Three active volcanoes in Terceira

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Ostatnia aktualizacja: 2020-04-22. Autor: Milena

Three active volcanoes in Terceira, 26 in total in the whole Azores. Including 8 submarine.

I’ve decided to tell you about volcanoes and earthquakes in the Azores. Why? First of all, the Azores are volcanic islands. If it wasn’t for the volcanoes, the Azores wouldn’t exist. Second of all, I hear sometimes questions when was the last eruption and if I’m not afraid. I’ll answer the second question at the end. At the beginning, some facts.

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In São Miguel, the biggest island in the archipelago of the Azores, has the biggest quantity of active volcanoes – 5. In Terceira there three active volcanoes (no, Algar do Carvão is not considered to be active), the same in Faial. There are two active volcanoes both in Graciosa and in Pico (the Mount Pico in Pico Island, 2351 m above sea level, is at the same time the highest mountain of Portugal). In Flores, Corvo and São Jorge they have only one active volcano (one on each of these islands). There are no active volcanoes in Santa Maria Island.

The Azores are located on a junction of three tectonic plates: the Eurasian plate, the African plate and the North American plate.

On this area, thanks to the volcanic activity, the Azores were created. The oldest island, Santa Maria, has around 8,1 million years, Terceira – around 3,52 million years, and the youngest, Pico, around 0,27 million years. And it’s the youngest island that has the highest mountain, how can it be?

trzy czynne wulkany, Pico, Azory
Somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean; in the background the highest mountain of Portugal – Mount Pico in Pico Island, 2351 m above sea level

The junction of tectonic plates means the volcanic and seismic activity. The location in the middle of the ocean – dependence on the ocean and wind. Thus, the history of the Azores is a history of the volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and storms. The Azorean for centuries had to deal not only with the changing weather but also with cataclysms. It influenced their attitude towards life. Maybe that’s why the Portuguese peace (article only in Polish) is even more visible here than in Portugal mainland.

The last eruption in Terceira took place in 1761.

It was preceded by lowered activity of fumaroles in Furnas do Enxofre and foreshocks. We owe the area of Mistérios Negros to this eruption – the area of my favourite walking trail in Terceira.

Trzy czynne wulkany, Mistérios Negros
Terceira, Mistérios Negros

The last eruption near Terceira took place in 1998-2000. It was a submarine eruption close to Serreta. It was a new, unknown by then type of volcanic eruption, called later with the name of that village. The same volcano erupted also earlier, in 1867, shortly after a procession, during which local people prayed for the end of the seismic shocks. And in fact, the eruption ceased the shocks. Until now, on the 31st of May there’s always a procession to commemorate those events.

The last eruption on land in the Azores took place in 1957-1958 in the island of Faial.

It’t that island that has 3 active volcanoes. One of them is Capelinhos volcano. The eruption of Capelinhos enlarged Faial Island by 2,5 sq km. Sea erosion has left half of it – still a lot. Although the eruption didn’t have any fatalities, it’s changed life of many families forever. After that eruption the USA, basing on a bilateral agreement with Portugal, issued 1500 visas for the habitants of the Azores. This number increased, emigrants were bringing to the USA their families – and up to 1990 over 100 thousand Azoreans emigrated to the USA. Some of them due to the lack of livelihood, others – to improve their life situation.

You might have heard about the year 1980. In that year there was an earthquake in Terceira.

On the 1st of January, 1980, it was warm and sunny. Most of the families were resting after the New Year’s Eve outside, enjoying the nice weather. Their joy didn’t last long. At 3:42 p.m. they felt a shock – 7.2 on the Richter scale. The Epicenter was located around 35 km southwest of Angra. The earthquake was felt in Terceira, São Jorge and Graciosa. 73 people died, over 400 were injured, at least 2000 were left homeless.

In the eyes of other people I can see fear when they talk about it. As if they still had all of that in front of their eyes.

Destroyed houses, collapsed roofs, debris on the streets. A picture as after a war. The Portuguese and the American army reacted immediately and sent help. People were reconstructing everything, especially the most destroyed Angra, as Polish people Warsaw after the war.

I’m not telling it to scare you.

I’m telling you that so that you have a better picture of the situation. As a Polish psychologist and speaker, Jacek Walkiewicz, was telling – journeys educate educated people. You can’t get to know a place and it’s habitants without knowing it’s history. It’s the history that impacts the present. It impacts the way of living, the way of thinking.

In the Azores there are seismic shocks every day, but not every day you can feel them. Some them you can feel. A friend who used to live in São Miguel was telling about glass shaking in her windows. Another one about a storm in a glass of water – literally. I once felt aftershocks – and for two months was checking seismological messages every day.

Trzy czynne wulkany, Furnas, São Miguel
São Miguel, Furnas

How do you live with awereness that something can erupt at any moment?

Normally. You don’t think about it. Um dia de cada vez – one day at a time. I always say that the Azores are not the Hawaii. Not even Iceland. Here the volcanic activity is lower. You can see it for example in Furnas in São Miguel or in Furnas do Enxofre in Terceira. Fumaroles, smoke coming out, bubbling mud. A part of the landscape. After all, we owe the volcanoes that the Azores exist at all. And no, I’m not afraid. I’m happy because I have a beautiful view. A smile on your face and go ahead.

Um dia de cada vez.

trzy czynne wulkany, Serra do Cume, Ryft Terceira
Terceira, a view from Serra do Cume for Caldera of Five Peaks (Caldeira dos Cinco Picos) and Terceira Rift; in the background Serra de Santa Bárbara (the highest point of Terceira, 1021 m above sea level)

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