Sunday, November 1, 2009


Whenever I get a couple hits within a few brief days on something that I don't really know much about--okay nothing--I think it's probably time to do a post here.

Tenarife first came up in my recent, totally non-sequential read of Adrian McKinty's The Dead Yard, second in the fabulous Michael Forsythe trilogy. This one begins with Michael in Tenarife, hoping for a for a little R&R. "And here his troubles began" would probably sum up this opening about right.

Michael soon leaves Tenarife, but I did not. Immediately afterwards, a current event popped into view. A sailing couple was last seen in Tenarife before disappearing into Somali pirate
waters. All too timely, alas. In the last couple of days this "ransom note" has appeared. Apparently these are not 'pirates' but a self-described 'voluntary coast guard' protecting Somali waters. Good luck, Paul and Rachel Chandler.


From the novel, I got the sense that Tenarife is a vacation destination for the Brits, particularly the football fans among them. It's definitely influenced by Spain, though whether or not it's a possession of Spain we will soon find out. I also learned that it is one of the Canary Islands, though whether the largest or smallest, I don't know. From the news of the Chandlers, I saw a map, so I do know that this island lies somewhere east of Africa. In fact, as it must be obvious, somewhere off the coast of Somali. So what else? I will now attempt to enlighten us.

Tenerife is indeed a Spanish territory, the largest of the Canary Islands and the one with the largest population. Wikipedia has quite an extensive and interesting article on it, which there is no point in my recapping in detail, but I will just mention a few things that caught my interest.

First of all, its capital is called Santa Cruz, which I suppose makes it a sister city to mine.

It has one of the largest active volcanoes in the world, El Teide, which, as is appropriate for a prominent volcano has its own legend. In the myth of the native people there, the Guanches, the devil tried to steal the god of light and sun, but his plans were foiled and he is imprisoned within the mountain. Locals set up bonfires to ward off the devil when the volcano erupts. The devil and his minions are supposed to appear as black dogs, which kind of sucks for any black dogs on the island. I'm guessing that at this point, there aren't many.

I should mention that El Teide is thought of as a gateway to the Underworld, which seems to be appropriate to this weekend, celebrated in many cultures as a time when the veils between the living and the dead are at their thinnest.

But that's not all! We also have the Auditorio de Tenarife, designed by one of the world's preeminent architects, Santiago Calatrava Valls. The auditorium reminds me just a bit of the Sydney Opera House. I'm sorry that I can't post a picture, as I am still in a transitional mode of my computer, but you can click through on Wikipedia and see what I mean if you want.

Okay! We've also got a reference from Pliny the Younger for our antiquities fans about an expedition here by King Juba who apparently named the fair isles not after canaries, but after some ferocious dogs or 'canaria' encountered there. I'm betting that canaries actually hail from there, but that's another post. Tenerife, by the way, stems from a native name for El Teide, namely Tene Ife, or 'white mountain'.

Well, there is much, much more, but I will conclude with this small piece of trivia, namely that Admiral Horatio Nelson lost an arm in the Battle of Tenerife in 1797. Although the Wikipedia article doesn't actually spell this out, I'm guessing that Tenerife was strategically important because it was a fueling stop on the way to Australia's infamous Botany Bay.

There's a wonderful picture that I would have liked to head this post, but as I can't at the moment, you might like to take a peek here.

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  1. Your post spurs in me a desire to undertake voyages.

    Tenerife sticks in my mind because the worst air crash in history happened there on my birthday.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  2. Well, your desire to voyage is a bit surprising, Peter, considering that within the confines of this post we have already discussed a pirate hijacking, an admiral losing an arm in battle after an ocean voyage, and now, a little peripherally, a plane crash.

    I did notice that plane crash in my 'researches', such as they are, but it didn't make my list. Now of course, I realize that plane crashes always interest a lot of people, so it should have been added.

    I actually had to research a couple of big Southern California plane crashes for the trivia book I co-authored--it was on the list of required things to include, so I should have known-- but couldn't somehow steel myself to write about another horrifying accident.

    Wikipedia, people. It's all there.

  3. Yes, you did range far in this post, didn't you? It's the kind of post that makes folks, as Chaucer said, longen to goon on pilgrimages. It brought Tenerife to life as nothing had for me since that opening section of The Dead Yard.

    I have no special fascination with disasters. I remember this one only because it happened on my birthday.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  4. That opening section on Tenerife is pretty good, though, isn't it?

    I just really wish I had been able to add some pictures. I am still caught in some weird limbo between different computer systems and the one I'm using is the most stable, but if I try to add pictures, it deletes everything else.

    Computers are great, except when they aren't.

  5. Seana,

    Thanks for the post. I have to admit that I've never heard of Tenefife at all before, but now I'll have to add it to my list of places to visit, just like McKinty's books are on my list to read. I've heard so much good about them, and I'm keeping an eye out for him!

  6. Yes, for me, Tenerife was more of a fabled name, like Casablanca or Timbuctu. It's nice to attach places to names, even if we never get there.