The Green Lagoon

Charco de los Clicos, Lanzarote — If only I had been here 57 years ago… I might have seen Raquel Welch emerging from this green lagoon, her breasts spilling out of a fur bikini, only to be snatched from the beach by a carnivorous Pteranodon and flown to its nearby nest where the distraught “Loana the Fair One” was to be fed to the pterosaur’s offspring.

Ah, well, timing is everything.

Much of the 1966 cinematic fantasy, One Million Years B.C., was filmed in Lanzarote, including the epic green lagoon scene. The location director deserved an Oscar for choosing this island. If I blinked today and saw a 200-pound flying reptile swoop down out of the volcanic rocks to carry away a tourist climbing out of a tour bus, it would all seem perfectly normal. A million years and this place is still prehistoric.

The island of Lanzarote bubbled up from a hot spot in the ocean 15 million years ago as plate tectonics transformed the earth. It has been nearly three centuries since the last major volcanic eruption and much of the island is unchanged. A dry climate and lack of erosion–and the protection of the spectacular Timanfaya National Park–have left the landscape pristine (translation: burnt to a crisp). NASA used this otherworldly topography to train the Apollo 17 crew.

Despite the current and severe volcanic activity on the Canary Island of La Palma 200 miles to the west, Lanzarote is known as the “Island of Volcanoes.” There are over 100 volcanic craters on this island that measures only 37 miles north to south. During the eruptions here in the 1730s, which lasted six years, the island grew by several square miles. Flames were visible 130 miles away and smoke hung in the air while lava and ash covered large areas of the island. Lives were lost, homes destroyed, and residents were plunged into years of darkness.[1]

All images © Jeffrey Cardenas

The Green Lagoon is one of the volcanic craters that formed during these powerful eruptions. The Atlantic Ocean eroded the western side of the cone flooding the crater with seawater. A berm of black volcanic rock and coarse sand now separates the lagoon from the ocean. Ancient lava tubes and underground fissures circulate the water. Charco de los Clicos was once home to a thriving colony of shellfish known locally as clicos (thus the name) until someone put a pair of turtles into the lagoon, and they devoured every last clico. Now the lagoon is inhabited by phytoplankton, microscopic marine algae, which gives the water its distinctive emerald green hue.

The Charco de los Clicos is a Natural Reserve bordering Timanfaya National Park. Regulations forbid swimming… unless, of course, you are Loana the Fair One and you come attired in a fur bikini.

The film production poster of Raquel Welch, in One Million Years B.C., an image that fueled the fantasies of 12-year-old boys everywhere. © 1966 Hammer Film Productions Ltd.

References:

[1] Alwyn Scarth, Volcanoes: An Introduction (Taylor & Francis, 2004)

[2] Hammer Film Productions Ltd. 1966

Official Trailer One Million Years B.C.: https://vimeo.com/125826115


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Text and Photography © Jeffrey Cardenas 2021

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2 thoughts on “The Green Lagoon

    • Thank you, Art.
      There were a couple other movies filmed here, most notably the 2009 Spanish thriller Broken Embraces by Pedro Almodóvar, starring Penélope Cruz. In Broken Embraces, Ms. Cruz did not fall in love with a swarthy caveman, hurl spears at giant spiders, or emerge from the green lagoon in a fur bikini (she did versions of those things later in Pirates of the Caribbean), and so Broken Embraces appealed to less prurient film goers — including the juries of the Golden Globe, Cannes Film Festival, and European Film Awards who nominated her in the category of Best Actress.

      Like

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