In 2021 the volcanoes of Reykjanes in Iceland and since a week the volcano of Cumbre Vieja on the island of La Palma hit the headlines. Live streaming services make in real time spectacular images available all around the world. Today 64 years ago, on September 27 a very similar event happened on the Island of Faial in the Azores. At the Ponta do Capelo, the westernmost tip of Faial, the eruption of the volcano of Capelinhos commenced. It lasted for more than a year and changed the life of the people of Faial forever.

The eruption

At 6.45 on the morning of September 27, the inhabitants of the parish of Capelo woke up to witness the sea at the Ponta do Capelo becoming a raging nightmare. Jets of ashes, steam and lava caused by underwater explosions started to emerge. The sounds of the explosions were so loud, that they even could be heard in the western group of the Azores, 220 kilometres away. Seven months into the eruption, the newly created island became a peninsula connected to Faial. It was only after 13 months, on October 24 1958 when the eruption of the Volcano of Capelinhos came to an end.

These 13 months have profoundly changed the life of the inhabitants of Faial. Thick layers of ashes covered the western part of Faial and destroyed not only farmlands but caused massive destruction in the parishes of Capelo and Praia do Norte. Houses were buried under ashes and also destroyed by the earthquakes accompanying the eruption.


The eruption of the volcano of Capelinhos created a martian landscape and enlarged Faial by 2.5 square kilometres. It was not only the geomorphology of Faial which changed, but also almost half of the population of Faial emigrated. Most of them to the United States, facilitated by a special Azorean Refugees Act, sponsored among others by John F. Kennedy, at the time Senator of Massachusetts. The population of Faial never recovered from the exodus and there is hardly anybody who does not have relatives in North America who have emigrated in those years.

When watching the events of La Palma or Reykjanes, one should always keep in mind that the forces of nature are not only fascinatingly beautiful, but they can be dangerous and devastatingly cruel.

(b/w pictures, facebook group “A Ilha Do Faial em fotografia“)