On-board Diary: Mountains emerging from the sea. Wednesday, June 1st, 2005

Author: Ester Casado
Date: June 1, 2005



Sinto Bestard

Our arrival at Horta (Faial) marks a new shift of crew members, but crew members at the Ranger are used to changes and always welcome new additions with a smile. Houssine, the underwater photographer, who was with us from the fist day, had to go back home for family reasons. Carlos and Guayo also left us, to take care of activities at the office. Two new sailors have embarked: Xose Manuel Gándara, a Galician based in Pontevedra, whose passion is sailing, and Nano Valdés, from Mallorca, who joins our expedition after navigating for 4 months onboard the Snooty and the writer, Ester Casado, I am the Director’s assistant, at the European office of Oceana.

 


Sinto Bestard

As mentioned in previous journal entries, the island of Faial is small (24 x 16 km), but one of the most important islands in the Azores, and required destination port for all ships crossing the Atlantic, as it is the case with the Ranger. The marina is busy with constant activity, ships moving in and out. It is said that the greatest seamen have passed through here. Of course, what I can confirm is that our crew is constantly meeting old acquaintances from former journeys, for instance, the Snooty sailboat, mentioned before. We had to dock right alongside it, on starboard side. The sailboat belongs to Sinto Bestard, a veteran Mallorcan seafarer who went blind twenty three years ago, which has not kept him from sailing around the world and even reach Antarctica. Another encounter was with Xurxo Gómez, in charge of the Espíritu del Xarei, and old acquaintance of many of Ranger’s crew members, from the times he conducted Greenpeace’s Zorba in its heyday.

 The passion for the sea is apparent throughout this important and old whaling port. It seems incredible that whales were hunted with these ships until 1986, when this activity was prohibited, even though the Azorean fishermen caught two more sperm whales after prohibition, to live up to their legend.

Horta

Marine issues are also present in Horta from the scientific viewpoint. We had the opportunity, while here, to participate in important meetings with members from the Oceanography and Fisheries Department of Azores Univesity. We also met with its Director, Ricardo Serrano Santos, and researchers Joao Manuel Goncalvez, Monic Silva and Marcos Santos, experts in underwater mountains, fisheries, cetaceans and marine turtles. In their respective fields, they develop important research work while based on this vital enclave for marine research. We must not forget that the Azores are a model of fishing sustainability for all of Europe.

Faial is also the site of one of the most amazing natural phenomenon of the XX century. In 1957, a smoke column 400 meters high surprised inhabitants from Cabo Capulines. It was the eruption of an underwater volcano, which created a mountain of ash and lava, which, curiously, sank back in the ocean. Soon after, in June 1958, there was new seismic activity and eruption of lava, which gave rise to a mountain, 99 meters tall, which emerged from the sea. This phenomenon increased the island surface in 2, 6 squared kilometers, burying the lighthouse and neighboring houses in the process. The sight of the lighthouse and the mountain of lava, as well as the graphic evidence from the event are all quite astounding.

Today in the afternoon we set sails for Lagos (Portugal) but on the way, we want to stop to do a field check of the activity present on the thermal area of Joao de Castro, where remarkable underwater methane chimneys emanate from a still active volcano.