In anticipation of our forthcoming cruise to Seville, Morocco & Canary Islands, we talked to planetary Geologist and Volcanologist Dr Peter Cattermole. Peter will be lecturing on board Aegean Odyssey in November, focusing on the interesting scenery through which we will be travelling to.
From the standpoint of a both the geologist and art lover, this cruise offers a wonderfully diverse itinerary. Beginning on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, with its backdrop of the Betics Mountains, continuing with by a chance to cruise the amazing Guadalquivir River to two towns that are centres of some of the most stunning art and architecture in Spain is something not to be missed. Then to sail through the Straits of Gibraltar and touch land in Morocco is like having icing on a pretty fine cake. But it does not end there, since, having enjoyed the cities, fold mountains and desertic landscape of North Africa, Aegean Odyssey ends its journey among the volcanic islands of the Canaries, territory well known to me as a volcanologist and as someone who lives part of every year on one of these beautiful islands.
Great art and architecture abounds around the Mediterranean Sea, and, interestingly, the landscapes – particularly the volcanoes and distorted rocks that may be seen there – have inspired many artists to draw or paint geological subjects. For this reason I will be presenting a lecture entitled “Geology and Art” which I hope will focus interest on the scenery through which we will be travelling.
The coastal mountains that rise behind the southern coast of Iberia – the Betics – are continued in North Africa, where both the Rif and Atlas ranges rise majestically from an often very barren desertic landscape. Therefore I will be explaining how and when these mountains rose from the European and African Continents, as huge slabs of the Earth’s outer skin juggled for position as Eurasia and Africa converged. It is a story of immense upheavals inside the planet, driven by motions that begin deep in the planet’s mantle layer.
Where these slabs – known as “plates” – collide not only do mountains rise up, but generally so do volcanoes. Yet the volcanic islands of the Canarian Archipelago are not located near a boundary between two colliding plates. Indeed they grew from the deep Atlantic floor in a way very different to the volcanic chains of Japan or Indonesia. Part of my brief will, therefore, be to explain why they are there, how they formed and why the landscapes are as they are. In visiting both Lanzarote and La Palma, we will be seeing some magnificent volcanic landscapes and some very recent volcanic landforms. What a way to end our journey!
If I had to pick high points for this cruise, it would be a difficult task. However the fine towns of Cadiz and Jerez de la Frontera stand out, as does the cathedral in Seville and the wonderful architecture of Cordoba. On the geological side, the African desert, the superb Atlas Mountains and the volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands are all things I am very excited to be visiting as Aegean Odyssey sails from the Western Mediterranean into the Atlantic Ocean. Both of those two bodies of water are another geological story that will be a part of my lecture programme.