Diary of a Volcano: Teneguía -1971

(all the Diary's content is taken from newspapers published at the mentioned dates)

Teneguía volcano erupted near the southernmost point of La Palma, not far away from the town of Fuencaliente. The name of this town (Warm-fountain) came, in fact, from a famous source of warm water of volcanic origins, which was blocked up and destroyed by an eruption in 1676.

Thursday, 21 October 1971:
I am a volcano. La Palma island is pregnant with me, although the Palmeros didn't realize it until now.
Today about noon I caused earthquakes in almost all the island of La Palma (Mazo, Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso...). They were specially strong in Fuencaliente. Rocks fell down on roads, and the Palmeros were logically alarmed. The island was shaked again and again the whole afternoon, a din coming from the depth of the earth.
Although nobody knows about my existence, many have remembered the last eruption of Saint John's Day in 1949, 22 years ago. Radios, television and newspapers have started to speculate about the possibility of being confronted soon with a new volcano.

Friday, 22 October 1971:
The Province authorities visited La Palma during the day. The Hidroponic Station of Columbia University, based in Puerto Naos -Western La Palma- detected today about 1.000 earthquakes. Most of the population of Los Llanos de Aridane (over 15.000 pop.) spent the night in their cars or in the streets. Cracks can be seen in some buildings. Four earthtremors are felt every minute.
I can't help. The earthquakes are caused by the mass of melted rocks and gas which try to find their way out. Scientists are not still yet sure, but some have started to speak about me. What they ignore, for the moment, is the place where I will choose to come out... I myself ignore it ! I just push out and up, and I form a volcanic "chimney" where the earth presents less resistance.

Fuencaliente Saturday, 23 October 1971:
I shaked the earth with such strength, that the church bells of Fuencaliente started to ring on their own during the night. Between 4.30 AM and 6 AM I managed to wake up and throw down from their beds half the population of the entire island. Later, at eleven o'clock, I terrified them again with a new strong earthquake.

Sunday, 24 October 1971:
The day was calm. Some optimistic guys were already announcing the end of the troubles, until a good shake at eleven in the night remembered the Palmeros that I am still here.

Monday, 25 October 1971:
In the middle of the night, at 4.16 AM, I caused the strongest earthquake of all. It lasted 16 seconds, and some old and less solid buildings in Fuencaliente were crisscrossed by cracks.

Amazing news!
Tuesday, 26 October 1971:
TODAY I WAS BORN ! At three o'clock in the afternoon, an impressive underground din and huge explosions were heard in all the region of Fuencaliente. Ten minutes later smoke was seen coming out from a relatively plain area. People who approached could see the cracks opened in the earth and that there was ME, spewing out fire, burning stones and smoke through two different mouths. Two new craters opened during the rest of the afternoon. At dusk two lava flows have started to spurt out of my mouths and were flowing down to the sea.
People were working in the vineyards near the place where I erupted. They were harvesting the grapes which would produce the famous Fuencaliente wine. I am afraid that this will not be a good year. They had to flee leaving back crop and farm implements and equipment; my hot breath and ashes will soon burn a good part of the vineyards of the region.
The schools in Fuencaliente district are closed until the risks can be better evaluated. The population of the nearest hamlet to ME, called Los Quemados (which means, ironically, "the Burned Ones"), was evacuated today. Some people of Fuencaliente, Las Indias and Las Caletas are leaving the district and moving to Santa Cruz de La Palma, the island capital, where they will receive aid from the Red Cross and the Army and the solidarity of their fellow citizens. But most people take it calmly. They even feel now relieved, because they know finally at which place am I erupting... I have bursted -as they call it- in a plain, about 650 feet over sea level, and some 650 yards distant from the ocean. Between ME and the sea there are poor volcanic badlands from older eruptions. Apparently my lava flows will not threaten towns, farming lands or main roads. I have erupted at the foot of my elder brother the San Antonio volcano, the same that destroyed the Fuente Santa in the year 1676.
There was a dramatic moment in the afternoon, when 28 fishing boats had to fled from a beach near Fuencaliente lighthouse. People who were trying to save the boats had to leave their cars when they found the road invaded by lava flows, and then they found themselves caught between the fire and the deep blue sea. They all managed to escape in the fishing boats which sailed towards the harbour of Santa Cruz de La Palma.

