Thursday, October 28, 2021

BREAKING: Clocks to go back two years this weekend

It's that time of the year again (see previous post) and there's
BREAKING NEWS, as reported by Waterford Whispers News below:

''AUTUMN is well and truly underway with the biannual changing of the clocks to take place this coming weekend, however, this year will be slightly different to previous years as the clocks go back a record 24 months to the year 2019, WWN can report.

“Due to Daylight Saving Time, we normally put our clocks back 60 minutes on the last Sunday in October, but due to the worldwide Covid pandemic we have decided instead to reclaim the last two years,” explained Director of Clocks Going Back, David O’Clock, “hopefully this will give everyone back the time they’ve lost and there’s absolutely no need to thank us. You’re welcome”.

The move will see October 31st, 2021, become October 31st 2019, sparking mixed emotions from across the world.

“I personally think it’s a great idea,” stated Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who was due to hand over his leadership position to Leo Varadkar in December 2022, “this will be a great way to restart the roaring 20s all over again and give us time to get our party back up the polls”.

“I’d rather we change the trajectory of the earth using rocket boosters, so we crash and burn into the sun than relive another moment of 2020,” voiced one concerned man, “what sick fuck suggested this?”

Despite conflicting feelings over the two-year clock change, the Tokyo Olympics and Euro Football championships could be relaunched again in June, depending on if the clocks don’t go forward again by two years in March.

“Look, we’ll see how this goes for the time being,” David O’Clock added, “if the next year is worse than the previous two then we might just skip forward by three years to 2022 – leave it with me”. ''

© Waterford Whispers News  
(except image and heading, that's La Gomera Whistles News)

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Volcanic eruption in La Palma continues explosively

La Palma banana plantation worker covered in volcanic ash (Image source:facebook)

The volcanic eruption in La Palma (click for more), the westernmost Canary Island, continues unabated and the emitted lava has now destroyed more than 500 buildings.(Ed.: the church of Todoque has now fallen victim to the advancing first lava flow, which has reactivated due to fresh hot lave running under the previous  and already cooling stream). Most of the affected properties were vaporized by the over 1.000ºC hot lava which is over twelve metres thick in places. The shocking video below demonstrates the destructive power:

The eruption which started a week ago entered a more explosive phase on Wednesday, Sept. 22nd 2021, and the volcano now emits large volumes of lava, red-hot rocks, pyroclastic material, gases and ash. The plume over the volcano is up to six kilometres high at times and has even reached central Europe, while it forced the closure of La Palma's airport. Obviously La Gomera is getting a fine dusting, too and people are advised to wear a face covering for an entirely new reason now.
The image at the start of this post demonstrates the plight of La Palma's farmers. The island's banana crop alone contributes 50% to the island's economy. Large tracts of agricultural land have also been buried under the lava which will take a long time to cool down and decades to be of any use again.
Below is a drone video of the devastation, taken a few days ago: 

The government of the Canary Islands has pledged to buy over 200 properties to relocate residents who have lost everything and a major aid programme has started to distribute essential goods to the more than 6.000 evacuees.
Friends of mine who were living just above Todoque have lost everything as their house, workshop and organic farm were right in the middle of the first lava stream. 
If you'd like to make a donation, you can do so by sending money to one of the two accounts of the municipal administration of El Paso, under whose jurisdiction the affected area is and who are trustworthy to direct the funds without costs to aid those affected. I trust them and have just donated.

To: Ayuntamiento El Paso 
Reference/Message: Erupcion Volcanica 
Bank 1: LA CAIXA, CAIXESBBXXX,  IBAN: ES26 2100 7109 3122 0015 5652 
Bank 2: CAJA SIETE, BCOEESMM076, IBAN: ES57 3076 0480 6710 0761 6723 

Explosive phase:
The cone of the main eruption which has gained a height of over 250 metres in less than a week suffered a partial collapse of its western flank after another eruptive opening began spewing lava on its northern side.
The new lava is flowing at a pace of about 30 metres per hour towards the sea while initial main stream came almost to a stop in the town of Todoque, but is now slowly flowing again.
If and when the lava will reach the sea is still not clear, but once it interacts with the Atlantic it will cause further problems as explosions and toxic gases will be generated. 
(UPDATE Ed. Tues night: Since 11pm lava is now flowing freely into the sea, after igniting and demolishing more buildings, large covered banana plantations, and the farmers co-operative building with stocks of fertilizer, which caused some toxic explosions. No personal damages are reported thanks to the precautions taken. There's now about 700 buildings destroyed or severely damaged. The eruption continues strongly and further earthquakes, some of around 3.3, were registered tonight in the vicinity of the the new volcano, suggesting a further push of fresh lava)
The tremor remains steadily strong, there are fairly regular minor quakes and some rockfalls have been reported.
How explosive the volcano has been lately can be appreciated in the video below which also captured the major explosions that shattered window panes miles away from the volcano:

