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Santa Maria, Azores, Portugal


   The island of Santa Maria is one of nine volcanic islands that comprise the archipelago of the Azores, Portugal. Located in the middle of the Atlantic, approximately 1430 km from Europe and 3900 km from North America, Santa Maria was first discovered around 1427, due to its geographical position. The presence of a mild climate and fertile soil allowed the island to become colonized rapidly. Considered relatively small, Santa Maria is only 97 km2, with a rather irregular coast, abrupt cliff structures, and protected bays. However, this island is the only one presenting formations with sedimentary origin.

 S. Lourenço Bay, at the north coast, interrupts a coastline of high cliffs and is part of an old crater partially eroded, which also serves as one of the most scenic landscapes of the island. Even with the presence of these steep cliffs, the human occupation is strong. In addition to houses, vineyards are present until mid-slope, taking advantage from the quality of the soils and the protection given by the cliffs, being vital to slope stabilization. Due to the lack of sediments and vulnerability, this stretch of coast is still susceptible to erosion, but is still used as a summer destination for holidays.

(Photograph taken by Adriano Quintela/Rui Coutinho and caption provided by Carlos Pereira da Silva, Department of Geography and Regional Planning, New University of Lisbon, Portugual, September, 2011).