Wednesday, 27 October 1971:
I have a name ! I have been called TENEGUIA, for a rock which stands near ME and which was called so by the ancient Palmeros before the Spanish conquest. They made petroglyphs -inscriptions on stone- on it which can still be seen. Everybody is afraid that my eruption will cover the rock with lava and ashes, and that the inscriptions will be destroyed. But I will spare it. It wouldn't be fair to destroy my "godfather", after all...
Five members of the UNESCO Committee of Volcanology arrived today at La Palma. In just a few hours I have become famous worldwide. Doctor Telesforo Bravo, professor of La Laguna University and one of the best volcanologists in Spain, has spent the day studying ME. He reminds everybody of the fact that volcanic eruptions in La Palma last usually a maximum of one and a half or two months. He also tries to calm the islanders reminding them of the absence of deads caused by volcanic eruptions in all the history of the Canary Islands. There is always time enough to escape from lava flows and you must only be sensible enough not to be too close to ME. It is true that he also warned about the danger of huge explosions caused by volcanos so close to the sea like ME, in case that the ocean water would massively leak in through cracks in the rocks and reach my burning inner heart.
During the first hours of the night, one of my two lava flows reached the sea and penetrated into the ocean, where the seawater is boiling. Steam clouds raise up high in the sky and mix with the smoke coming out of my craters. When the hot lava reaches the sea, big incandescent rocks explode as an effect of the sudden cooling, and they turn into thousands of little black grains; the grains of sand which form the strange looking Canarian beaches of black sand -also found in Hawai'i.
After several days of this close encounter between lava and the sea, television and radio stations will broadcast the great new, newspapers everywhere in the country will announce it: Spain is growing at La Palma island! I am making the island larger, gaining terrain to the sea.
The second lava flow has reached the vicinity of Fuencaliente lighthouse, whose staff was evacuated, and there it has forked, leaving the lighthouse on a sort of island surrounded by fire. Journalists declare that my sight in the night is indescribably beautiful. With a sort of underearth roaring, I throw up jets of burning stones and flames over 300 mts. (about 1.000 feet) high, while two red-glowing and burning lava streams flow unstoppable towards the sea. It smells of sulphur, cinders float in the air and you can feel the heat even hundreds of meters away from my craters. I have now a main crater and several smaller side crevices. I have started to form a cone-shaped hill.

Thursday, 28 October 1971:
My activity is increasing. At 9 AM I belch a third lava stream, much more fluid than the previous ones, which flows quickly towards the sea. The lava of Canarian volcanos is usually of the type called "a'a", which is more viscous and flows slowly, in comparison to the "pahoehoe" type -native Hawaiian name-, which flows almost like water. This type of lava is rare in Canarian volcanos, and it is only found in some ancient eruptions in El Hierro island.
Anyway, volcanologist doctor Fuster has declared that my lava is of basaltic type and very fluid, it moves forward at a speed of 120 mts. (abt. 400 feet) per hour. It comes out at a temperature of 1100º C (abt. 2000º F) and it flows at 850ºC (abt. 1560º F). It makes the seawater boil, and the temperature of the usually cool Atlantic waters, even 25 mts. (82 feet) away from the place where lava enters the sea, has gone up to 31ºC (88ºF).

Today I have shaked again the earth and big rocks felt on ways and roads. I have started to cover the region with a layer of hot ashes which make plants wither. The village of Los Quemados looks ghostly, left by the people and with a dust of ashes covering roofs and roads.
The Government has established a safety cordon which prevent anyone but scientists or journalists from reaching the Southern region of La Palma. In spite of this, commercials start to appear in Tenerife and Gran Canaria: "fly to La Palma, see the volcano". They have started to organize charter flights and cruises. Air tickets will be sold out in a few days, and the same will happen with places in ships and ferries. Everybody wants to see ME, the newborn Teneguía, everybody wants to hear my burning roars and see the island growing into the sea. In this year of 1971 La Palma airport in Mazo is only put into the regional category. Jets cannot land there and flights to the "Isla Bonita" ("Beautiful Island") must be served by propeller planes. It will be impossible to cover the demand even establishing extra flights. Lodgement facilities in La Palma will be also insufficient to cover the needs of the high number of visitors. Some liners make special stopover at Santa Cruz de La Palma.