Monday, September 20, 2021

Significant volcanic eruption in La Palma

Image of the new volcano taken Sunday night. Source: C7/ISMAEL SANTANA / MOISÉS RODRÍGUEZ

Just when you've had a quiet Sunday out in nature and not bothering to check yet again the recent swarm of minor earthquakes in La Palma Island, La Gomera's western neighbour, you come home late after a meal and few beers and the morning's worries are confirmed.

There's a significant volcanic eruption on La Palma in the Cumbre Viejo area and about 2.000 people have been evacuated as a precaution while the first house was engulfed by the lava flow. According to the Canary Islands press, police are preparing to evacuate several thousand more. Several hundred tourists have been evacuated and given accommodation in safe areas, according to local press.
(UPDATE Monday morning: Now more than 5.000 people have been evacuated and more than 100 houses were engulfed by the lava flow)

In the municipal areas affected (El Paso, Los Llanos de Aridane, Tazacorte) schools have suspended classes. The military emergency unit UME has been sent to La Palma island. There are no reports of any personal injuries, but several houses have been damaged by lava.
Fred. Olsen ferries have already given priority to emergency crews going to La Palma island and some regular passengers were refused boarding its service on Sunday, so any intending passengers should check with their ferry company if they can travel.

Image taken Sunday night, Sept. 20th 2021 (Source:

The eruption is said to extend to two fissures with eight active craters separated by a distance of two hundred metres. The main crater extends to a fissure of 150 metres. The volcanic eruption started Sunday, Sept. 19th 2021 after 3 pm.

The Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez cancelled his visit to New York to go to La Palma instead and has assured the citizens of La Palma that their safety is assured and that any damages will be covered by his government. The king of Spain has pledged his 'all his support' for the people of La Palma to the Canarian president.

Live video of the eruption can be seen on Canary Islands' main TV station RTVC.

The alert level has been changed from yellow straight to RED, skipping amber.

This being a developing situation, I'll close for now as I need some sleep and will be posting more soon...

UPDATE Monday 20-09-2021, 3:15pm:
Just 24 hours after the begin of the eruption it was expected that the first lava could reach the sea tonight, after widening and flowing through a more populated area. 
There are now three main Lava flows, each of several metres thickness, advancing slowly towards the coast at a speed of about 700 metres per hour. More houses and farmland in their path have been destroyed.

UPDATE Tuesday 21-09-2021: 
A further crater has opened late yesterday and scientists say more may open. By now more than 200 houses have been destroyed and more than 6.000 people are now evacuated. The lave has still not reached the sea and has now entered the town of Todoque, slowing further and widening its path. It's still not clear when it will interact with the Atlantic, but it is now not far away anymore. The seismic activity continues with regular tremors, a few of which were felt all over La Palma island.

Below a map of probabilities of lava flow and resulting danger areas:

A plume of ash, gases and fumes has been blowing towards and over La Gomera as far as the western coast of Africa, which was observed from space. The image of the emissions was taken late on Monday (below):

Source: Copernicus

Below a map of seismic activity on La Palma over the two weeks before the eruption. The strongest quake measured 4.2 on the Richter scale:

(Source: Instituto Geografico Nacional)

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Into The West

Taguluche and Alojera with its beautiful beach are two villages in La Gomera's west that are both well worth exploring... 

Thursday, August 05, 2021

Earth tremor in La Gomera

There has been a minor earthquake of magnitude 2.1 registered on Tuesday morning, Aug. 3rd 2021, at 03:17 am. The tremor occurred at a depth of 14 kilometres and W-NW of the island's capital San Sebastian de La Gomera at latitude 28.0996, longitude -17.1381. The event was not felt by anyone, but comes as a bit of a surprise because La Gomera is considered volcanically dead, while all neighbouring islands are still active.


