Not your average jacuzzi

This month, tourists travel to the Canary region not for the usual sun, sand and serenity, but to observe and study the result of tectonic activity in the earth’s crust. From the most south-western Canary Island, El Hierro, jacuzzi-like bubbling water with a white centre surrounded by a green mass of water is visible, sometimes spewing out magma 20 metres in the air. Underwater surveys reveal two newly formed vents 70 metres beneath the surface of the ocean. The surrounding water, as shown in the picture, is stained green due to the sulphur gas emitted from the vents.

So what caused this new island to develop? The volcanic activity is a result of the Canarian hotspot, currently situated beneath the Hierro Island. As the keen geologists and geographers among you will know, this group of volcanic islands is formed by a magma plume in the Earth’s lithosphere – the intense heat of which can melt the crust above it – allowing magma through to the surface.

The African tectonic plate, on which the islands are located, shifts position causing different areas of the earth’s crust to be subjected to this heat. When the magma reaches the surface, it reaches the cool ocean waters of the Atlantic Ocean and solidifies to the rock that forms the islands we see. This is how each of the seven major volcanic islands were formed, including popular Spanish holiday destinations Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and Tenerife.

An estimated 537 residents of the southernmost town in the Canaries, La Regista, were instructed to gather on a local football field to be briefed on evacuation procedures, and the Spanish army was put on standby for mass evacuation. These residents claim that the incident caused them an estimated €4 million in lost earnings from local businesses.

Spain’s general elections are to be held on the 20th November and there are concerns that the new government will take up to fifty days to become fully functional and provide support to the area. Therefore a petition claiming additional aid is being circulated to secure aid should it be required.

Scientists have now ruled out any imminent eruption of the volcano, although they admit that there is still a possibility of future shocks. Perhaps future eruptions will entail the construction of a new island for humans to inhabit and where Brits can migrate each summer to nurture our obligatory sunburns.


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