My journey began in São Jorge, which is one of the Azores islands, an autonomous region of Portugal composed of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located about nine hundred miles west of continental Portugal, its main industries are agriculture, dairy farming, primarily butter products and cheese, livestock ranching, fishing, and tourism.
There are nine major islands, divided into three main groups — Flores and Corvo, to the west, Graciosa, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the center, and São Miguel, Santa Maria to the east. They extend for more than 370 miles.
All the islands have volcanic origins, although Santa Maria has not had a recorded activity since the islands were settled in the 1400s. Mount Pico, on the island of Pico, is the highest point in Portugal, at 7,713 feet.
Up until the late ‘50s, only three of the islands had airports — Santa Maria, São Miguel, and Terceira. The airport of Terceira, known as Lages, is an American Air Force base, not open to civilian aircraft until after the great 1957 Capelinhos volcano eruption in Faial.
The discovery of the islands goes back to the 1400s.
São Jorge Island is closest to Pico and Faial. The three islands are sometimes referred to as the “Triangle.”
São Jorge is a long thin island with very tall cliffs, with a population of about 9,000, concentrated on its various deltas, known as “fajãs,” along the north and south coasts. The island’s length is 34 miles, and its width is 4 miles.
The island experienced a period of relative isolation, partially due to the poor quality of its ports and its limited economic importance.
That is where my voyage begins.