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Introducing the Tunnel to Atlantis (Jameos del Aqua)

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  • Location: Coventry,Warwickshire
  • Location: Coventry,Warwickshire

My intention is to produce a series of articles (depending on interest) which introduces ideas about volcanic and earthquake activity. I want to go slightly off the beaten track to explore oddities, volcano hazards, analysis methods, Wonders and Mankind’s impacts. Keep in mind I am not expert (corrections gratefully received), but hopefully these will at least give a flavour of some different places in the world and provide a few minutes escape from people’s troubles.

Introducing the Tunnel to Atlantis and Jameos Del Aqua



Reason for Interest
Perhaps it is because it is one of the spiritual homes of Vulcanology or perhaps it is a place I have seen it and been stunned by. This really is one of the wonders of the world and it is my pleasure to introduce you to despite this straying a little from previous posts which were more volcano focused.

The Setting

Lanzarote is located 7 miles north-east of Fuerteventura with dimensions 37 miles from north to south and 16 miles from west to east. Lanzarote and its geologically similar neighbour, Fuertaventura are the oldest canary islands. Often called the "Island of Eternal Spring"  Lanzarote has a subtropical desert climate with the small amount of precipitation mainly concentrated in the winter. Rainfall during summer is a rare phenomenon and very often summers are completely dry without any precipitation. Sometimes, the hot sirocco wind prevails, causing dry and dusty conditions across the island. Life changed with the development by naval engineer Manuel Díaz Rijo of the first early desalination plant. Lanzarote  has been a benchmark in which other parts of the world have been inspired to treat water. Plants have adapted to the relative scarcity of water in the same way as succulents and include the Canary Island date palm  which is found in damper areas of the north, the Canary Island pine, ferns, and wild olive trees.

Settled by the Genoese, Lancelotto Malocello in the early 14th century, Lanzarote’s volatile past had created large mountain ranges in the north, at Famara, and in the south at Ajaches. But the island was to witness the longest volcanic eruptive incident in history when, in 1730 the land around Timanfaya opened up and for the next six years rained fire, lava and ash across the face of the island, blocking out the sun and altering the landscape beyond recognition. The 1730 eruption of Timanfaya was the third largest basaltic fissure eruption of historical times, after Laki  and Ejdgja in Iceland. It lasted 68 months and produced 700 million cubic meters of lava from over 30 vents. It was the largest Canary Island eruption within the last 500 years.

 Away from the tourist centers you will find an island of uniform, white houses standing proud against their volcanic palette of muted colours. At its northern center the still proud former capital of Teguise has given over its quaint cobbled streets and pretty houses to artists and restaurants while the windy northern cliffs and endless golden sands of Famara provide an unrivalled playground for surfers. At the playa Orzola or Carleton Blanco beaches in the north can be found a wonderful sandy beachs with virtually no visitors.


The Museo Atlantico can be found offshore on the seabed near Playa Blanca which is the brainchild of Jason deCaires Taylor where between 12 and 15 meters below the waves lies a raft haunted by sculpted refugees, a sunken couple taking a selfie and rows of Lanzarote residents immortalized in the Atlantic.

César Manrique

Born in Lanzarote he moved to Madrid where he studied at the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando and graduated as art professor and painter. He prospered in Madrid, Paris and New York and became an internationally acclaimed artist, whose paintings were exhibited across Europe as well as in Japan and the United States. He returned to Lanzarote in 1968 with the intention to make it one of the most beautiful places on the planet. With his imagination bizarre volcanic forms were adapted and converted into unique pieces of art in complete harmony with their natural origins. 

Due to Manrique Lanzarote has been spared the worst of over development who persuaded the powers that be to forbid the building of high rise hotels and the display of advertising billboards. While there has been a large amount of construction, dwellings on Lanzarote retain a minimalist simplicity, externally, being painted only in white, green and blue.



The Tectonic Settings

The island of Lanzarote is located is in the north eastern part of the canary islands and in alignment with the island of Fuerteventura. The two islands constitute the emergent part of the East Canary Ridge a volcanic structure located on the oceanic crust. The East Canary Ridge consists of several uplifted blocks of oceanic basement mantled with Lanzarote having a shallow basement, probably about 4–5km thick as deduced from seismic profiles.

The origin of magmatism in the Canaries have been a subject of debate for a long time and it is popularly believed that the origin of oceanic intraplate volcanism is related to a mantle plume or Hot spot. With the most youthful islands being in the west this would suggest a migrating hot spot, but would not explain why Islands like Lanzarote see renewed volcanism. Other theories which have been suggested are a propagating fracture which is an extension to the  trans-Agadir fault, a local extensional ridge: there was a regional extensional structure, uplifted tectonic blocks,  a unifying model suggesting the origin of the magmas is a mantle anomaly. Probably the best explanation I have seen is that rather than a plume from the mantle boundary that there is a broken subducted sheet which finds it way upwards through fractures caused by twisting of the crust due to the rotation of the Maghreb sub plate.



Lava Tubes

 During long eruptions lava flows tend to become channeled into a few main streams. Lava streams that flow steadily in a confined channel for many hours to days may develop a solid crust or roof and, thus, change gradually into underground lava streams called lava tubes. When the supply of lava stops at the end of an eruption lava in the tube system drains leaving partially empty conduits beneath the ground. This leaves a partially empty tube that is called a lava tube cave. Roof collapses of lava tubes are rather common as the roofs tend to be rather thin as a result of the way it formed. 

Jameos del Agua

Jameos del Agua is a series of lava tubes in northern Lanzarote which Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth once described as the eighth wonder of the world. The lava tunnel was created by lava flows that emerged from the La Corona volcano in Haria some 21,000 years ago.


It is 6km in length, 1.5km of which runs under the sea. The whole lava tube structure is known as the Tunnel to Atlantis due to the large section submerged under the sea. César Manrique’s on his return to Lanzarote in the 1960s took on a project to transform  part of the partially collapsed lava tube into a glamourous blend of architecture and nature to show off how architecture can be used to maintain the harmony between man and nature. He took a partially collapsed section of the lave tube and built a nightclub, swimming pool and concert hall which has become the tourist attraction known today as Jameos del Aqua.


 A winding volcanic staircase lined with leafy vegetation leads you into the first smaller cave, Jameo Chico. At the bottom of the staircase you find a natural saltwater lagoon which is home to several rare species of white blind crabs.  Skirting around the lake you come to a wining and dining area with a dance floor. This is home to the Jameos Music Festival, and has been described as  the best nightclub in the world. Following a winding path upwards there are a number of secluded seating areas in various nooks and crannies and a small bar tucked into the cave wall.



Climbing further up you enter into an open area the Jameo Grande where the tube roof has collapsed. Here you will find a black lava walled sunken area with lush tropical vegetation and lots of nooks and crannies with wooden benches for sitting. In the center you will find a scalloped luxury white floored swimming pool which nowadays only the King of Spain can swim in. The merging of nature and architecture is like nothing else on the planet and looks like a film set.



Leading of from this are through a set of glass doors is a further cave Jameo Cazuela which has been transformed into an underground concert hall. The auditorium hosts regular music concerts, theatrical performances and even the annual film festival.


Going back to the pool area and climbing a set of stairs will lead you to the Casa de los Volcanes (House of the Volcanoes) which is an avantgarde building that houses some fantastic information about the island of Lanzarote. The Casa de los Volcanes hosts an annual meeting of international volcanologists and also provides occasional talks about volcanoes to the general public.



You do not need to be a volcano fan or interested in Science to be interested. Whether the mixture of nature and concrete is to your taste I will leave to you. Are there other places you have seen which have captured your imagination.



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