Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Azores Day 2

Day 2 saw our trip to the town of Furnas, the most geologically active part of the island. Students took some water samples to look for Cyanobacterial blooms from the lake (which showed clear signs of a significant bloom that was probably just finishing). We also looked around some of the clear boilers and mud pots where water, heated by geothermal activity, rises to the surface. Some people use this geothermal activity to cook food in holes in the ground!

The first stop on the tour was the caldera lake in the crater. Several of the students took their water samples, and everyone had a chance to look around the boiling pools and see some of the characteristic formations produced by the water chemistry and extremophiles.

Geothermal area
Deposits of sulfur

Furnas Lake
Ferric hydroxide deposits formed by iron oxidising Bacteria

From the lake, we moved on to the town of Furnas where there are many boilers and mud pots, as well as springs that deliver waters of varying taste (some horribly sulphurous). During a tour of the town, we took more water samples and took notes on the biology of the thermal springs.

Briefing in Aunty Silvia's foot spa.

Looking at extremophile communities near the
Furnas microbiological observatory.

Sacks of maize cooking in a thermal pool, and adding
organic material to water that normally does not contain
it. This has serious consequences for some of the
organisms that live downstream.

Hillside constructed from silicate deposits produced
over many, many years by microbial action.

Caldeira grande

One of the many pools in Furnas.


The mineral water springs have different temperatures, water chemistry and
biological characteristics.

Then it was on to the Furnas Botanic Gardens to look at their collection of endemic plants in preparation for tomorrow's survey of a Laurisilva forest restoration scheme. There was also the opportunity for a quick swim in the thermal pool (and take a few water samples for analysis later in the lab).

Looking at endemic plants

Thermal swimming pool at Furnas Botanic Garden.

Azores race of Goldcrest

Finally, we returned to the university to eat, where a Lesser Yellowlegs (a vagrant American species) was frequenting the ponds in the gardens. 

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