Canary Islands - Part 1

Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, El Hierro, La Gomera and La Palma are the 7 islands that make up the Canarian archipelago.

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At a bearing of 28º latitude North and 16º longitude West a group of 7 islands and numerous islets rise up out of the sea. With its warm climate and unusual landscapes, this archipelago has from time immemorial captivated those who reached its coasts.

The Canary Islands were never a part of any sunken continent. Their origin is quite different and much less romantic.

About 30 million years ago, in what is known as the Miocene period, a crack appeared in the African platform. The magma found a way to escape from inside the Earth and a group of volcanoes appeared on the Ocean bed. Over the next 28 million years, the expulsion of material occurred almost continuously and so by the time the Earth entered the Quaternary Era all of the islands, except for Hierro and the islets, had risen above the surface.

Volcanic activity also effected plant life on the islands. The continuous supply of new materials delayed the erosion process and so impeded the creation of soil where trees and bushes could grow.

Here, in the foothills of the highest volcano in the archipelago, Teide, the plants have taken another step in the adaptation process. Not only do they live in very poor soil, but they can also withstand differences in daytime and night time temperatures of up to 50º centigrade.

As the islands rose up from the depths reefs were created and a new eco-system appeared in the ocean. The marine flora found new ground on which to settle and the fauna found countless nooks and crannies where it could set up home and be safe from predators. The layer nearest the surface, and therefore also nearest the sun, was the most populated.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the islands every year. Many come in search of the sun. Others however are fascinated by its landscapes and by the volcanic activity still present on some of the islands.

The water vaporisation and plant-burning shows on the islet of Hilario in the Timanfaya national Park, are just some of the multiple tourist attractions created in recent years.

The same forces that created this natural paradise could bury it again under tonnes of lava. This may seem a catastrophe for Man, but for nature, it would be just another step in the construction of the archipelago, a project which has been under construction for over 30 million years and is still far from finished.

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