On the morning of September 27th 1957, the earth began to shake, the ocean started churning, and a horrible smell began to stench across the island of Faial. By seven o’clock in the morning smoke billowed from Capelinhos and by eight o’clock in the morning, ash appeared (Vulcao dos Capelinhos, picture #1).
Picture #1
A horseshoe-shaped islet was created by early October, 1957 from all of the sand, dust, and basalt. It was named Ilha Nova (New Island). The ash continued to fall covering homes, roads, vegetation, and gardens. The first Nova appeared at the end of October and the second one appeared in November. These islets formed an isthmus to Faial, which made the island bigger. These eruptions and changes to the island of Faial continued for thirteen months until the Capelinhos volcano “fell asleep” on October 24, 1958.

Background Information:
The eruption of the Capelinhos volcano occurred on the Portuguese Azorean island of Faial. This natural disaster began on September 27, 1957 and had a major impact on the Portuguese people. Numerous homes were destroyed and the island practically became unlivable. Because of this disaster, many people left this island to find a safer place to live. The loss of population caused the Faial economy to plunder and the entire island was destroyed and covered in ash.

The Capelinhos is a volcano located in the western part of the Azorean island, Faial. It sits at the end of a row of volcanoes along the Capelo Volcanic Complex. It began as an underwater volcano and then became a land volcano. The island is located nearest to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Capelinhos is a stratovolcano with a 2km wide caldera.

A stratovolcano is a symmetrical and narrowed volcano. It is one of the most common types of volcanoes and has infrequent eruptions. These are typically found near subduction zones and in this case the Capelinhos volcano is found new the mid-Atlantic ridge. A stratovolcano produces andesite lava with moderate viscosity and volume. Unfortunately, stratovolcanoes is moderate to high volatile, this means that the eruption could blast out explosively. (Global Volcanism Program, chart #1)

The Capelinhos volcano is also known as "the volcano that came from the seas". Initially the volcano was and underwater volcano that broke through the crust of Faial's western end to become a land volcano. The Capelinhos volcano was considered a prime example of vulcanology because scientists believed it developed over 4 stages the first was thought to have started 800,000 years ago. Also the Capelinhos volcano is considered proof that many of the islands in the Azores are divided into active volcanic sectors that are expected to occur over the centuries. People today continue to observe this volcano because of its originality. The Capelinhos was an example of the development fo the Azores because it did not develop over night but took almost a year of seismic activity. Followed by amlost 50 years of winters of differing rhythms and intensities. Below is a map of the Portugal islands to the bottom right is the island Faial where the Capelinhos volcano took place.

Chart #1
Start Date: 1957 Sep 27
Stop Date: 1958 Oct 24
Dating Technique: Historical Records
Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI): 2
Lava Volume: 8.4 x 107 m3
Tephra Volume: 8 x 107 m3
Area of Activity: West flank (Capelinhos) and summit
Eruptive Characteristics:
Central vent eruption
Flank (excentric) vent
Radial fissure eruption
Submarine eruption
New island formation
Explosive eruption
Pyroclastic flow(s)
Phreatic explosion(s)
Lava flow(s)

On May 12, 1958, Faial was shaken by a violent earthquake. Many homes collapsed and others were severely damaged. Luckily, no one was killed because everyone had been previously evacuated (Vulcao dos Capelinhos, picture #2). After this the volcano moved into its land phase. This area of “new land” continued to be created until October 1958.
Picture #2
The volcanic eruption lasted for more than a year, from September 27, 1957 until October 24, 1958, which enlarged the land by 2.4 km² and developed Ponta dos Capelinhos. The eruption occurred about 1 km offshore which caused 300 seismic waves otherwise known as earthquakes. There were many earthquakes, enormous explosions, and ash launched 1 km. At least 2,000 people were evacuated from the parishes of Capelo and Praia do Norte and 300 houses were destroyed.
In 1924, the United States Immigration Act established a quota that only allowed small numbers of immigrants into the U.S. Soon the Great Depression began which created a huge decline of immigration into the U.S. since there were no economic opportunity which was what had originally drawn Portuguese to the United States. When this natural disaster occurred on the island of Faial, the Azorean Refugee Act was signed into law which allowed 4,800 Portuguese to emigrate. Eventually in 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act was signed into law which abolished the quota system for immigration into the United States. This volcanic eruption created a huge impact on Portuguese emigration into the United States. The Azorean-American communities in the United States rushed to help the islanders. In 1958 it was President Eisenhower who signed the Azorean Refugee Act and President John F. Kennedy was the person who challenged the old biases in the quota. This ended the discriminatory immigration policy which had restricted the entry of immigrants into the United States.


Many Portuguese immigrants come to America to escape poverty and be able to seek economic advancement. The Capelinhos eruption gave Portuguese even more of a reason to leave the Azores and come to America. The United States has opened the doors of opportunity for many people but it has also created a safe place in such times as these natural disasters. The Capelinhos eruption created an opportunity for Portuguese to emigrate and this entire natural disaster not only affected the Portuguese but also had a major impact on the United States.

Works Cited "Global Volcanism Program | Fayal | Summary." Smithsonian Institution - Global Volcanism Program: Worldwide Holocene Volcano and Eruption Information. Web. 08 Mar. 2010. <http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=1802-01=>. Marcos, Daniel. The Capelinhos Eruption: Window of Opportunity for Azorean Emigration. Providence: Ga?vea-Brown Publications, 2008. Print. "Portuguese Americans - Early History, The Eighteenth Century, The Nineteenth Century, The Twentieth Century." Countries and Their Cultures. Web. 08 Mar. 2010. <http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Pa-Sp/Portuguese-Americans.html>. "Vulc." Vulc. Web. 08 Mar. 2010. <http://www.vulcaodoscapelinhos.org/en/vulcao/historia/?view=page2>. Wunderman, Rick. 1997. Photograph. Smithsonian Institution, Faial, Portugal. Global Volcanism Program. Web. 8 Mar. 2010. <http://www.volcano.si.edu/world/volcano.cfm?vnum=1802-01=&volpage=photos>. Decq Motta, Luís C. Eruption. 1957. Photograph. Faial, Portugal. Vulcao Dos Capelinhos. Web. 8 Mar. 2010. <http://www.vulcaodoscapelinhos.org/en/vulcao/fotos/?foto=2&data=29-09-1957>.