Azores, Azores2015, Uncategorized

Pico to Terceira: A new population of ‘volcanic’ worms

So a few hours to kill – before our 20 minute flight to Terceira. This staggered return was initially a necessity of flight connections than a planned excursion but thanks to some great connections made by Archepeliogo Choice we had arranged to sample in Terceira.

So with all our samples packed up we had an hour spare, so we thought that we should see why Pico has world heritage status. Flying in on Sunday we had seen some of the unique stone walled vineyards that look like a combination between a Welsh sheep corral and a hedge maze. We had been told that if we went out of 10 mins to the South of Madelena we would see the highest density of these unique agricultural features. They were not hard to find and ‘fantastical’ – my only difficulty was that we were standing there in beautiful sun and a gentle breeze looking over these structures whose primary function is to protect the vineyards from the ferocious gales that drive off the Atlantic, we were so lucky !!


We did not have time to see the larva tube that forms a vast natural cavern – but there has to be something to see the next time.

Off to the airport and it was time to go island hopping – we take buses in the Azores the people take ferries and plans – so we embarked on the midday island shuttle.

Because of our limited time in Terceira – barely an afternoon – Archipelago Choice had organised for us to be meet by a local guide in a four-wheel drive. They had also told us that the guide would provide us with a pack lunch to eat on the go so we could make the most out of our visit. Well we were greeted by Tiago (Fortuna) of Comunicair who had instructions to show us the Island and to help us sample.

Well what can I say – from the start we got the feeling that this was going to be a magical and productive afternoon. Tiago had been in touch with the representatives of the National Park on Terceira (Luísa Brás, Paula Cordeiro) and persuaded them to give us special permission to sample in the protected volcanic field. This was great news – what followed was out of this world. We arrived at the Terceira volcanic field with no one else to spoil the view…

ter_view from picnic

We walked short distance into the center of the fumaroles for a ‘picnic’ well what is meant by ‘picnic’ is fine wine, spicy sausage cooked over a alcohol burner, some wonderful filled baguettes finished off with a very tasty local cake – spent the whole meal telling Iain that this was not usual for field work rations.

Lunch at fumerels

As we finished us our banquet the local wardens, Marina and Paula, from the national Parks of Terceira turned up and after explaining the science behind our trip they seemed very keen for us to find ‘volcanic’ earthworms even more resistant that those on Sao Miguel. So we identified an area just in the side of the main fumarole and with steam rising around me I started carefully looking for worms – I could not believe it, in ground where I could feel the heat through my hands I pulled off 10 Amythas sp. (the earthworms we were looking for) in 10 minutes in <1M square……….. science does not get better than this.


Although I then tried to sample closer to the main vents the area was covered in moss and lichen and no worms were rising.


But the afternoon did not end there… we needed a none volcanic population and ideally a population on ‘indigenous vegetation’ – but this was easy when you have Tiago; as a guide. Within 10 minutes we were walking through a align landscape covered in moss, lichen, Juniper and scrub – and yes within a short time we had our worms.


We did also collect from a cow field but this was not what I will remember the rest of the afternoon for – I will remember the piece and quiet a majesty of an Island landscape like no other.



Tiago told us that he runs ‘digital detox’ courses, mountain biking adventure and much more – you know what I recommend it to any one. The tranquility and serenity of an undiscovered Island paradise took over and has won me over – I am coming back on holiday.


And and yes the Terceira had one last treat for us…..a Pico sunset.

Pico from Ter sunset