The first inhabitants of Lanzarote were called “majos” and arrived on the island during the course of the last millennium BC. C. Probably, they arrived from the African Coast, in primitive boats pushed by the wind. Later, after the introduction of the rabbit, the Lanzarote people exchanged their skins for what are known as “conejeros”. Its exact origin continues to be a mystery, although after the studies carried out on its language, customs and physical features, it is very similar to the Berber peoples of North Africa.
In the 14th century, a Genoese navigator, Lancelotto Mallocello arrived at the coast of Lanzarote where he lived for two decades, later giving the island the name by derivation of his (Lancelotto-Lanzarote).
The conquest of Lanzarote, according to the chronicles begins with the landing of Norman Jean de Bethencourten on the coast of Rubicon, south of the island in the year 1402. Until the 60s of our century, the livelihoods of Lanzarote have been based on agriculture, fishing and goat farming. It was from this moment when a new source of income emerged: tourism.
With the improvement of the means of communication and thanks to the climatic conditions of the island, a tourist boom has taken place that has been one of the main factors of alteration of the landscape, since this mass of visitors originated an increase of the urban development and of infrastructure to the detriment of traditional resources. Lanzarote offered the visitor a mild climate, beaches, quality services and an unusual natural heritage. The maximum exponent of this extraordinary volcanic landscape was the “Mountains of Fire”, where the island administration, aware that it was one of the most attractive places on the island, made an adaptation aimed at its conservation and tourist exploitation.
The need to protect an area of landscape and ecological characteristics of such exceptional value led Timanfaya to declare itself as a National Park by Decree on August 9, 1974 and was reclassified by Law in 1981. Subsequently, the regional administration faced with a situation that required measures that guaranteed the conservation of the natural environment, initiated a protectionist policy that led to the declaration in 1987 of the Law of Protected Natural Spaces that was complemented in 1994 by the Law of Natural Spaces of the Canary Islands. This legal framework establishes a protection regime for the most outstanding natural areas that have been classified into different categories of protection.
As a collaborating body in the management, the Park Board was created in which all the sectors involved are represented (General State Administration, Cabildo, Autonomous Community, Municipalities, Universities, and Conservation Associations, etc.)
Eruptions on the Island of Lanzarote
But the fact that stands out historically is the eruptions that occurred between 1730 and 1736, which affected a quarter of the surface of the island. There are numerous historical documents that tell the eruptive processes and that led to what we know today as Timanfaya National Park. The best known is the manuscript of the parish priest of Yaiza, Don Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo, who recounts the events from the beginning of the eruption until the population of the area emigrated between 1731 and 1732, in the face of the continuous volcanic processes that followed one another.
“On the 1st of September (from 1730) between nine and ten o’clock at night the land suddenly opened near Timanfaya two leagues from Yaiza, and on the first night a huge mountain rose from the bosom of the earth and from the apex flames escaped that continued to burn for nineteen days, and a few days later a new abyss formed and a torrent of lava rushed over Timanfaya, over Rodeo and over a part of the White Spot. the North, at first as fast as water, but soon its speed slowed and did not run more than honey, but on September 7 a considerable rock rose from the earth with a sound like thunder , and by its pressure forced the lava, which from the beginning was heading north to change direction and go towards the NW and WNW. The mass of lava arrived and destroyed in an instant the places of Maretas and Santa Catalina, located in the Valley. September the eruption was renewed with more force, and the lava began to run. Santa Catalina rushed over Mazo, burned and covered all this village and continued his way to the sea, running six days in a row with a frightful noise and forming real cataracts. A large number of dead fish were overflowing on the surface of the sea, coming to die on the shore. Soon everything calmed down, and the eruption seemed to have completely ceased.
On October 18, three new openings formed immediately above Santa Catalina, which still burn and from their orifices escapes thick masses of smoke that spread throughout the island, accompanied by a large amount of slags, sands, ashes that are distributed all around, seeing drops of water in the form of rain falling from all points. The thunder and explosions that accompanied these phenomena, the darkness produced by the mass of ashes and the smoke that covers the island forced more than once the inhabitants of Yaiza to take flight, returning very soon, because these detonations did not appear accompanied by another phenomenon of devastation. ”
The story continues with the description of the catastrophe. Scientists have estimated that the volume of lava could reach 1 Km3 (= 1000 million m3) and completely modified the old morphology of the island.
In the nineteenth century there are new eruptions, of which there are also written documents of eyewitnesses. Among them stands out the priest of San Bartolomé, Don Baltasar Perdomo, in which he explains the activity of the three volcanoes that emerged: Tao, Volcán Nuevo del Fuego and Tinguatón. The eruptive processes began on July 31, 1824, at the Tao volcano. It was followed by the Nuevo del Fuego volcano (also called Chinero), the only representative of this eruptive phase located within what is now the Timanfaya National Park, with a seemingly violent eruption. Finally, the Tinguatón volcano erupted one nightfall. Volcanic activity ceased by October 25 of that same year.
After all these events, the volcanoes of Lanzarote have entered a period of calm, leaving their mark and preventing the habitability of this entire area.