Tuesday, 28 February 2012


The Canary Islands began emerging from the sea in volcanic eruptions about 25 million years ago. On Lanzarote, this left a landscape dominated by extinct volcanoes and lava fields that have gradually eroded to rich volcanic soils that required only water to create abundance. Sadly though, the island is effectively a desert, its mountains not high enough to induce rain, so agriculture is very constrained. Features such as long lava tubes that connected volcanoes to the sea have left the basis for the amazing sites at Jameos del Agua with its famous underground lake and blind albino crabs (Munidopsis polimorpha).
At Cueva de Los Verdes further inland,  visitors can walk through the underground lava  tunnels. Both these sites were opened up and developed under the guiding influence of the artist, Cesar Manrique. Underground bubbles in the lava also provided a convenient starting point for private dwellings as exemplified by  Manrique’s eclectic house at Tahiche.
Into this settled picture, two intense periods of volcanic activity occurred in the recent past. The first between 1730 and 1736 produced a lava field covering almost 200 sq kms in the centre and south of the island. The second occurred in 1824 and saw the emergence of three new volcanic cones. The population suffered greatly during these periods and at times the island was almost completely evacuated.
These new lava fields have an awesome power and stark beauty in the endless variety of flows and shapes adopted by the cooling lava. Lacking rain and frost to accelerate erosion, the lava looks much the same as the day it cooled, with lichens only now beginning to get a foothold. In the Timanfaya National Park, temperatures of 600C are recorded only 13m below the surface. Tourists are entertained by artificial geysers and burning bushes. More tomorrow.

The Stuart Agenda by Alan Calder published by Willow Moon. E- book at amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. Paperback at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005BJ3GNI 

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