By Scott CorralesWhether they are the Isles of the Blest, Elysium, the Fortunate Isles or the surviving mountaintops of fabled Atlantis, the Canary Islands--an archipelago off the coast of northern Africa--remain enshrouded in mystery, a fact overlooked by its burgeoning tourist trade, more interested in the cloudless skies and fine beaches. The islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Palma, Gomera and Hierro, which have belonged to Spain since the archipelago's conquest by Norman mercenaries in the 14th century, were a point of interest to all the chroniclers of antiquity and medieval Christianity. The religious and occult significance of the seven volcanic isles has been handed down from the earliest dynasties of Ancient Egypt to our own UFO-minded times.
The association with an earthly paradise is not difficult to understand. A spectacular landscape awaited the mariners of yore: the twelve-thousand-foot peak of Mount Teide presiding over a cobalt-blue ocean festooned with flying fish. Flowers, chestnut trees and rich green valleys covered the seaward landscape, while the landward side (facing Africa) revealed nightmarish vistas of lava flows and beaches of black volcanic sand. The Canaries offer surprises galore, with trees unique to the islands; giant lizards--now nearly extinct--that gave the Spanish conquistadores quite a surprise; enormous ravines and canyons that become raging rivers during the wet season, and arid plains where camels are used to pull the plough. Contrary to popular belief, the islands were not christened after the bird of that name, but due to the abundance of local dogs (canes) encountered by the Conquistadores.
The Guanches, the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands, were a warlike race, according to chroniclers. Tradition claims that Saint Avitus, an early Christian martyr, met death at the hands of the Guanches during his attempt to evangelize the islands.[i] The Guanches possessed no weapons or boats--the latter being a very unusual feature for island dwellers--wore goatskins, and were subdued by the European invaders' use of the horse, which was unknown to them. Ignatius Donnelly pointed out in his groundbreaking book on Atlantis that stones had been uncovered in the isles of Hierro and Palma that bore sculptured symbols closely resembling those found in archaeological digs near Lake Superior, prompting an association between the enigmatic Guanches and the cultures of North America.[ii]
The tall, fair-skinned Guanches, believed by many to be the last surviving specimens of the Cro-Magnon Man, employed a curious language consisting of whistles when communicating with one another across gorges or hilltops. They also practiced the art of mummification to an extent known only to the Incas and the Egyptians, believing in the immortality of the dead, and going as far as leaving dead rulers mummified and unburied to provide "assistance" to the living monarch. They lived in complete isolation from the rest of the world, and indeed, from one island to the other.[iii] Spanish chroniclers state that the Guanches presumed that the rest of humankind had been lost in the Flood, and that they were its only survivors.
Certain cultural aspects found in the modern Canaries are believed to be part of the Guanche legacy: cockfights, the agricultural methods which were later imported to the Spanish Caribbean and even a culinary contribution, gofio, a form of cereal that is still consumed today.[iv]
The Canary Islands were known to the Carthaginians and to other sea-faring peoples of the Mediterranean. The Roman chronicler Marcellus, describing the "land of the Aethiopians" mentions a cluster of seven islands in the Atlantic Ocean, whose inhabitants preserve memories of a much greater island which held sway over them for ages; They are the seven Hesperides made famous in mythology by the labors of Hercules, and described in the Book of Ezekiel as the isles of Elysium (Ezek. 27,7). In the 1st century B.C., an unsuccessful bid to conquer the island was made by King Juba II of Mauretania.[v]
But all evidence points to signs of an earlier occupation by unknown quantities. On the isle of Hierro, there exists a wall of basalt facing the ocean, far above sea level which is carved with a number of undeciphered glyphs, among which are prominently displayed discs, labyrinth-symbols and sunbursts. The gorges of Tejeleite and Candia also contain rock shelters with petroglyphs presumably etched into the rough basalt by the aboriginal occupants of the archipelago. Elaborate cave systems--like that of Belmaco, on Palma--are filled with the same insistent petroglyphs and images of discs and sunbursts. The Zonzama Stone, unearthed on Lanzarote, provides more intricately carved symbols: messages from a past we unable reconstruct.[vi] Who were the original carvers of these symbols, and what was their purpose? It is true that the oceans were being navigated by Neolithic mariners whose voyages may have well inspired those of the Phoenicians or the Cretans. They left no traces of their existence aside from the "cyclopean" stone walls, tumuli, fortresses and memorials can be found on the coasts of the continents bordering the Mediterranean and the Atlantic coast of Europe as well as on the Canary Islands and Malta, and perhaps even as far south and inland as Zimbabwe. Two German scholars,
Hermann and Georg Schreiber, have pointed to the existence of a "heliolithic" cultural sphere (borrowing a term coined by H.G. Wells), owing to the fact that solar worship, personified by the disk symbols, is common to all these sites). The Canaries were important to them, following this line of thought, as an important center of solar worship. Or perhaps for other reasons...
Unexplained lights have soared above the volcanic peaks of the Canary Islands throughout history. Commercial airliners have been repeatedly intercepted over Lanzarote as they prepare to land on Gran Canary or Tenerife. Could these brilliant lights be the discs represented on the ancient Guanche stellae, and the reasons for the islands prominence not only in recorded history, but also in the days of lost Neolithic realms?
