By admin on February 23, 2012 in Blogs

Clouds sweeping into the marshy floor of the Caldera in Faial

Unlike in Sao Miguel, the bus service in Faial is good for islanders and bad for tourists. If I want to see the museum located at the site of the volcanic eruption of Capelinos, the catalyst for the Azorean migration to the States and Canada, I must either walk the 30 km or hire a car. But luckily for me, I encounter a shack with scooters for rent. I can have a 50cc machine for 25 euros a day. I have not ridden one of these since 1994, when I used my mother’s Luna to get to high school in Pune. But those skills are not lost, and together the motorbike and I make it up to the central caldera of Faial island. The weather gods are against us . Clouds surround the peak. From time to time the mists clear and I can look into the caldera. There is something unearthly about it, distinctly lunar despite the greenery within.

Following the visit to the volcanic crater, I drive around the coast stopping at various miradouros to take pictures of the beautiful coastline. I have to admit that a man can get used to anything, even beauty. Even as I snap the pictures, I sense that I am no longer affected by the sight of a mountain slipping into the sea.

The futuristic foyer of the underground museum in Capelinhos

The futuristic foyer of the underground museum in Capelinhos

But Capelinhos is a different world. There are no trees here, just wind whipping up dust devils among the lava rocks and basaltic sand. The volcano erupted in 1957 and began the large scale migration of Azoreans to the US and Canada in the twentieth century. Here in Capelinhos, the museum has been buried underground. It is a futuristic site built so that the landscape remains inviolate. The barren moonscape is a reminder that it has taken nature hundreds of thousands of years to transform these islands into the lush green paradise they are today, and that another eruption or quake is always in the offing. There are microquakes everyday, and the islanders worry only when the ground goes ominously silent under them. Then the big one is brewing.

Capelinhos is a great museum because it gives both the science and the sociology of the volcano and its effects. There are artefacts of migration, passports and papers, acts of congress and registers of boats. While the focus is on America (what else is new), the details are exciting to behold and to understand. My mind is racing with the possibilities of using this material in my collection.



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