The Nerds Abroad

The Nerds Abroad

posted in: Azores | 2

So the Azores are the most interesting islands Mel has never heard of.  Geography was not her best subject.  Of course, she is not alone.  Greg and Mel have been reading Mark Twain’s travel book, The Innocents Abroad, which describes his journey here aboard a steamship in the 1860’s.  He says then: “I think the Azores are very little known in America.  Out of our whole ship’s company there was not a solitary individual who knew anything whatever about them.”

Mark Twain also experienced rough seas when he came here from New York. “One could not promenade without risking his neck; at one moment the bowsprit was taking a deadly aim at the sun in midheaven, and at the next it was trying to harpoon a shark at the bottom of the ocean.”  Exactly.

Mark Twain is a man after Mel’s own heart. “At three o’clock in the morning of the twenty-first of June, we were awakened and notified that the Azores islands were in sight.  I said I did not take any interest in islands at three o’clock in the morning.”

Mel cannot be more eloquent than Mark Twain, so she will describe Faial for you the way he described Flores: “It was ribbed with sharp, steep ridges and cloven with narrow canyons, and here and there on the heights, rocky upheavals shaped themselves into mimic battlements and castles; and out of rifted clouds came broad shafts of sunlight, that painted summit, and slope and glen, with bands of fire, and left belts of somber shade between.  It was the aurora borealis of the frozen pole exiled to a summer land!”

When he visited Faial, he noted, “Nobody comes here, and nobody goes away.”  He also spoke of innumerable beggars.  That has changed.  In 1957 a volcano, previously submerged under the sea, started to erupt, and 13 months later there was a new extension of Faial, made of ash and basalt.  The islands were apparently a bit crowded then, and so many Azoreans used the eruption as a way to talk JFK into letting 30% of the population emigrate to the US and Canada.  The remaining Azoreans appear to do well with tourism in this sailing mecca, and the people here are welcoming and speak English.

Enjoy the pics of Horta and Faial.  We aren’t in the Bahamas anymore!

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2 Responses

  1. Jesse Hagberg
    | Reply

    Thanks for filling in the gaps in my knowledge about this mysterious place covertly discussed only among tight circles of trans-Atlantic sea farers. I first heard of the Azores in the Bahamas and was apparently too self conscious to inquire further lest the reply be in the tone of “you’ve never heard of AFRICA???”. It’s neat to “meet” the Azores vicariously through you.

    • Mel
      | Reply

      The other challenge in the Azores, besides acknowledging its existence, is guessing what country each boat is from via their ensign. There are a lot of flag designs out there!

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