Capelinhos - A must see on Faial
A visit to Faial would not be complete without a stop in Capelinhos. This is the area where the last volcanic eruption in all of the Azores occurred. The picture above shows the land mass created by the volcano in the background. In the foreground is land that was covered in ash and very little grows there, 5 decades later!
The eruption happened over a thirteen month period from 1957-58 and an entire town was buried in ash from the eruption. The area is fascinating to see because even 50 years later the land is harsh with little vegetation and very interesting rock formations.
The only nearby building that was not buried by the eruption was the lighthouse (shown above), and even its first floor is covered by the ash. The picture above shows the new landmass that was formed as a result of the year long eruption. The lighthouse is 8 storeys high, so this gives you an idea of how tall the new land area is. And I can tell you it is 2.4 square kilometers. An entire village was buried by the ash. My dad recalls seeing a picture of his uncle visiting the area just after the end of the eruption and standing where the steeple of a church is visible through the dirt.
This lighthouse and the area around it has become a major tourist attraction. I had the opportunity to visit it on a very windy day in November 2009. The government has done a good job of preserving the lighthouse and building an information and educational facility. The educational and information facility is underground so that the area is preserved as best as possible for visitors to be able to get a sense of what occured there decades ago
Thousands of people had to be evacuated from the area during the period of the eruption and many of them emigrated to Canada and the United States. My father and my grandparents had emigrated from Sao Miguel to Canada in 1958 (not because of the volcanic eruption on Faial) and later that same year they had people who lost their homes in Faial come to stay with them.
There are many properties like this one that I took a picture of near Capelinhos. My imagination leads me to believe that these properties were abandoned during the time of the volcanic eruption
Capelinhos is on the island of Faial (click here for more on Faial)
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