introduced for the most part by the Portuguese in previous centuries. The main crops are sugar cane, corn, yams, potatoes, cassava, bananas, and sweet potatoes. There are also many fruit trees: papaya, guava, mango, breadfruit, coconut, almond. Sugar cane is used to make molasses as well as the local drink: grogue, very popular throughout the archipelago. Cultivation is done in terraces due to the rugged terrain and a dense network of levadas allows irrigation. Fishing plays a secondary role compared to agriculture with the small ports of Janela, Cruzinha da Garça, Tarrafal de Monte Trigo. Tourism is developing gradually and is mainly oriented towards the practice of hiking and ecotourism. The Paul Valley and the northwest coast are among the most visited places on the island. Pozzolana, a rock of volcanic origin used in particular for the manufacture of cement, is extracted in the south of the island, not far from Porto Novo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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