Canary Islands,





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The Canary Islands are an archipelago and an autonomous region of Spain in the Atlantic Ocean off the north-western coast of Africa.  The islands comprise the provinces of Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Their capitals are, respectively, Las Palmas on Grand Canary and Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Tenerife Island; the cities also serve as dual and alternative capitals of the region. The chief islands of the group, in descending order of size, are Tenerife; Fuerteventura, the nearest to the African mainland; Grand Canary (Gran Canaria); Lanzarote; La Palma; Gomera; and Hierro. In addition, several barren islets are included in the group. The total land area of the islands is 7,273 sq km (2,808 sq mi).

The islands are of volcanic origin. Of the volcanic peaks, the highest is the dormant Pico de Teide, or Pico de Tenerife (3,718 m/12,198 ft). The Canaries are noted for their scenery and mild, dry climate, which makes them an ideal site for astronomical observation. The observatory sited at 2,423 m (7,950 ft) on Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma, is the home of some of the world's most important telescopes, including the 4 m (165 in) William Herschel telescope. Precipitation occurs mainly during the winter season. In areas below about 400 m (1,300 ft) elevation, the vegetation is typically northern African; characteristic varieties are the date palm, dragon tree, and cactus. Growing at higher levels are laurels, holly, myrtle, eucalyptus, pine, and a variety of flowering plants.

Farming and fishing are the principal industries. The volcanic soil of the Canaries is extremely fertile. The islands have no rivers, however, and severe droughts are common; artificial irrigation is therefore a necessity in most cultivable areas. Among important crops are bananas, citrus fruits, sugar cane, peaches, figs, wine grapes, grain, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes. Manufactured products include textiles and fine embroideries. Tourism is also important, and the islands are a popular winter-resort area. The population of the islands was 1,493,800 according to the 1991 estimate..

In the view of some authorities, the Canaries are the Fortunatae Insulae of antiquity. The Phoenicians and Carthaginians probably knew the islands. As described by the Roman scholar Pliny, large numbers of wild dogs (Latin, canes), roamed the islands, which he therefore named Canaria. Arab mariners reached the group in the 12th century, and it was visited in 1334 by French navigators. Pope Clement VI awarded the islands to Castile in 1344. The French mariner Jean de Bethéncourt began the conquest of the islands in 1402 and was made king of the Canaries in 1404 by the Castilian ruler Henry III. Claimed by Portugal, the islands were recognized as Spanish possessions by a treaty negotiated in 1479. Spanish conquest of the islands was completed by the late 1490s. The indigenous population, the Guanche, a Berber people, eventually became extinct.

The Canaries, previously a single province, were divided into two provinces in 1927.

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