São Jorge is part of the islands of the “Triangle” with Pico and Faial. It is known as the island of Fajãs – flat land of small extension located by the sea. From east to west, São Jorge is 53 km long and from north to south it is only 8 km wide, for a total area of about 246km2. The closest island is Pico only 20km away.
The island is home to approximately 9,500 people. It is formed by a long “mountain range” that rises more than 1,000 meters above sea level, often described as the backbone of a mystical animal, giving São Jorge the name “dragon island”. The highest point is Pico da Esperança, at 1,503m above sea level.
In the first centuries after the island was discovered, wheat and wine were important sources of wealth for São Jorge. However, the quality of its pasture was always a strong point. As São Jorge did not have harbors in good conditions, the island doesn’t reach much economic strength. Another weak point was the many agricultural crises in the 16th and 19th centuries. Also, many earthquakes and eruptions destroyed parts of the island.
São Jorge was part of the whaling industry with manufacturing production from 1882 to 1972. You can learn more about the history of sperm whales at Casa dos botes in Urzelina and Topo.
Today, in addition to cheese, tuna fishing is a significant economic activity since the 1960s. Raising cattle was always also important for the island, for the cheese and for the wool.