Minuscule: Burning Madeira

The island of Madeira is over three hundred square miles. It was discovered when Portuguese sailors were blown off-course by a storm. The trees were thick and ancient from one shore to another. The very name, lha da Madeira, means Island Of Wood.

To make room for crops – for sugar-beet, for wine-grapes – the island had to be cleared. But the trees were so thick. So instead, in the dry season, fires were lit. The forest caught fire. The island burned.

It burned from shore to shore. The fire burned so bright that it looked like an unset sun across the sea. The cloud of soot spread over the ocean and reached the coast of Portugal, a thousand kilometers away.

The island burned for two years.

When the sailors came back, there was nothing left but ash. The forests were cinder on the ground. No animals were left alive. No one knows what flora or fauna the world lost in the fire.

The soil of a burned forest is among the richest in the world. The sugar-beets of Madeira gave sugar to Europe, and Portugal became rich in kind.


~ by davekov on 27 September 2015.

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