In 1975, coinciding with a global increase of UFO sightings, a group of contactees from Santa Cruz de Tenerife allegedly established contact (by means of an improvised Ouija board) with the occupants of the enormous flying craft which had hovered every night over their skies at La Tejita, a beach not far from the slopes of Mt. Teide. On one of these instances, the Canarian investigators were able to witness an enormous light some 1200 feet away from the beach. Double rows of windows emitting a purplish light could be made out through the use of binoculars. The spectators experienced a "missing time" interval during their sighting, and were assured later on by the light's "crew" that they had been brought aboard for an hour and a half.[vii]
A year later, a driver on a lonely stretch of road saw a perfectly round orb, silhouetted in a bluish light, which flew over his car at low altitude, causing the engine to stall. The witness was able to see two tall humanoids in attired in red garments through an aperture in the noiseless sphere, which landed on the roof of a nearby farmhouse before taking off again in the general direction of Tenerife. Shepherds had encounters of a grislier nature with a "robotic entity" that sliced a mountain lion to pieces and walked in a stilted, crab-like manner.
By 1979, UFOs had started to interfere with the regular operations of commercial airliners flying in Canarian airspace. A DC-9 flying between Lanzarote and Grand Canary was intercepted by an oval-shaped craft as it took off, flying over the airliner and "escorting" it for 20 minutes until it became lost in the clouds. A smaller commuter plane was equally intercepted and escorted for ten seconds at an altitude of 9000 feet by another object, which bathed the plane in a bluish-green light.[viii]
In a world where it is increasingly harder to keep a secret, particularly in the post Cold War era, surprisingly little coverage has been given to a recent "crash/retrieval" scenario which took place in 1992. Two Canarian youths and their friends claim that the Spanish military, in conjunction with unnamed foreign powers, retrieved a mysterious artifact that fell from the skies on the evening of October 12, 1992.
Sergio and Mario, whose surnames remain undisclosed, were on their way to Las Cañadas del Teide Park, an expanse of wilderness on the island of Tenerife, with another acquaintance and his girlfriend, when they found the narrow road leading to the natural landmark barricaded by armed personnel in yellow Jeeps with "ET" license plates (Ejército de Tierra, the infantry). The would-be tourists were told in no uncertain terms to turn around and not to attempt re-entering through the park's southern entrance, either. The officer in charge of the barricade told them that landslides had wiped out the roads ahead.
Their curiosity piqued by the suspicious roadblock, the foursome decided to park their vehicle and try to enter Las Cañadas on foot, finally managing to reach a hillside from which they were able to see another detachment of military vehicles. A powerful beam of light swept the sides of Mt. Teide, as if searching for a particular object. But what was it?
According to investigators, the Canaries Astrophysical Institute had placed a call earlier that evening to the Spanish Army, claiming that "an artifact" had crashed in the Ucanca Valley, at the feet of Mt. Teide. Whatever "it" was, it possessed a tremendous mass, having apparently snapped off a 450-ton lava projection jutting from an outcrop close to the summit of Mt. Teide itself, which can be reached by cable car from the ground.
Rescue helicopters from the Spanish Air Force base at Gando were dispatched to the area in question the following morning, unable to find anything at all after five separate sorties. The airbase's radar claimed not to have picked up anything unusual on the night of October 12 or the early hours of the 13th.
On the island of Grand Canaria, across the water from Tenerife, a couple in the village of Almatriche had witnessed the descent of strange lights, which they were unable to identify, and which appeared to be heading straight toward them. The lights changed course in mid-air and headed toward Tenerife. The time of the sighting was 10 p.m.--just prior to the Canarian youths' arrival at Las Cañadas.
The evening's excitement wasn't over for Sergio and Mario. Once back in their car and returning home, they were surprised to encounter a convoy of ten large military container trucks with balloon tires, darkened but for their intermittent hazard lights. The convoy moved slowly, and the onlookers were given the impression that materials of great weight were being carried aboard the sealed vehicles.
The allegations of the four witnesses aside, the fact remains that all approaches to Las Cañadas park were blockaded for two weeks until authorities announced that the "landslides" had been cleared. A hunter who had been spending the night of October 12 at El Refugio, a natural shelter on the slopes of Mt. Teide, claimed having seen "a brilliant cloud" come within six meters of the peak's summit and spin around it at tremendous speed, giving off bursts of energy before flying away. Local UFO researchers Asunción Sarais and Francisco Padrón initiated what promises to be months of research into this possible "crash/retrieval" incident, which is merely the most recent episode in a long history of sightings. In spite of official silence on the incident, it has since become known that employees from the Canaries Astrophysical Institute were threatened with the possible loss of their jobs if they discussed the incident.
In the U.S., increasingly greater attention has been paid to the folklore and traditions of our native peoples with regard to manifestations of the UFO phenomenon. The same is beginning to happen in Spain, where anthropologists have experienced a renewed interest in searching for Guanche artifacts and possibly even locating surviving Guanches in isolated communities on the smaller islands.
[i]. Atienza, Juan G. En busca de la historia perdida. Barcelona: Ediciones Martínez Roca, p. 207.
[ii]. Donnelly, Ignatius. Atlantis: Myths of the Antediluvian World,Chicago, 1882.
[iii]. Berlitz, Charles. Atlantis: The Eight Continent. New York: Fawcett, 1984.
[iv]. Llorens, W. El Habla Popular en Puerto Rico. Rio Piedras: Editorial Edil, 1981.
[v]. Bailey, James. The God Kings and the Titans. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973.
[vi]. Atienza, Juan G. En busca de la historia perdida.
[vii]. Benítez, J.J. 100,000 kilómetros tras los ovnis. Barcelona: Plaza y Janés, 1978.
[viii]. Benítez, J.J. Encuentro en Montaña Roja. Barcelona: Plaza y Janés, 1981.