Friday, July 31, 2015

Africa-Europe 2015 Day 21. Going around the island of Faial.

Easy-piecey kind of day, driving around the island and stopping here and there to take some pictures. Unfortunately it was raining, so I was the only one to get down from the bus to go through the tunnel (the wind was howling) and come to the vista point overlooking the caldera of Cabe├žo Gordo, a small but very impressive caldera depression, maybe 4 kilometers in diameter and 500 m deep. If you follow in my footsteps make sure to take the time to walk all around the caldera rim (about two hours) or even descend to the bottom (another couple of hours). Unfortunately the wind was blowing a storm right into my face, so I don’t even have a picture to prove I was here.

The island is beautiful, and the hydrangeas are in bloom, which makes for a very pretty countryside. In fact, given that these flowers grow like weeds the farmers have planted to border the pasture fields, creating the ultimate tableau of happy cows.

At lunch I had the chance to talk with our guide Lucia, a pleasant woman of 40 something, who freelances as tourist guide whenever she gets a chance. So what does she do in the meantime? Well, a few years ago she went to the US with her family, and they stopped in Dunkin’ Donuts to buy a few, very expensive cookies. Years later one of her sons moaned that he would like to have one of those cookies, so Lucia sought a recipe through the internet, experimented a few times, and finally settled on something she liked and baked a batch for each of her sons, who were going to be camping that weekend. The “Cookies from Cousin Lu” became an instant hit with the boys and their friends, and now she runs a profitable small operation known through the whole island of Faial. And to this day Dunkin’ Donuts stands high in her mind among the top American pastry makers!

One of our last stops was the westernmost end of the island, in Punta dos Capelinhos, where we came across the products of an eruption that took place in the mid 1950’s. What was peculiar about this eruption is that started out of nothing under the ocean. The water started boiling, and now and then an explosion would blast unto the surface, with black jets of tephra shooting through the air, and seconds later transforming themselves into plumes of the white steam. Powerful blasts of tephra rushed over the surface of the ocean, and slowly built up a low mound that was quickly washed away by the waves of the ocean. The tug of war between the volcano and the sea continued for several days, until eventually enough tephra had accumulated to isolate the vent from the sea, and the eruption slowly evolved into a Strombolian eruption, and the quiet eruption of lavas shielded the nascent island to secure a permanent addition of 2 square kilometers to the area of Faial. Unfortunately the Portuguese failed to publish the photos and reports of the eruption of Capelinhos, and a similar eruption in 1965 off the coast of Iceland got the glory of the name. So this type of submarine-to-subaerial eruptions are now called Surtseyan rather than Capeloan. No better proof of the old academic adage: Publish or perish.


In the afternoon we took the plane to Terceira, where we will spend the last three days of our adventure. Tomorrow is a free day, so I think I will rent a scooter and see what I shall see.

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