MADEIRA, ma-de'rit, Port. pron. ma-da'ra. The chief of the Madeira Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean, about 400 miles west of Morocco, just south of the parallel of 33° north latitude (Map: Portugal, E 5). It is about 38 miles long and 12 miles broad, and has an area of about 300 square miles. Its surface is rough and diversified with high peaks and deep valleys; it is traversed by a ridge of mountains. attaining in Pico Ruivo an altitude of 6056 feet above the sea. Their average height is estimated at 4000 feet. and the more elevated peaks are often cov ered with snow. Madeira is of volcanic origin, and although it has no active volcanos at pres ent, there are numerous traces of lava streams. The scenery is magnificent, the deep valley known as the Curral das Freiras being especially pic turesque. The coasts are generally high, with precipitous, rocky cliffs, reaching in Cabo Girao a sheer height of 1934 feet. The climate of Ma deira is remarkable for its uniformity and sa lubrity, and the island is regarded as one of the best of health resorts. The average temperature at the coast for the year is about 68°, that of the coldest month being about 60°, and that of the warmest 73°. The island is, however, ex posed to the deadly 'leste' (`east wind'), or hot sand storm from the Sahara Desert. The ab sence of rain during the summer necessitates a complete system of irrigation. The water is stored up during the rainy season on the hills and distributed in the summer by means of chan nels. The vegetation of Madeira is one of the richest, and includes more than 80 species of plants peculiar to the island. In addition to European grains and fruits, there is an abun dance of bananas, figs, grapes, apricots, custard apples, mangoes, oranges, pineapples, and citrons.
The fauna is less varied; there are no indigenous mammals, and no snakes, though lizards and turtles are found. Birds, however, are very numerous, and are characterized by a re markably bright plumage. The most common species is the wild canary. The wine indus try, which was introduced from Crete in the sixteenth century and for which the island is famous, is still very extensive, the annual ex port amounting to about 700,000 gallons, al though it has considerably declined since the grape disease of 1851-52. Besides wine the isl and produces sugar, tobacco, and coffee. Among the other industries may be mentioned lace weaving, wood-earving, and the manufacture of cigars. The whole province (see MADEIRA ISL ANDS) had in 1900 a population of 150,528 in habitants of mixed Portuguese, Moorish. and negro descent. The dominant religion is Roman Catholic, but the Church of England and the Free Church of Scotland are also represented. The island is connected by steamship lines with the United States, Great Britain, France, Bel gium, Portugal, and the not distant Canary Islands. The capital is Funchal (q.v.). Madeira is supposed to have been known to the Phoeni cians in ancient times. It was rediscovered by the Portuguese explorer Jam Goncalvez Zagro in 1419, and colonized about thirty years later. In 1580 the island fell into the hands of the Span iards. but was restored to the Portuguese in 1640. In 1801 and from 1807 to 1814 Madeira was occu pied by the British, but since then it has re mained in the possession of Portugal. Consult Biddle, The Madeira Islands (London, 1900).