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Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Detric Miles
Eruptions of Mt. Etna
Mt. Etna is the second largest active volcano in
It is currently standing 10,922 ft high. Because of the occurring eruptions the
growth of the mountain is constantly interrupted; the mountain is 69 ft lower
now than it was in 1981. It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the
Etna covers an area of 460 sq miles with a circumference of 140 km. This makes
it by far the largest of the three
active volcanoes in Italy.
Thousands of years ago, the eastern side of the mountain
experienced a disastrous collapse, generating an enormous landslide like the
incident that was seen in the
1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.
The landslide left a large hole in the side of the volcano, known as 'Valle del
Bove'. The steep walls of the Valley have suffered subsequent collapse on many
exposed in the valley walls provide an important and easily accessible record of
Etna's eruptive history. In 2006 research suggested that this occurred around
6000 BC, and caused a huge
which left its mark in several places in the eastern
This may have also been the reason that the settlement of
is now below sea level. The most recent collapse of Etna is thought to have
occurred about 2,000 years ago, forming what is known as the Piano Caldera. This
caldera has been almost entirely filled by lava eruptions, but is still visible
as a distinct break in the slope of the mountain near the base
Valle Del Bove’
From about 35,000 to 15,000 years ago, Etna experienced some
highly explosive eruptions, generating large lava which left extensive
deposits. Ash from these eruptions has been found as far away as
800 km to the north. Eruptions of Etna are not all the same. Some occur at the
summit, where there are currently (as of 2008) four distinct craters, the
Northeast Crater, the Voragine, the Bocca Nuova, and the Southeast Crater. Other
eruptions occur on the flanks; where there are more than 300 vents, range in
size from small holes in the ground to large craters hundreds of meters across.
Summit eruptions can be highly explosive and are tremendously stunning, but
rarely threatens the inhabited areas around the volcano. On the other hand,
flank eruptions can occur down to a few hundred meters
close to or even well within the populated areas. Since the year 1600 A.D.,
there have been at least Sixty flank eruptions. Nearly half of these have
occurred since the start of the 20th century, and the 3rd millennium has seen
five flank eruptions of Etna so far, in 2001, 2002-2003, 2004-2005,2007 and
Mt. Etna Erupting
The most violent eruption in the history of Mt. Etna occurred in
March of 1669. On the first day of the eruption, lava flows cut a smoldering
gash out of two mountain villages. The volcano did not stop there, however. It
continued to send out forth-molten rock for days. By the end of April, the city
walls of Catania had given a superior force and the western side of the city was
demolished before the lava came to a stop.
Despite the daily threat of Mt. Etna erupting, tours to the
volcano are readily available for the intrepid hiker. The south side of Mt. Etna
side is free for all to cross, but a guide is needed if visitors want look
directly into the eye of the great volcano. The hike is a great experience for
all, it allows visitors to see, smell and touch the turbulent history of Mt.
Etna. Before any climb, it is crucial to check into the tourist office in
Catania to learn the present status of the volcano, hiking instructions and to
get a map of Mount Etna, detailing all the viewpoints of
most explosive natural attraction.
Seach, John. "Mt. Etna Volcano eruptions." Volcano Live.
Web. 11 Nov. 2009.
Lendering, Jonna. "Etna." Livius. Web. 17
Destination360.com. "Mt etna volcano." Destination360.
Web. 19 Nov. 2009.
www.destination360.com › Destinations › Europe › Italy.