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Capelinhos 1957-8: fifty years on 12 April 2008

Posted by admin in anniversaries, Fayal, history of volcanology, Portugal, volcano culture.

Fifty years ago, between September 1957 and October 1958, a dramatic submarine eruption took place on Fayal island in the Azores. Fayal itself is a large stratovolcano with a wide caldera; the eruption took place on the west flank of the volcano, beginning at a point about 1 kilometre west of what was then the westernmost point of the island, and created the volcanic cone of Capelhinos which began as an island and is now a peninsula.

The eruption was one of the most closely-studied in the history of volcanology. It was also highly disruptive for the island’s population: vast amounts of ash were erupted, agriculture was ruined, hundreds of homes destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, and the economy of the island severely damaged. More than 2000 people were evacuated, many to begin new lives in the United States, where a sizeable Portuguese-American population traces its origins to the eruption and the subsequent relief effort today.

The story of Capelinhos is thus not only a scientific story but a profoundly human one as well. The fiftieth anniversary of the eruption is being marked in the Azores and mainland Portugal, and in the United States, with events and publications that reflect all aspects of this historic event.

Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program – summary information for Fayal (1802-01=)
Observatório Vulcanológico e Sismológico da Universidade de Açores – responsible for monitoring volcanism in the Azores (Portuguese)
Vulcão dos Capelinhos – website of the official commemorative commission for the Capelinhos fiftieth anniversary, in English (the Portuguese site is here)

Fifty years ago, a volcano changed everything – report from EastBayRI.com on the Capelinhos eruption and the evacuation, which brought many Azoreans to Rhode Island
Erupção do Vulcão dos Capelinhos foi há 50 anos – report on the anniversary from Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (Portuguese)
U.S.-Portugal relationship analyzed at Brown University – report from the U.S. newspaper for the Portuguese community O Jornal on an academic conference inspired by the fiftieth anniversary of Capelinhos (Portuguese language article here)
50th anniversary of the Capelinhos volcano in the Azores – speech by the American ambassador to Portugal, 27 September 2007, to mark the beginning of the 50th anniversary commemorative events

The Volcanism Blog