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Angra do Heroísmo Bay or Baía de Angra do Heroísmo is a body of water near the city of Angra do Heroísmo on the island of Terceira in the Azores, Portugal. Its waters have an average depth of forty metres.

Coordinates: 38°39′N 27°13′W / 38.65°N 27.217°W / 38.65; -27.217

City of Angra do Heroísmo

The bay is of historical importance because, since the fifteenth century, it was the port where merchant ships returning from the East Indies and Brazil, full of gold, silver, porcelain, spices, rare woods, and other goods, anchored and waited for an armed escort to accompany them the rest of the way to Portugal. In the bay at Angra, ships were sheltered from the prevailing north and northwest winds; only storms generating winds from the opposite direction, the south or southeast, posed a threat. Nonetheless, there were numerous shipwrecks when adverse winds drove the merchantmen against Terceira's lee shore. There is a wealth of documentation in local archives as well as a lively oral tradition attesting to the fact that many ships foundered in these waters.



Given the immense value of the cargo transiting the Azores and the prevalence of pirates in the north Atlantic, the need to defend the city and the bay of Angra was recognized very early. Therefore, during the time when the East Indies trade was active, the Portuguese built and maintained a defensive cordon around the island of Terceira and the bay of Angra, in particular. This was accomplished primarily by setting up a crossfire of cannons, between batteries within the fortress of Monte Brasil and batteries of cannons at the Castle of St. Sebastian, which lies closer to the city.

The voyages of Christopher Columbus and, later, those of Vasco da Gama (whose brother, Paulo da Gama, is buried in the Convent of St. Francis at Angra) established the Azores as the crossroads of the Atlantic, and the early trading expeditions reinforced the importance of Terceira island, and particularly the Bay of Angra, as vital steps in the safe return of ships from the East.

Bay of Angra do Heroísmo

This importance is evidenced by the creation, by King Manuel I of Portugal, of the protective fleet called the "Armada of the Islands", and by the issuance of "rules for ships from India in the Azores and the institution of arbiters of customs" (or "maritime magistrates"), both in 1520.

During the reign of John III of Portugal, around 1527, the position of Purveyor of the Fleets was instituted, with headquarters in Angra. (This position was first assumed by Pero Anes do Canto, and it remained in the hands of the Canto family until the beginning of the nineteenth century.) The Purveyor, whose house was strategically close to the bay of Angra and the customs pier, had responsibility for devising a surveillance system that would detect the approach of ships coming from the West, for protecting the ships from pirates, and for providing their supplies and provisions.

The system required a coordinated effort between the Purveyor and other authorities on Terceira and also with the islands in the central and western Azores. Special care was always taken in relation to communication with authorities on the island of Corvo, the northwesternmost island in the Azores archepelago, who were most likely to spot the arriving ships first. It was their job to send a fast courier boat to Angra with news of the sighting.

Defense of the ships was accomplished by the presence, in the waters of the Azores, of the armed fleet, the Navy, consisting of a variable number of ships that shuttled between Lisbon and Terceira with regular stops in the Berlengas islands. On Terceira, the admiralty constantly made itself aware of news related to pirates, then posted warships near Corvo for about four months at a time. The convoys would form-up and continue to Lisbon when the last ship of the East Indian trade arrived that year.

This approach made the Bay of Angra an essential part of this lucrative business.


Geological evidence points to the bay being formed by basaltic lavas, much eroded and covered by pyroclastic surges, tuffs of palagonite-like matter, material formed by the interaction of molten basalt and cold seawater, and consolidated volcanic ash ejected from vents during volcanic eruptions, all from the volcano that helped define the bay itself, the looming presence called Monte Brasil. These depositions originated under water and are very solid and compact.

On top of these volcanic layers are sedimentary materials, sometimes of great thickness, formed mainly of sand, pebbles, and large blocks of rolled palagonite with abundant cavities. Consequently, there are many submarine springs that emit brackish water.

This bay, given its origin, has quite a diverse morphology, presenting sandbars, vertical walls (some more than 40 metres high), large blocks, fields of small and medium stones, caves, pebbles scattered on sandy bottoms, etc.


Some of the marine species present in the bay include:


In all, more than 128 species are present in the bay, including:

  • Sea anemone (Alicia mirabilis)
  • Red algae (Asparagopsis armata)
  • Brown algae (Dictyota dichotoma)
  • Ascidians-flower (corolla Distaplia)
  • Moss (Pterocladiella capillacea)
  • Green sea grass (Ulva intestinalis)
  • Sea lettuce (Ulva rigidis)

Places of archaeological interest

The following locations are of archaeological interest:

  • The Underwater Archaeological Park of the Bay of Angra do Heroísmo
  • Cemetery of Anchors
  • Wreck of the Lidador, a Brazilian steamboat (1878)
  • Wreck of the Run'her, a Confederate steamboat (1863)
  • Anchorages 'A' through 'G'

See also

  • The Customs Pier
  • Club Náutico
  • Fortaleza de São João Baptista da Ilha Terceira
  • Forte de São Sebastião
  • Ilhéus das Cabras (Isles of goats)
  • Marina de Angra do Heroísmo
  • Monte Brasil
  • Porto de Pipas

External links

  1. Shipwrecks of Angra, 1998.
  2. Photos of Angra do Heroísmo
  3. Azores, Enchanted Islands
  4. Underwater Archaeological Park of the Bay of Angra
  5. PIAS project
  6. Archaeologists will study bottom of the bay of Angra Heroísmo until 2008. Retrieved from " C3% ADa_de_Angra_do_Hero% C3% ADsmo"


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