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39km (24 miles) NE of Madeira

The second major island of the Madeira archipelago is Porto Santo, an arid landmass that presents a marked contrast to the lushness of the main island. It is 14km (8 2/3 miles) long and 5km (3 miles) wide, with a 6.5km (4-mile) strip of fine sandy beach along the southern shore. The island is not as hilly as Madeira: Its highest elevation is about 509m (1,670 ft.) above sea level, at Pico do Facho.

João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, who discovered Madeira, landed on Porto Santo in 1418 when they took refuge from a storm. To express gratitude for their survival, they named the island Porto Santo (Holy Port). It was not until 1419 that the men were able to sail on and make landfall on the main island. Prince Henry the Navigator gave Teixeira and Zarco authority to run Madeira, but he placed Porto Santo in the hands of Bartolomeu Perestrello.

The island gets very dry in the summer, which makes it popular with beachgoers but not good for crops. The foodstuffs grown on Porto Santo in the winter include grain, tomatoes, figs, and melons, as well as grapes, from which sweet wines are made. A few remaining unusual windmills crown the island's low hills.

The water of Porto Santo supposedly has therapeutic value. It's a popular drink not only on the island, but also in Madeira and Portugal. The water-bottling plants, fish canneries, and a limekiln make up the island's industries.