— Wow… once in a lifetime opportunity. I want to see it up close!
Bar talk on a subject not exactly auspicious.
We’re talking about the volcano of Cumbre Vieja, on the Spanish island of La Palma, which started to shower us with its lava a month ago – and has no plans to stop.
As a Brazilian, the conversation for me is exotic. There in Brazel we have an abundance of misfortune, but volcano eruption is not in our Top Ten, right.
Not here in Spain, actually. In the last 10,000 years, only two locations have provided us with similar natural-disaster spectacles: the Canary Islands archipelago, where the island of La Palma is located, and La Garrotxa, in Girona, Catalonia.
It is true that in this year of 2021 alone, the National Geographic Institute has already registered 3.7 million earthquakes – most, of course, imperceptible to us humans in incessant movement that we barely notice the little soy growing on the sidewalk in front of our house. The Spanish seismic risk is low, but, as Cumbre Vieja is to prove, it exists.
Furthermore, since 2017, when the intensification of seismic activity at La Palma hinted at a new volcanic awakening, the (complex and controversial) theory has been circulating that a Super Eruption there could result in a (mini)tsunami off the coast of New York, if it were accompanied by an earth collapse equivalent to x cubic kilometers.
(Take this, Holiwôodi and postmoderns..!!!)
Among other factors, the complex underground dance of “hotspots” (hot spots), faults and tectonic plates influences this changing geological scenario.
Among the latter, the large African and Eurasian plates, which have been approaching each other at a speed of 4 to 10 millimeters per year. If things continue like this, in 50 million years the Mediterranean Sea will give way to a mountain range and we will have to have a camel and a 4×4 instead of a small boat.
Well, I don’t have a boat. Anyway.
The Canary Islands, where La Palma is located, has a long history of documented eruptions dating back at least to the 15th century. So much so that there is a trekking route for those who want to retrace their path to the volcanoes in the region.
As it is a heavily monitored area, when the tremors began in September, specialists raised the alert and the population (approximately 7,000 people in the risk areas, against 83,000 in total on the island) was able to get away in time.
The current eruption, which to date has engulfed some 2,000 buildings and houses on its way to the sea, plus at least 742 hectares of land, is not by far the most punk or the longest recorded in the region.
The most recent volcanic episode, on the canary island of El Hierro, between 2011 and 2012, for example, lasted 147 days.
But the record goes to Timanfaya, in Lanzarote, the oldest island in the archipelago and one of the first to disappear with the gradual metamorphosis of the region: it remained for 2,055 days in eruption between 1730 and 1736.
In small mouths, the locals say that the current eruption, which has been swarming in the headlines and news in black and red profusions, like an epic ending to an apocalyptic film, doesn’t even come close to what happened in 1971, when Teneguía, also in La Palma, hurled twice the volume of magma into the air.
Nobody knows how long this chapter will last.
— The problem with going to La Palma — continues my friend, hopelessly addicted to the idea of taking a selfie with the lava in the background for Instagram — is that the airspace is being closed off all the time without notice because of the smoke.
Today, Sunday (17), for example. Almost half of the 38 scheduled flights du jour were cancelled. Almost 50 seismic shakes were recorded on the island in the last 24 hours alone.
Aayayay. In Papobar, we remember another recent volcanic eruption, in Iceland, which started 6 months ago near such a mount Fagradalsfjall (##!) and is still going strong.
At the time, a lot of tourists appeared posting a photo beside the lava, climbing the sides of the scorching veins with ropes and single file, like happy flower on fire excursion. Jisuis. Others for this Tupiniquim corazón. What do you mean, the land frying and you there as if you were posing with toucan in the Amazon (with the Borso jagunço in the background)? He can?
Spain’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, caused controversy a few weeks ago when she said that the eruption of Cumbre Vieja is a “wonderful spectacle” and an “opportunity [para a economia turística local] that we can take advantage of”.
The Hispanic population has divided. Most think this idea of “enjoying” “volcanic tourism” the end of la Picada. Others, like my friend, are already looking at plane ticket prices.
– Damn. Two hundred euros, and only once a week?! –#xated that I won’t be able to go.
I remember when Halley’s Comet, which shows up every 76 years, passed through our Terran firmament in the distant Christian year of 1986. I was an avid little child (I follow) and I wanted to see what I said.
My dad, tech-scientific-curious-full-of-Doctor-Sparrow paraphernalia, set up a telescope in the garden and put us to sleep, warning us: it’ll be visible at dawn. I wake you up.
They say the visibility of the sky that year didn’t help. Whatever. I did not see anything. When my dad woke me up, I could only grunt, in my characteristic bad mood: let me sleepyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!
At least, yo say, back then we dreamed of Seeing Things For Themselves. Light years before the volcano selfies…
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(About the illustration in this article: Crustal distension and volcanism. Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 cm. Work by artist, geologist and dear friend Mauricio Guerreiro. Follow Tectostratus on Instagram!)