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La Palma’s Ridge of Fire

The La Palma volcano is relatively small, yet full of energy, and it has a total of five vents, all strung out in a north to south line. This in itself, indicates that the volcano is in fact a crack in a fault line, and we get this confirmed by taking a look at a map of the island.

Zooming in on the southern tip of La Palma, where the current eruption is taking place, we see that the volcano is but one of many small craters strung out in a north to south line. This line extends south from a large crater in the center of the island. There are also a number of small craters strung out to the north of the large crater.

Zooming in on the large crater, we see that it doesn’t appear to be volcanic. It looks more like the scarred remains of a landslide, as if the entire central part of the island once slid into the Atlantic on the island’s western side. It appears that the island once cracked, with a substantial part of it tumbling into the ocean. The tsunami that this caused must have been enormous, especially if it happened as one big catastrophic event, rather than gradually over several months.

It’s hard to see something like this without being reminded of ancient stories of mountains of fires being tossed into the sea. There are also more recent events, such as the Krakatoa eruption of 1883 that serve as reminders that islands do explode, collapse and emerge with little prior warning. If the current eruption on La Palma continues unabated, and we get a ridge of fire, splitting the island’s southern part into two, there’s a risk that we’ll see a land slide similar to what has happened before.

La Palma is situated on a fault line that separates America from Africa. This pulls the western part of the island towards America at a faster rate than its eastern side, and hence we get a ridge of fire down its middle where stress is released in the form of eruptions and lava flows. The center of the island is situated on a pool of magma that rises up and makes it soft and liable to collapse whenever it’s under stress.

Rinjani 1994.jpg
Violent volcanic eruption
By Oliver Spalt, CC BY 2.0, Link

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