Atlantis tunnel, the longest volcanic tube in the world

In the darkness of an infinite tunnel swirl shapes that acquire unreal shades in the heat of greenish and blue tones. As two men pass by, species never seen before appear on the stage. Martians for what? If all that this land awaits is still unknown… At least as far as the Atlantis tunnel is concerned, the largest underwater volcanic tube in the world, which rests in Lanzarote.

Los Verdes cave, Jameos del Agua and the Atlantis tunnel, children of the same mother

Thousands of years ago, the Corona volcano turned the lands of the island of Lanzarote into a sea of lava that devastated everything it touched. Now, the Malpaís de la Corona, a landscape made up of solidified lava, remains of that landscape doomed to hell. Among the many formations for which the volcano was responsible, the most important is the one that corresponds to the volcanic tube of La Corona.

Los Verdes cave

Los Verdes cave, Lanzarote | Shutterstock

A volcanic tube is a natural formation produced when a river of lava solidifies on contact with the air, while underneath the crust that has originated, lava continues to flow. Gradually, as the volcano’s eruption subsides, the course of the river of fire descends. Thus, an elongated cave is created whose roof, floor and walls are built of solidified lava. In this case, the tube reaches seven kilometers in length.

Of these seven kilometers, one part belongs to the famous Los Verdes cave, another to the Jameos del Agua and the last section, which goes a little more than a kilometer and a half into the sea, is the so-called Atlantis tunnel. This cavity was originally terrestrial, at least part of it, because the sea level was 100 meters lower than it is today.

The Atlantis tunnel

Atlantis tunnel

One of the entrances to the Atlantis tunnel | Wikimedia

The Atlantis Tunnel was first explored in 1972, although it took more than 15 years to reach the end of the tunnel in 1986. In total, 1618 meters long in a route of staphyrophytes (a kind of stalactites but built by lava), darkness and mystery. In fact, in those first years of exploration, divers advanced through the cavity without knowing how far they had reached, like travelers to the very center of the earth.

Since then they have managed to reach the bottom of the tunnel, 64 kilometers deep, on a couple of other occasions. The first was only a year later, in 1987. However, it has taken 32 years for a team of divers to reach the end of the tunnel again, thanks to the Sublantida project.

The Sublantide Project

At present, the Atlantis Tunnel is immersed in the Sublantida project, the first geological study carried out in the cave. The aim of Sublantida, launched by the UNED, is to reconstruct the evolution of the sea level over the last 20,000 years.

The Atlantis tunnel is also home to a huge diversity of species, with at least 36 species endemic to Lanzarote. As biologist Alejandro Martínez, one of the authors of Interpretive Guide to Anequialine Ecosystems of Los Jameos del Agua and the Atlantis tunnel, points out, ‘Every time you enter [the Atlantis tunnel] you don’t know if you are going to find something you never imagined could exist’.

About the author