I’m not really a facts & figures person. I get asked about Madeira quite a bit, and I tend to just make stuff up. This is an attempt to set the record straight:
> The island is 35 miles long, 13 miles wide, 459 square miles (741 km2).
> If you were in Morocco and hung a left, 378 miles later you’d find me.
> The population is around 250,000, with half living in the capital of Funchal.
> The island was formed by volcanoes 20 million years ago. The last eruption was 1.7 million years ago. They're pretty much extinct.
> It’s basically on the same latitude as Bermuda and Los Angeles (we’re in good company then - the lost and the delusional).
> Discovered in 1420 by the Portuguese; no signs of any indigenous population (they would say that, wouldn’t they).
> It was smack in the middle of major trade routes between Europe, Africa, the Indies and the Americas. Loadsa money to be made.
> Christopher Columbus came here in 1478 and married a local girl.
> The island spent the 16th century being attacked by pirates: mostly French, with a peppering of Algerian, Moorish & English.
> Funchal was shelled by German U-boats during WWI.
> The whaling scenes from Moby Dick (1956) were shot here. Gregory Peck and John Huston set up camp at Reid’s Palace Hotel.
> After his defeat by Castro in 1959, Cuban dictator General Batista lived at Reid's. Winston Churchill was also a regular here. Coincidence?
> Scott visited Madeira on his way to the Antarctic (interestingly, Scott’s mom gave his flaggy-pennant-thing from the Antarctic trip to Exeter Cathedral – I noticed it right before I left. But I digress…)
> George Bernard Shaw learned to tango here (pictured). He called resident dancing instructor Max Rinder "the only man who ever taught me anything". Whaddaguy!
> I arrived here one month ago today :)
And that's all the news that's fit to print. Off the record, on the QT, and very hush hush!