A small rock in the Atlantic

All about the island of La Palma, in the Canaries.

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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Tsunami Risk

You may remember the fuss in 2001 when two geologists, Steven Ward and Simon Day, announced their theory that the west side of the island of La Palma would collapse one day, creating a mega-tsunami that would cross the entire Atlantic and still be anything up to 25 metres high when it hit New York, and indeed everything from Newfoundland in Canada to Recife in Brazil.

These days, almost all geologists seem to disagree.

Certainly there is a fault line, and some movement has been detected, but the fault appears to be 4 km long, not 25 km. There is no evidence that it's 2 km deep, so any landslide would be superficial and might not happen all at once. There's a volcano, but it's comparatively small. And there's a lot of water inside the island, but if the volcano erupts and turns it to steam, it has lots and lots of escape routes through the porous lava. Therefore it won't push the rock into a landslide.

The tsunami that did such awful damage in December 2004 was caused by an earthquake along 1,000 km of sea bed. If a landslide does happen on La Palma, it couldn't possibly be longer than 25 km, so the tsunami will weaken as it spreads out. You'd hardly get a splash the other side of the Atlantic.

By the way, the research was paid for by an American insurance company. And it wasn't published in a peer-reviewed journal, which means that other scientists didn't get chance to give opinions before it was broadcast.

My opinion? It's a load of hype.

You can read more at: http://www.lapalma-tsunami.com/tsunami.html
and http://www.iberianature.com/material/megatsunami.html

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Sunday, 11 May 2008

Robert's Wall (la pared de Roberto)

This photo was taken from the viewpoint at Los Andennes, where you get a spectacular view into the Caldera.

From here you can see a dyke called La Pared de Roberto (Robert's Wall). It's about four metres high (13ft).

[Volcanic dykes are formed when moulten lava fills a crack in the rock and solidifies slowly into very hard rock called basalt. Later on the softer, surrounding rock is eroded away, leaving the harder basalt sticking out like a wall.]

The story is that Roberto was madly in love with a girl who lived the other side of the wall, and he couldn't get through. Eventually the devil appeared to him and promised to carry Roberto's body through in exchange for Roberto's soul.

Roberto was daft enough to agree.

With a great flash of light, the devil blasted a hole through the dyke and left Roberto's dead body on the far side. He'd already taken the soul.

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Monday, 28 April 2008

Taking the Hump

Crater of St Antony's Volcano. You can see people on the skyline at the right.

The most recent eruption in the Canary Islands was Teneguía, in 1971 (see Thursday, 21 February 2008 Which Planet Are You On?). It's a nice place to visit, but you have to be fairly fit.

St. Antony's Volcano (Volcan San Antonio) is nice in a completely different way. For one thing, it looks like a volcano should look, and you can walk halfway around the spectacular circular crater. You could even get a push-chair most of the way. For another, there's a car park, and a visitor centre with a café, shop, and a rather good exhibition.

The last eruption was from November 13th 1677 to January 31st, 1678. There were earthquakes, sulfurous gases and thirteen lava vents, one of which buried the hot spring that gave the borough its name - Fuencaliente. This left the spa town without a spa, and did the local economy no favours at all.

Crater of St Antony's Volcano looking back towards Los Canarios.

If you fancy taking the hump, you can ride a camel along the path for 6.00€. The sign says they start at ten, but when I went there, they still hadn't arrived at 10:30. So no photo. Sorry.

The catch is that you have to pay. The car park is 3.50€ for visitors and 1.75€ for residents, but this includes the visitor centre.

Coffee with milk (cafe con leche) was a startling 1.70€. In most places it's between 1.00€ or 1.20€. So I didn't try the cake, although it looked good.

So does the view from the crater.
View from the crater, north towards Las Indias.

To get there:
The easiest way is in a hire car. Take the main road to Los Canarios and follow the sign from the village centre. Alternatively, bus L3 will take you to Los Canarios, and you can walk downhill from there (perhaps 2 km).

You can also continue your walk from St. Antony's volcano down to Teneguía and the coast. Bus L31 goes back from the lighthouse to the village.

View from the crater, south towards Teneguía and the salt factory

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