Archive for July, 2007

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake took place on 1st November 1755. Estimated by modern geologists as approaching magnitude 9 on the Richter Scale, it is one of the most destructive and deadly earthquakes in history, possibly killing between 60,000 and 100,000 people. Another 10 000 were killed in Morocco, along with large numbers living on the coast of Andalucia. The quake was followed by a tsunami which rushed up engulfed the harbour and rushed up the Tagus and a fire, resulting in the almost-total destruction of Lisbon and profoundly disrupting the country’s eighteenth-century colonial ambitions.

The event was widely discussed by European Enlightenment philosophers, and inspired major developments in thinking, and also signalled the birth of modern seismology.

Lisbon in flames with a tsunami overwhelming the ships in the harbor (1755 engraving)

1755 Lisbon earthquake

1755 Lisbon earthquake

1755 German copperplate image, “The Ruins of Lisbon. Survivors camp in a (rather fanciful) tent city outside the city of Lisbon, following the November 1, 1755 earthquake. The image shows criminal activity and general mayhem, as well as the hanging of quake survivors under constabulary supervision. Priests are present, one holding a crucifix, one possibly a prayer book, so appear to be giving last rites to persons being hanged. ” Wikipedia

See also

Tsunamis in Spain

earthquakes in Spain

Birding in Cadiz

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

John C. has posted this excellent trip report on the forum on his birding trip to Cadiz

He notes on crested coots:

It soon became apparent that we had a problem with this coot; JC advised that a lot of the Crested Coots had been neck collared, so all we had to do was find a Coot in a collar and bingo!. No one seems to have noticed an obvious aspect of Crested coot physiology, however. After extensive field work it is apparent that Crested Coots are actually invisible under ultra-violet light, so in daylight, you simply cannot see them. All you see is a sort of shimmering in the reeds. That is why the clever Spaniards put collars on them: find the collar, find the crested coot. Sadly, evolution being what it is, the coots take off the collars during the day and hide them in the reed beds ( or possibly in the mud?). So the best time to look for Crested coot is a moonless dark night, when these all-black birds would be easy to see on account of the white triangular, square-topped frontal shields. As mentioned in the very beginning, JC had identified it as a bright, sunny night, so we had no cooting chance!

Birding Trip Report to Cadiz Province + Here for forum thread

Record temperature in Portugal

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

The highest temperature ever recorded in Portugal was in 2003 with a record of 47.3 °C in Amareleja. This was part of the famed heat wave to hit Europe. Specifically in Portugal there were extensive forest fires with 5% percent of the countryside and 10% percent of the forests being destroyed, an estimated 4,000 km². Eighteen people died in the fires. More on the 2003 European heat wave from wikipedia

Source Els Temps de Pico and here

Some interesting environmentally aware holidays in Portugal here at wildside holidays

Bears and wolves threatened by EU carrion ban

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

As previously reported on Iberianature, bears, wolves and other wildlife in Spain are seriously threatened by the EU dead livestock ban arising from the BSE outbreak. 8-10 bear cubs are estimated to have died in 2006 because of the ban. Just in Asturias, 210,300 kg of dead meat are now removed every year which before was an essential food source for many animals, despite the fact that not a single case of BSE has been detected in the region. (El Mundo). The issue is currently being taken up by Spanish MEPS in the EU (Fapas)

Bear eating carrion

Bear eating carrion in Asturias (FAPAS) See also Good news for carrion birds + spainbearnews

Bears return to Belmonte de Miranda

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

According to Fapas, bears have returned to the area of Belmonte de Miranda. 18 different animals have been detected in the last two years including 4 breeding females. This area of deep valleys and dense forests is now considered vital to the bear’s conservation in Asturias. The lack of carrion because of the prohibition of leaving dead livestock because of mad cow’s disease means it is difficult for the animals to find enough food leading to problems such as raids on beehives. More here from Fapas

Short video here from Asturias TV. Click on the image

beehive bear

Beehives trashed by bears in Belmonte de Miranda

Photos of old Barcelona

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

I came across this selction of photos from old Barcelona. Here’s a few from Barceloneta and the port.

Man survives viper bite

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

A hiker has survived a viper bite in La Pedriza, Madrid, which would make it a Lataste’s viper or snub-nosed viper. 3-4 people probably die a year from viper bites in Spain, although this figure may now be lower due to the expansion in rural health facilities and the fact that there aren’t as many people working in the countryside. Sobrevivir a una víbora El Pais

Photo of a Lataste’s viper or snub-nosed viper

Venemous snakes in Spain + Bites and stings from animals in Spain Iberianature

Transhumance in Spain

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

I’ve put together these two articles on transhumance in Spain:

  • Las Cañadas Reales (The network of drovers’ roads covering 125,000 km)
  • La Mesta (The medieval association of sheep holders which helped form the network of paths)
  • La Venta del Lobo. Impossibly bleak and ruined resthouse along the Cañada Real through the Sierra de la Culebra. A cherry tree is often the sign of old human habitation.

    The most polluted sea in the world

    Monday, July 23rd, 2007

    The Mediterranean is the most polluted sea in the world according to various studies done by environmental groups. Pollution hotspots around Spain’s coats are unsurprisingly around the ports of Algeciras and Barcelona

    El mar más sucio del mundo (El Pais)

    I think we take that “sea” here means open sea, and so excludes bodies of water such as the inland Aral Sea.

    The dangers of oleander

    Monday, July 23rd, 2007

    Fascinating article by Clive Muir and Sue Eatock on the dangers of oleander (Nerium oleander) which at the start of summer flourishes luridly along Spain’s riverbeds and motorways. Despite its use in municipal planting schemes and private gardens this plant is extremely toxic.

    They write “it contains numerous toxic compounds, many of which can be deadly to people – especially young children. The toxins include oleandrin and neriine, which affect the heart, and the bark contains rosagenin, which acts in a similar way to strychnine. The entire plant including the sap is harmful. Even after drying, the leaves are still dangerous. A single leaf holds enough poison to kill a small child. In the past crushed, dried leaves mixed with stale bread have been used as a very effective rat poison…” Read on Olve Press (not for the faint hearted!)