History of Fernando de Noronha

History of Fernando de Noronha
The occupation of Fernando de Noronha is almost so old as the occupation of the mainland. Due to its geographic position, the archipelago was one of the first found territories in the New World.
It was recorded in a nautical chart in the year 1500 by the spanish cartographer Juan de La Cosa and in the year 1502 by the portuguese Alberto Cantino, in this case with the name of "Quaresma".
See this timeline of the History of Noronha.

Its official discovery in 1503 (three years after the official discovery of Brazil) is assigned to the navigator Américo Vespúcio, which participated of the second exploratory expedition to the Brazilian coast. This expedition, captained by Gonçalo Coelho, was financed by the a Portuguese nobleman called Fernão de Loronha, a new christian (converted Jew) and tenant of brazilwood extraction.
The name Fernão de Loronha would see a small corruption to become Fernando de Noronha.

"The paradise is here" said Américo Vespúcio as he boarded that desert island on August 10, 1503, soon after the wreck of the main expedition ship. The letter he wrote, the LETTERA, is the first document regarding the island, named São Lourenço, and reports about "infinite water and infinite trees; very gentle fowl, which eat from the hands; a very good harbour, which was very good for the whole crew". In 1504 the island was donated to Fernão de Loronha, as he financed the expedition. It was the first Hereditary Land Division of Brazil, but it was never occupied by its donee.

Foreign invasions

Forsaken for over two centuries and situated in the big navigation routes, the island was boarded by many people and was temporarily occupied by the Dutch (which called it "Pavônia" - see History of Pernambuco) in the 17th century and by the French (which baptized it as "Ile Delphine") in the 18th century.

The vulnerability of this place for invasions motivated Portugal to occupy it definitively through the Land Division of Pernambuco from 1737 on. At the same time the defensive system with ten forts was built - "the biggest fortified system in Brazil in the XVIII century" - among which the N. Sª dos Remédios Fort. The majority of these forts still exist today and from some of them there are architectonic evidences. Read more about the forts and fortresses of Noronha.

In the same period the Archipelago was transformed in a Common Prison for condemned to long punishments (banishments). These condemned provided the workmanship for buildings and the roads and ways system for interconnecting villages and forts. The inhuman regime included also confinement cells and even stone beds in which the prisoner almost couldn't turn around himself.

In order to avoid the fleed and hiding of the prisoners, the original vegetation of the island was cut down; thus, today only in a few places of the island it is still possible to see some original vegetation, like in the Sapata Point, at the hillside of the Pico Mount and in the belvederes of Sancho, Dolphin Bay and Leão Beach.

Scientific Interest


Famous scientists visited the archipelalgo in different periods, like the naturalist Charles Darwin, father of the Species Evolution Theory, in 1832 (see reports of Charles Darwin in Noronha). All of them were attracted by the great biodiversity and made surveys about the environment, producing remarkable studies. Also in the 19th century, world reknowned artists, like the French Debret and Laissaly, were invited by the Emperor D. Pedro II to register the human presence in paintings.

Military Period

In 1938 the archipelago was transferred to the Federal Government for the installation of a Political Prison. In 1942, during World War II, the Military Federal Territory was created, together with the Mixed Detachment of War and the alliance with the North American Navy, which installed a Support Base with about 300 men.

At this period, a population of over 3.000 soldiers required the construction of prefabricated houses. Between 1942 and 1988 the island was administrated by the armed forces: the Army up to 1981; the Air Force up to 1986; and the General Staff up to 1987. Still as a federal territory the island was subordinated to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the only period with a Civil Governor. This was between 1957 e 1965, when a new american presence at the Missile Observation Station ocurred.

In 1988, by force of the new Constitution, the archipelago was reintegrated to the State of Pernambuco, from which it is a State District today. Also in 1988 the National Marine Reserve was established and in an area of 26 km² there are the Marine Reserve and the Environmental Protected Area.

In December 13, 2001 the UNESCO considered the archipelago as a SITE OF THE NATURAL WORLD HERITAGE and the diploma was handed over on December 27, 2002. In 2003 Fernando de Noronha reached 500 years in the human history. 500 years since the first landing, the first description by Américo Vespúcio, one of the greatest navigators of the History.
Fernando de Noronha Beach, Discover the beauty of Fernando de Noronha Beach, Fernando de Noronha Beach in Brazil, Attractions in Fernando de Noronha, Visiting Fernando de Noronha