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Island Vulnerability

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Island Vulnerability explores the challenges which isolated geographies face when dealing with risk and disasters by examining the processes which create, maintain, and could be used to reduce their vulnerability. This page provides photos of São Miguel, Azores, all copyright Ilan Kelman (2003).

Sete Cidades Caldera and Town.

Sete Cidades caldera and town.

Commentary by Ilan Kelman on 17 August 2003:

The photo above shows the caldera of Sete Cidades volcano with the ocean visible at the top left, behind the mountains. Just below the ocean in the photograph, also on the left side, sits the town of Sete Cidades--population 858 according to the 2001 census. The town sits entirely inside the caldera, more than 300 metres below the caldera's rim.

While visiting São Miguel in 2003, I was told the possibly apocryphal tale that, even up to the 1990's, some residents of the town of Sete Cidades had never left the caldera. Despite living on a small island in the middle of the ocean, these people would have experienced the two main bodies of water in the caldera--Lagoa Azul in the background and Lagoa Verde in the foreground--as representing the largest amount of water possible in one place.

They would be living in their own island on an island--an isolated caldera on an isolated island. I would be curious regarding any other information or opinions on this tale and, if it were true, the effects on the culture of the paradox of being surrounded by water yet perhaps not fully understanding that situation. Or did the people fully understand the ocean without having seen it? In the meantime, I offer a poem written after hearing the story.

I Have Never Seen the Sea

I creep like moss is growing,
I can climb the tallest tree.
I can leap the laughing rill,
But I have never seen the sea.

Clouds by me chase my shadow,
Rays of sunshine set it free.
I float dreamlike through the fog,
But I have never seen the sea.

The trees create my being,
Every leaf is known to me.
I am soul-mates with the stones,
But I have never seen the sea.

I drift tamely with the wind,
Rest in silence in the lee.
I fall gently as the rain,
But I have never seen the sea.

Ponta Delgada, the capital of São Miguel.

Ponta Delgada, the capital of São Miguel.

Coastline of São Miguel.

View over São Miguel.

Two men sitting on a wall.

Vulnerability and resilience: People of São Miguel.

Two mean with a horse and cart along a road.

Vulnerability and resilience: People of São Miguel.

Two similar, adjoining semi-detached houses, one with an old, decaying roof and one with a new roof in good condition.

Vulnerability and resilience: A tale of two roofs.

A house under construction.

Vulnerability and resilience: Constructing a dwelling.

Hazard: Bubbling pool in Furnas.

Hazard: Bubbling pool in Furnas.

House beside a road with a hill in the background.

Vulnerability and resilience: Dwelling and transportation route.

A rock arch over the sea.

Hazard: Falling rocks.

Seismographs recording earthquakes.

Hazard: Earthquakes.

A slope failure behind a house.

Hazard: Slope failure.

Looking up the trunk of a tree.

Hazard: Possible falling tree in high winds.

River channel looking upriver.

Managing hazard: A constructed river channel.

River channel looking out to sea.

Managing hazard: A constructed river channel.

Seawall along the shoreline of Ponta Delgada.

Managing hazard: An engineered seawall.

Small rock islands just off the coast.

Archipelagos of an archipelago.

Contact Island Vulnerability.

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