Friday, 29 October 1971:
In view of the growing demand of people who want to meet ME, the Government finally allows visitors to come to ME. The island ring highway becomes a one-way road. Visitors must arrive near ME driving from the East, and go back later to Santa Cruz de La Palma driving over the Western and the Summit highways.
Thousands of visitors describe the show I am putting on as an impressive one. I "breath" at a rhythmic pace and a sort of giantic beat can be heard each two or three seconds; everytime when I spew up a new mass of matters and a jet of fire and smoke. They say that it is like a giant dragon breathing and roaring from the depth of the Earth. But it is not that, of course, it's ME who is here.
I have formed already a 200 mts. (650 feet) high cone-shaped hill which is growing by the hour.

Saturday, 30 October 1971:
Teneguía The third lava flow has reached the sea. From the Ocean it looks like the entire island of La Palma is burning and sinking into the waves. This is precisely what a famous American clairvoyant, who supposedly predicted in the past President Kennedy's murder, announced to the medias: "one of the Canary Islands will sink into the sea..." The Palmeros don't like at all such kind of prophecy.
I provoke frequent explosions, and quite a lot of the vineyards of the region have burned.

Sunday, 31 October 1971:
Fuencaliente, usually a quiet town, is overcrowded with visitors. Planes bound to La Palma fly over ME before taking the direction of the island airport. Pilots want to offer a good view of my fires and smoke to all passengers on both sides of the plane. The ships also stray off course before sailing to Santa Cruz de La Palma harbour; they sail along the coast where my lava flows make the water boil.
From the Northern shores of La Gomera and Tenerife can be seen, during the night, the red flame in the horizon which point out my presence, such a wonder: a volcano... Canarians are fascinated in front of ME. They fear ME, of course, and all the Saints and Virgins in the islands' churches and sanctuaries receive since centuries the prayers intended to appease us, to stop our lava flows. At the same time, WE volcanos win their hearts and fascinate them, like great wild beasts always do.

Monday, 1 November, to Sunday, 7 November 1971:
The week starts with the creation of a very active new crater amid a huge explosion which spread panic among the crowd of visitors and the television and filming teams who surrounded ME at this moment. The volume of lava I belch has increased by four.
In the middle of the week, lava coming out of my craters is rather colder and viscous. For this reason, possibly, lava forms a huge burning lake in its way down to the sea. I throw up in the air a jet of fire and burning matters which is 400 mts. (1.300 feet) high. Part of the hill I formed collapses in an impressive landslide.
I spew again a lot of fumes and cinders as the weekend approaches. On Saturday a huge slope collapses near Fuencaliente lighthouse, followed by big fumes and ashfall all over the region. Quite a lot of banana trees are burned by the hot ashes.

Monday, 8 November to Sunday, 14 November 1971:
On Monday, several visitors were intoxicated from inhaling my toxic fumes. They were too close to ME. The first aid teams managed to save their lives, but the police will charge them with violation of the safety limits which had been fixed. It was highly imprudent to break the safety cordon which was in place precisely to prevent such an incident. Some people do not realize that, inspite my fascinant and beautiful sight, I am one of the most destructive and dangerous forces of Nature that ever exist.
After a couple of days that I spent quietly belching lava, I suddenly alarm again everybody with explosions and with the creation of a new crater not far away from the old main one. Next day, two new craters open their mouths in the neighbourhood. Ashes falling incessantly over the sea provoke the appearance of a mysterious dark strip over the waves. The week ends with seven lava streams flowing down to the Ocean, earthquakes and big jets of fire which rise among a terrible underearth din.
Inspite of that, classes are resumed on Wednesday in the schools of Fuencaliente, since I don't put the town at risk.

Monday, 15 November to Sunday, 21 November 1971:
Explosions, big fumes, ashes... A huge amount of ashes fall over Fuencaliente Town Hall square. Scientists declare that I am a "disconcerting" volcano, they seem not to understand the rythm of my explosive phases followed by quiet lava flowing. On Wednesday I experience new increasing activity; a new lava stream adds its flow to the many others which are making the waves boil and gaining new lands for the island.
However, these fireworks are in fact the beginning of my farewell. At the end of the week I only give out fumes and ashes. Anyway, I have still time enough to destroy Albadalejos Beach, covering it with lava.
From now on I will say goodbye among fumes and heat which will last for several months.

Teneguía had a short life. The most impressive aspects of the eruption lasted scarcely a month. The flow of visitors stopped, although scientists continued to study the volcano for years after. And we, Canarians, we know very well that volcanos never say "good-bye" to us, but just "see you next time"...

Return to Canary Island Page