History of Noronha

The archipelago was formed about 12 Mio. years ago by the eruption of a volcano. The basis of the volcano is about 4.000 m under sea level, the crater, is our landmark, the Pico – 323 m over sea level

There exist various theories about the discovery of Fernando de Noronha. One that is widely known, however hard to believe, is that it was discovered by the Portuguese aristocrat Fernão de Loronha. Fernão de Loronha, a Portuguese Jew that had converted to become catholic, was a salesman (Member of the Fugger ...) and one of the richest men of Lisbon at that time. Probably he just financed the expedition in 1503, which arrived already in 1504. But Noronha owes his name and flag to him. The Portuguese royalty offered him the island, that he - according to the Brazilian history books - never entered, as a present. He didn't know any better use, than to give his name to the island.

Extensive research in English, Portuguese and Brazilian text books led me to the conclusion that during the 24. May 1500 an unknown sailor who was sitting in the crows nest of a ship, which was led by Gaspar de Lemos, was shouting “Ilha vista” (land ahead). Gaspar de Lemos was the captain of a ship in the fleet of Cabral, who gave him -sometime in the year 1500 - the order to return to Portugal and bring the news of the discovery of “Santa Cruz” (Brazil). According to the logbook of the Visconde de Santarem, Gaspar de Lemos saw the island at the 24th of June, day of Saint John (dia do São João) and therefore gave the name of São João to it.

Another theory says that the island was discovered by the adventurer and cartograph Juan de la Cosa, who had also accompanied Colon. It is said that he made a map that was later given to the Duke of Ferrarain, Ercole d'Este, in 1502. In that map, the island was called “Ilha de Quaresma” (Island of Lent). This should have happened in the years 1500,1501 or 1502. In case it was in 1500, Juan de la Costa Noronha has discovered the island, otherwise Gaspar de Lemos.

Sea map, probably by Juan de la Cosa - 1500-1502

During the 2nd expedition for the study of the Brazilian coast line financed by Fernão de Loronha at the 10. of august 1504, Americo Vespuci entered the island and left notes about his first impression: " ... this is paradise! Clear waters and an infinity of trees,beautiful birds, that eat out of ones hand, a marvelous port, that the whole crew loved...". He called the island São Lorenco.

For Germans the year 1534 should be interesting. In that year the German traveler Ulrich Schmidel visited the island and stayed for several years.

In 1739 all the " ... vagabonds and tramps ... " were brought to the island. In the following years, the island was visited by various French, English (Francis Drake), Portuguese and Dutch expeditions. In 1736 it was captured by the ... and called " Isle Delphine " and finally it was reconquered by Pernambuco. Again many exhibitions with more scientific background reached the island, among them in 1832 Charles Darwin.
Indians of different tribes were brought to the island in 1819 to learn about agriculture. Since from 1877 the island was administrated by the ministry of justice, in 1890 " ... all capoeiristas and troublemakers ..." were deported to Noronha (at that time the upper class looked down upon Capoeira ). In 1893 the English used Fernando de Noronha as basis for the "South American Cables Ltd." (Installation of submarine cables that connect Europe with Southern America). In 1924 the company was sold to France. 1925 Italy installs an intermediate basis for the submarine cables.
In 1927 an airport for " ... intercontinental mail ... " was build, that was used in 1930/31 by the Germans and was enlarged in 1934 by the Brazilian office for civil aviation.
In 1938, Fernando de Noronha was turned into a political concentration camp and during the World War II an important basis for radar monitoring, and for Brazil a whether station.
During the " cold war ", the US build a guard for " Cruise Missiles " at the Praia de Boldró. It was removed at the end of the cold war. The island was owned by the Brazilian military until 1987.
In 1988 Fernando de Noronha was declared a maritime national park. At that time the era of " gentle tourism " began.
In 2001 Fernando de Noronha was nominated nature world heritage by the Unesco and declared as such in 2002.

http://www.noronha.pe.gov.br/ctudo-hist.asp (English)
http://www.noronha.pe.gov.br/eng/ctudo-history-intro.asp (Portuguese).
http://www.noronha.com.br/historia.htm (Portuguese)
Fernao de Loronha and the Rental of Brazil in 1502: A New Chronology John L. Vogt The Americas, Vol. 24
Archive of the administration in the Palacio São Miguel - Fernando de Noronha
Museum Fernando de Noronha