Lots of people will probably think of Tenerife as the home of cheap (ish) holidays in the sun for Northern Europeans – especially the ‘lager louts’ of Britain. And to some extent this has been the case – Los Christianos and Las Americas still have a little bit of this image.
Tenerife and the other Canary islands, however, have a lot more to offer. My previous blog on Dolphins outlines some of the marine wildlife watching opportunities of the islands. The geology is also fantastic, the centre of Tenerife being the volcano of El Teide – also the highest point in Spain at 3,718m (12,198 feet). The sport climbing is excellent (I’ll be going back for more of that). The history & culture are also great – especially in the cooler and greener North of the island.
As you may know from my Galapagos blogs (insert links) I’m a bit of a Darwin geek and enjoy the history of science, especially environmental science. Recently I have been reading Andrea Wolf’s brilliant biography of Alexander Von Humboldt the 18th Century explorer, naturalist and geographer. This describes an interesting link between Humboldt, Tenerife, the Galapagos and Darwin. Humboldt visited Tenerife for six days in July 1799 on the way to his extraordinary adventures in South America. During this visit he climbed El Teide and studied the distribution of plants as the altitude changed. This, together with his many other studies of plant distribution, especially on Chimborazo and Pichincha volcanoes in what is now Ecuador led to him pretty much ‘invent’ the science of ecology. Humboldt’s books were a huge influence on Darwin and were one of the main reasons he wanted to travel the world and join The Beagle expedition in 1832. The Beagle’s second port of call, after Madeira, was due to be Santa Cruz in Northern Tenerife. Darwin was extremely excited to have the opportunity to follow in Humboldt’s footsteps up El Teide. Unfortunately the Tenerife authorities refused the crew of The Beagle to come ashore as there had been a cholera outbreak in London, and they feared infection coming ashore. Darwin was immensely disappointed not to have the opportunity to follow in his hero’s footsteps. Captain Fitzroy wrote that the refusal to let them land:
“… was a great disappointment to Mr Darwin, who had cherished a hope of visiting the Peak. To see it — to anchor and be on the point of landing, yet be obliged to turn away without the slightest prospect of beholding Tenerife again — was indeed to him a real calamity.”
However, Darwin had copies of many of Humboldt’s books with him on The Beagle and these where a big part of his inspiration to study the geology and biology of South America and, eventually, The Galapagos. Many early scientists had speculated that species changed over time to suit their environments – including both Humboldt and Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin – but it was Charles Darwin (and Alfred Wallace) that eventually theorised that this was a result of natural selection.
Anyway, back to Tenerife, perhaps I will explore more of Humboldt and Darwin in future blogs – for now enjoy some photographs from my trip. The long exposure seascapes are of Tenerife’s Eastern and Southern coasts and are product of a fantastic day out with Raico Rosenberg.
Thanks to Raico for both showing me some brilliant locations that I would have never found myself and for helping me get to grips with long exposures and graduated filters.