Canary Islands, Or Canaries(Span. Idas Ca-narias), a Spanish colony in the Atlantic ocean, off the N. W. coast of Africa, between lat. 27° and 30° N., and Ion. 13° and 19° W., comprising a group of islands of which the principal are Teneriffe, Grand Canary, Palma, Lanza-rote, Fuerteventura, Gomera, and Ferro; area, 2,800 sq. m.; pop in 1867, 267,036. The islands are volcanic, rocky, and mountainous. The principal mountain is the volcanic peak of from the West Indies, and 11 from the United States. Some raw silk is manufactured on the spot into silks and ribbons; coarse linen and woollen stuffs are made for home consumption; the leaves of the date palm are made into hats and baskets; but the bulk of manufactured goods is imported. - The Canaries are supposed to be the islands which are mentioned by the elder Pliny, and also by Plutarch and Ptolemy, as the Fortunate islands. They were visited by Moors in the 12th century, and by Italian navigators in the 13th; and in 1334 they were rediscovered by a Spanish vessel which had been driven thither by stress of weather.
After various abortive expeditions, the first effectual attempt at conquering them was made, with the assistance of Spain, by Jean de Bethen-court, a gentleman of Normandy, in the beginning of the 15th century. (See Bisthenoourt.) After various conflicts, caused by the subsequent governors of the islands, by the resistance of the natives, and by the claims set up by Portugal, they passed eventually into the possession of Spain. They are now under the same form of administration as the other provinces of Spain, and are represented in the cortes; the captain general resides at Santa Cruz de Teneriffe, 12,182 ft. high. The watercourses which traverse the islands are sometimes swollen to torrents, and sometimes dry. The soil is fertile, and the climate, although at times excessively hot, and exposed to severe changes and to a pernicious hot wind from the African continent, is on the whole salubrious. The vegetation of both the tropical and temperate zones flourishes here in great luxuriance, and has been described at length by Humboldt and by Von Buch. Horses and cattle are scarce, but other kinds of domestic animals abound; only a few, however, are indigenous. The reptiles are limited to a small scorpion, a scolopen-dra, and the frog.
Among the insects is a species of troublesome gnat or mosquito. Among the birds are the African vulture, the falcon, buzzard, sparrow hawk, kite, two species of owl, three of sea mew, the goldfinch, the quail, wren, magpie, and the canary. The only freshwater fish is the eel. Marine fishes are scarce, but whales and seals are occasionally seen. Wine was formerly the chief article of export, the annual produce being about 40,000 pipes. But in 1853 the crop was nearly all destroyed by the grape disease, and cochineal took its place, the produce rising from 800,000 lbs. in 1849 to 1,500,000 in 1856, and 6,037,894 lbs. for the year ending June 30, 1870. Its commercial value, however, declined from about $1 per lb. in 1866 to about half as much in 1870. The value of the entire exports from the two principal ports, Teneriffe and Las Palmas, in 1870 was about $3,200,000, of which cochineal formed $2,550,000, and vegetables, nuts, and fruits $400,000; about four fifths of the exports were to England. Potatoes and onions are shipped to Cuba and the West Indies; the export of wine was about $40,000. The value of the imports at these ports was about $3,100,000, of which about $1,000,000 were manufactured goods, $300,-000 flour and grain, $260,000 guano, $275,000 sugar, molasses, and spirits, $130,000 wood and lumber, and $120,000 oil.
At these ports there entered 191 steamers, tonnage 137,000, and 1,134 sailing vessels, tonnage 102,000. Of the steamers, 131 merely touched at the islands on the voyage between England and the coast of Africa; of the sailing vessels, 796 entries were from one island to another, 107 from Spain, 46 from England, 35 from France, 36 Tenerife. The inhabitants are chiefly Spaniards (slightly darker than those of the mother country), though some claim descent from the aborigines, named Guanches, who however are extinct. There are two bishoprics, and the prevailing religion is the Roman Catholic. Spanish is the only language in use.
View in the Canary Islands.