Tuesday, June 08, 2021

La Gomera video from the 1950s

Above video was shot as a b/w 8mm film all around La Gomera island in the 1950s by some Austrian academics and explorers. To watch, just click on 'Watch this video on YouTube', the first three minutes are a bit boring, though. For those familiar with the island this video is a real gem as it shows how different life was then and the infrastructure that's in place now was almost non-existent just one generation back. In most places in La Gomera there wasn't even electricity and the island was called 'The Forgotten Island' or 'The Lost Island'. 
For those interested, a book translated into English by Barbara Clayton called 'Tales from the Lost Island' by author Jose Miguel Trujillo Ascanio is a well-written fascinating book and highly recommended. It's available in some shops in La Gomera (ISBN 84-922526-2-6). 
Sadly the commentary and soundtrack of the above film has been lost, but the images speak for themselves. I do not know who holds the copyright of the film, but it was published recently by the 'Valle Gran Rey...was geht?!' Facebook page.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Prickly Pear Cactus in La Gomera

Prickly Pear (Opuntia) in La Gomera. There are literally millions of these plants all over the island.

 The Prickly Pear cactus, locally called Tunera, has spread all over La Gomera island since its introduction from Mexico many years ago and is considered an invasive species. The delicious and vitamin-rich fruit are still eaten and jams are also made from them. Be careful when picking the fruit also known as 'cactus figs', because their very thin glass-like spikes penetrate skin easily and cause pain for a few days thereafter. The local method to remove the spines from the fruit is to half-fill a bucket with them and top it up with water. Then stir the prickly pears vigorously in the water so the spines break off, drain the bucket and repeat a couple of times.
Should you ever get the spikes into your skin, just put vinegar repeatedly on the affected area and the embedded spines will gradually dissolve.

Below is more on the Prickly Pear cactus and the red dye provided by the cochineal lice on them by Writer Damien Enright in his recent La Gomera article in the Irish Examiner newspaper:

''...On Sunday morning, looking out the bedroom window before the sun struck the fields, I saw an elderly man and his wife harvesting avocados from the trees.
Beyond them, a schoolboy was energetically attacking a stand of cactus with a stick, There was a time when his grandfather might well have taken a stick to the boy. The cactus was once the basic food for an industry that brought wealth to these, then isolated, Canary islands.

Pre-teenage boys take it to be their duty to punish weeds. I’ve seen my sons thrashing nettles; my brother and I vigorously attacked these icons of herbal medicine when we were children. Visitors to the Canaries will be very familiar with the tunera or “plate” cactus, the edges of which sprout red, prickly pears, delicious when the spines are burnt off. On the plates, colonies of small, dark beetles like truncated woodlice gather under a white, waxy “spider” webs, secreted to protect them from the sun.

The Aztecs first used these cochineal beetles for dyes. By the 17th century the colouring of fabrics had become an important European industry and cochineal dye from Spain’s South American colonies was a commodity equal to gold and silver. Wisely, just before Mexico became independent in 1836, they introduced the beetles to the Canaries where the Opuntia cactus on which they feed was already successfully producing the prickly pear fruit. The climate and temperature were perfect.
It’s hard to believe that these innocuous, apparently torpid insects are the source of a dye redder than blood. It was originally used for textiles and ill-advisedly for the brilliant scarlet tunics worn by British officers during the Indian Mutiny and at Rorke’s Drift in the Zulu wars. The colour could only have made them easier targets for the enemy.

The dye, being natural and non-toxic, was used to colour sweets and icing, and for flavouring, medicines and cosmetics. Plantations of cochineal-laden cactus made fortunes for their owners and were also a life-saving peasant industry; the cactus escaped, went wild and the beetles followed. The females produce the dye. Typically harvested by hand, they could also easily be transferred to the plates of wild plants. In fact, they need no help to create new colonies. Female nymphs crawl to the tops of cacti, and use wind to disperse to others, travelling up to several metres.
Female crawlers that successfully and safely land find a suitable spot, insert their mouthparts and feed off the cactus for the rest of their lifespan which is around 70 to 90 days. After three weeks of feeding, moulting and undergoing physical change, they lay eggs that produce 1,100 to 1,250 successful offspring. They are harvested close to their natural deaths, so that they grow as large as possible.

As for the males, they are much fewer. Unlike the wingless females, they can fly. It is the duty of a solitary male to fly from plant to plant and cope with about 300 females for the purpose of reproduction. The industry survived in La Gomera until the early 20th century, when synthetic dyes replaced the carminic acid produced by the beetles. When demand collapsed large scale immigration to Cuba and Venezuela was the only option for many smallholders.

