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History Sal Island

Sal Island

Like the island of Maio, salt was one of the products in which Sal traded. Salt had been traded by the occupants on Sal in the times prior to the inauguration of a salt export business which was successfully set up on the island in the mid-1800’s. Salt pans were to be found in Pedra de Lume and Santa Maria. In the early days of the Salt business there were only 100 people reported as living on Sal. To help support the salt business during its operational years, approximately one thousand people were shipped in, many of whom were slaves. It is reported that in the mid-1900’s Sal exported 13,000 tonnes of salt a year. The village of Santa Maria evolved during these times. Trade in salt diminished by the mid 20th century and by 1984 routine maintenance of the two salt pans terminated.

Sal’s airport was built in the early 20th century when Benito Mussolini was sold land on which he could build a suitable airport to be used as a stop off point between South America and Europe for the purpose of refuelling aircraft. In 1945 Portugal bought back the airport.

During the years of apartheid, South Africa benefited from the use of Sal as a refuelling base.

Sal is the most infertile of the occupied islands. No more than 12km wide and 30km in length there are only three main settlements which include Espargos, Palmeira and Santa Maria. Espargos the capital of the island is situated near the airport, the port of Palmeira is on the west coast and Santa Maria and its white sandy beaches can be found on the south of the island.

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