Last week, in the screening of their documentary ‘Could We Survive A Mega-Tsunami?‘ the BBC re-ignited fears that the entire east coast of America could be destroyed if La Palma’s Cumbre Vieja should slip into the sea. First raised by eminent geologist Dr Simon Day more than 10 years ago, the question is not so much ‘could it happen?’ as ‘when will it happen?’ and as the answer is ‘probably in around 10,000 years’, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
Lying on a beach in Playa de Las Américas or Costa Adeje it’s easy to forget that the land beneath your sun lounger is potentially unsafe and that Tenerife, like all the Canary Islands, has its roots firmly in a very violent past and for all we know, a possibly violent future. Like siblings lined up to have their height measured against the homestead wall, the Canary Islands descend in age as you travel from east to west with Fuerteventura being the eldest and little El Hierro the youngest, so young in fact that it’s still growing, as witnessed by the recent eruptions off its Restinga coastline.
Tenerife is the middle child of the family and the last time it erupted was in 1909. Although the mind instantly switches to Mount Teide, in fact there hasn’t been an eruption in Teide National Park since 1798 when Pico Viejo erupted for a period of 92 days from what is now known as ‘Las narices del Teide‘ (Teide’s nostrils). In recent history the most destruction has been caused by the eruption of Montaña Negra which decimated Garachico in 1706 and by Montaña Chinyero in 1909 which threatened to engulf the villages of Las Manchas and Tamaimo and the town of Santiago del Teide.
For ten days the island held its breath as Chinyero spewed lava from five open mouths sending rivers of fear through local communities. The citizens of Santiago del Teide evacuated their homes and fled to the safety of the beach, leaving crops and livestock to the mercy of the volcano. Local legend tells of the miracle that finally stopped the fatal flow as villagers from Las Manchas brought holy statues to the edge of the lava above their village and prayed for salvation whereupon the lava divided, wove its way around Las Manchas and ground to a halt. Above the peaceful village of Valle de Arriba and picturesque Santiago Del Teide, a simple white monument and a cross placed in the lava mark the spot where the ‘miracle’ of Las Manchas took place.
Today the lava fields of Chinyero provide a sober reminder of the power that lies beneath our feet and a landscape as beautiful as it is stark. A pleasant circular walking trail takes you around the volcano and across the lava fields where a plaque commemorates the 100th anniversary of the eruption three years ago. Accessible from the TF38 road high above Los Gigantes and Playa de la Arena which connects Chio with Teide National Park, the level path is an easy 6km walk taking in some fabulous views, woodland trails, wild flowers and an explosive piece of Tenerife’s history.
Category : about tenerife
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