Cochineal is still produced in Lanzarote and Gran Canaria although synthetic dyes have made the breeding and harvesting of the cochineal beetle too costly and labour-intensive. It requires 70,000 beetles to provide a single pound of cochineal dye as well as the labour of, largely, a lot of women wearing layers of protective clothing against the cactus thorns when gathering the beetles.
Historically, women scraped the insects into flat metal trays. The trays would then be placed in ovens for the insects to toast. They were also put into boiling water and later dried in the sun. Another method involved mixing the insects with black sand in a linen bag several feet long which would then be swung back and forth by men holding each end of the bag until the juices seeped out.

Up to 3,000 tonnes of cochineal were annually produced in 1870s. Now, the market is much smaller, but significant production still occurs of possibly 200 to 700 tonnes. Insect welfare advocates and vegans argue that the annual death toll of the cochineal beetles is likely five to 20 trillion and that cochineal should be entirely replaced by synthetic dyes.

However, adversely, the naturalness of cochineal dyes makes them popular for high-end consumer goods and natural foods. In 2012, after it became public that they used insect-derived dyes in drinks, Starbucks bowed to consumer pressure and switched to tomato-derived dyes.'' (DAMIEN ENRIGHT)

Thursday, April 01, 2021

New police station to be opened in former 'Bar Maria'

Canarian police in action near 'Bar Maria' on their recent stint in Valle Gran Rey (image: Ayuntamiento V.G.R.)

After several years on the property market, the legendary landmark hostelry 'Bar Maria', aka 'Bar Las Journadas' and 'Casa Maria', remains unsold (see previous post) and the building is beginning to deteriorate. For many years a popular meeting spot for locals and visitors with its bar, restaurant and basic tourist accommodation, the site occupies a strategic location on the beachfront in La Playa, Valle Gran Rey. 
Recently La Gomera's Spanish Guardia Civil police force received support from the Canarian police when ten officers of the latter were sent to Valle Gran Rey to help enforce the multitude of measures and restrictions imposed due to coronavirus fears. This police force had not been seen in the municipality previously, but their presence had been requested by the local administration (Ayuntamiento) recently.
However, these officers had to withdraw to their base in Tenerife after about a week due to insufficient space at the Guardia Civil station and lack of suitable accommodation. They are however returning for the Easter holidays, as tougher restrictions and nightly curfews are now in force. Last time they made their presence widely felt, controlling and checking such important matters as the wearing and correct fitting of face coverings by tourists and locals out for a stroll along the beachfront.
New police station 
It has just been confirmed that an agreement has been reached with the help of the Ayuntamiento between the owners of 'Bar Maria' and the Policia Canaria to house about a dozen officers for a longer period there. The Canarian police will  have use of the premises initially for a period of three years and will adapt the building to their needs.
The former dining room will become the main office where a counter with protective glass screens as well as a waiting area will be sectioned-off to accommodate interaction with the public. The separate bar area with its historic huge wooden fridge will become the ''officers mess and recreation area'' while the small commercial kitchen behind it will just need a clean-up. There is plenty of basic accommodation overhead suitable for police officers. Two of the smallest and most basic former guest rooms will be turned into temporary holding cells for apprehended offenders. Initially there is no major redevelopment planned and all alterations will be carried out so they can be changed back if and when the officers leave.
However, it has been disclosed that the Canarian government (under whose control the Policia Canaria is and who provide the funding) has secured an option to purchase the premises as ''the building's two levels of roof terraces (azoteas) offer sweeping views over wide areas of Valle Gran Rey and its coastline, making it ideal for police surveillance work and this may remain needed in the future''.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Roque Agando in the morning mist

La Gomera's emblematic Roque Agando is the most prominent of a group of volcanic plugs called Los Roques. The others are named Roque Ojila and Roque Zarcita, and sometimes Roque Carmona and Roque Las Lajas are also included.
Agando rises to 1250 metres beside the main road leading west from the island's capital San Sebastián just before Garajonay National Park in the centre of the island.
The summit is not accessible and climbing it is not permitted as it forms part of a protected area.
Historic remains left by the indigenous Guanche tribes have been found on the summit and these were in good condition until the 1980s, when they were ''disturbed and looted by a German group making a documentary film''.