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Book Excerpts

Canary Islands Archipelago

Canary Islands

There are eight islands which comprise the archipelago of the Canary Islands.  They are found 100 miles off the coast of Morocco in West Africa. The islands include El Hierro, La Gomera, Tenerife, La Palma, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. The capital city of the archipelago is shared between Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Santa Cruz on La Palma.  In geological terms Tenerife is the most mature of the islands whereas the western most islands are still growing and the eastern islands are eroding into the sea. Sea level rise, world pollution, plastics and oil spills do affect these remotely located islands. Oil from pleasure craft yachts can be seen covering the surface of the water in very fine films. Contrary to typical thinking, the islands were named the Canaries due to large dogs that were found by the original discoverers, not birds that are on the island. Please find more information here and here,-16.0519242,7.83z. 




Tenerife is the most mature of the 7 or more islands of the Canary Island Archipelago. 

On the islands of Tenerife many interesting activities can be found including banana plantation farming, giant aloe plant productions, volcano hiking, kitesurfing and surfing at El Medano Beach, dining on octopus Gallician Style at sea side restaurants, swimming in the North Atlantic Ocean at Masca Beach, teenagers frolicking at Playa de las Americas for spring break vacations, ancient lava flows at Los Gigantes and an interesting multilingual cultural environment. The third largest volcano in the world and the largest in Spain, El Teide is found on Tenerife.  This mountain volcano towers to 12,198 ft or higher and is the most visited peak in Spain. Volcano enthusiasts can ride the gondola near to the top and hikers, with a permit, can go all the way to the summit.


La Gomera

Just cross the channel from Tenerife is La Gomera. On this island can be found the ancient tradition of whistling Silbo Gomera.

Please watch this video from youtube to hear the whistled language that has over 4000 words.


La Palma

Also known as San Miguel de la Palma, this northwesterly island has 86,000 inhabitants and two major cities. Santa Cruz de la Palma, its capital city is also one of the capital cities of the entire archipelago. 


Please consult other internet resources and wikipedia for factual data information to complete chart on the rest of the islands. Also, consider ordering Pia Lord's book Tenerife for use in the classroom and learning about island archipelagos.












 El Teide

El Teide 

The highest peak in Spain's mountains and volcanic regions lies on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands.  Year after year, this dormant volcano continues to attract visitors, scientists, and hikers to its peaks. The last eruption occurred in 1979 and rumblings have been felt by local residents periodically over the years.  El Teide is a stratovolcano similar to Mt. Stromboli and Mt. Vesuvius in Italy and considered active by scientists  El Teide has a caldera which is 10.5 miles long and named La Caldera de las Canadas. The trip to the station and viewing platform is by enclosed cable car, rising to nearly 3,718 meters.


The Masca Gorge


In the highlands of northwestern Tenerife, the Masca Gorge rises high into the steep ravines of the countryside. A three hour hike can bring you down to the waters edge of the Atlantic Ocean to a completely lava boulder beach, no sand required. Throughout the Masca Gorge can be found the giant aloe plants from which local residents make aloe products including aloe gels, aloe jams, aloe beverages.  In addition the prickly pear bush prevails in this remote island countryside.  Artisan products are also made from this fruit.

Yachts and peasure boats enjoy the local coastline of the Masca Gorge which can only be accessed via hike or boat ride. Yet remote, it is nevertheless impacted by human  waste and pollution. More people should hike to the Masca Gorge area beach rather than go by powerboats which leak oil on the water surface.

Canary Island Human and Cultural Geography

 Cultural Geography-Man and Natural Environment in the Books/ Excerpts Section

The human geography of Tenerife, the largest and most populated of the islands, includes agriculture and land use, sports, economic resources-tourism, and science activities.

Agriculture and Land use-The agriculture of Tenerife includes banana plantations, aloe production from giant aloe plants, and honey production from honey bees of Tenerife. Giant aloe plants are used for food jellies, lotions, artistic renderings. Honey production is done on a local basis and then sold in the small local grocery stores. Other agricultural products include tomatoes and eggplants. The octopus is widely used in gourmet cooking, and shrimp and fish in the paella is popular and common.

Sports-With a Tenerife population of 880,000 surging to 5 million in the high summer season, surfing, kite surfing, swimming, kayaking and boating are extremely popular. El Medano beach is the main kite surfing area.  The southerly winds blow daily and steadily across El Medano which brings out a plethora of kites and surf boarders. World competitions, rental shops, private surfers participate at different times. El Medano and Tajita are right next to each other, but are for more experienced surfers. At the Masca Gorge after a three-hour hike exploring the inner regions of the northwestern side of Tenerife, intrepid fearless swimmers swim down the coast to Los Gigantes. Kayakers can also be seen accompanying these swimmers as well as ferries and boaters do cross channels trips over to neighboring La Gomera.

Environmental Impacts-Boating and yachting are two of the greatest concerns to the water quality of the Canary Islands.  While seemingly in a remote area of the world and the Atlantic Ocean, island water quality can yet be impacted by luxury powerboats spilling oil and gasoline fumes over the water.  When a flurry of party boats congregates together in a small harbor or bay around the island, their exhaust will contaminate or pollute the water. Films of oil on the surface of the water can be seen by swimmers looking up from under the water.

Resources for Economy-Tourism is a major industry in the Canary Islands. Over 5 million people visit Tenerife annually. Tourists come from all over Europe, Asia, Russia, United States, South America and the British Isles. Tourism activities include swim holidays, hoteling, dining, boat rentals, diving holidays, kayaking holidays, surfing and hiking holidays.  While some tour operators are from other countries they coordinate many of their activities through rental companies on Tenerife. In addition, car rental companies and airlines contribute to tourist holidays. There are now two major airports on Tenerife, Tenerife North and South. In addition, the volcano gondola ride is a major tourist attraction as well as astronomy nights at the observatory and tours of the solar observatories are enjoyed by paying tourists. El Teide, is a National Park as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With El Teide, the volcano of Tenerife, the Astronomy Observatory of the Canaries, and island geology, the science holidays are well covered in Tenerife alone.   Geologists and tourists flock to ride the gondola which brings visitors to the observation and exploration platform of El Teide.  With a permit, anyone can go further and hike to the top of the volcano via three different routes, hiking shoes, water, sunscreen, warm clothes and determination.

Science Activities- Rocks and various volcanic basaltic materials can be found on El Teide as well as giant pine cones from pine trees which cover the forested area on the approach to the volcano. The trip up to the volcano passes through from sea level, alpine region, cloud levels, sun glint level to a height of 7000 meters from the sea floor.  El Teide is considered by Spain to be the highest point in Spain, rising to 21,000 ft from the sea floor. It is also considered by some scientists to be the highest volcano in the world when measured from the sea floor, not from sea level.

The Masca Gorge was created in a post eruption lava flow area of the Teno Massif region of northwest Tenerife.  There were two volcanic eruptions in this region. The volcanoes are Volcano de Palmar and Volcano Teno Alto which can be seen on the Google Earth picture. Acantilados de Los Gigantes is the coastal region which shows huge post caldera collapse over flow lavas. The Masca gorge itself is filled with giant aloe plants. The geology of the gorge likely occurred in the eruption of the Volcan de Palmar.

Most evenings and days at the Astronomy Observatory on Tenerife are great for viewing from the large telescopes.  There are many telescopes including two solar telescopes for constant study of the sun. The Observatory sits at 2390 m or 7800 ft elevation, above the cloud line. The Astronomy Institute of the Canaries is found here



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