The place to be

They exist, the bottlenecks of the world, the places where everyone passes through and which everyone knows. Today you would list Frankfurt Airport, Heathrow and Miami, in the past it was the Azores, Goree in Senegal, Madagascar or the Cape of Good Hope.

Around the small islands of the Azores far in the sea off Portugal, you can see this crossing of paths across the ocean in the shipwrecks that have accumulated over time. There are ships that brought slaves to America or ships that brought back silver from South America, ships that fell victim to the various battles or were to bring emigrants from Europe to America. Whoever needed water and fresh provisions, whoever was ill or had to repair their sails, stopped here.

Vasco da Gama stayed in the Azores after his first trip to India. And Christopher Columbus landed there on his return journey from the discovery of America in 1493. And anyone who later wanted to go to Latin America or beyond the Cape of Good Hope to Asia also passed by.

View of the city of Horta, one of the three capitals of the archipelago, during the blue hour from Monte da Guia, Faial IslandAzores, Portugal. (c) D. Delso

The wrecks of the Azores bear witness to the islands’ role in world history as a “global bottleneck” for transcontinental sailing over many centuries. They bear witness to the expansionist spirit of Europeans and the early beginnings of the globalisation of trade and culture. The Azores archipelago counts thus over one thousand registered shipwrecks, submerged in over five centuries since people first arrived to live on the islands. 30 of these sites form today even a subaquatic itinerary to allow access for visitors that come, them as well, to the place to be in the middle of the ocean.

U.C. Ringuer

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