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E - 145: Vulcano Vulcano Vulcano Ti Voglio Più Presto Scalar

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

The Stromboli Vulcano Island, the Northern Most of the Aeolian Island Group

I guess you know by now that I cannot resist climbing a hill to see a tower, a fortress or an acropolis. For the first week we have something much cooler when visiting the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily. This specific hike takes 90 minutes and leads us to the top of a …. VULCANO! Always wanted to climb one and now we can do it. Of course, we are not going to climb Mount Stromboli who still spits lava and superhot fumes. Want to bring you all safely back to the AFAET. But amongst the seven islands that form the archipelago, there are a few with volcanos which have not been active for more than hundred years but still fume, smell and steam.

View over the Caldera of Volcano to Lipari Island

The volcano I have in mind is the one on Volcano island, which actually gave volcanos the name. It is the most southern of the Aeolian Islands, just south of Lipari, the islands’ capital. The island has a surface of 21 square kilometers which is exactly the size of St Barth. How funny! The volcano is 500 meters high – the reason it takes 90 minutes to get to the top. And I guess week 1 sailors need some hiking boots… except HBA who does in in his flip flops!

The volcano on Vulcano island has been active nine times over the last 6’000 years. The last time in 1890. Today the volcano is monitored by an electronic multi-gas-component analyzer which detects magma related gases instantly. We are going to be safe.

Europe's complex Plate Tectonics where the reminders of the Tethys Sea are squashed between the African Plate pushing north and the European Plate being the Anvil

Talked already about the plate tectonics which created Sicily, the Italian Peninsula, Calabria and Puglia. Usually, volcanos arise when plates are subducted under other plates. The melting plates provide the magma necessary for the volcanos to erupt. The Mediterranean is more complicated though. There was a giant sea, the Tethys Sea, about a good 200 million years ago which separated Africa from Europe. But since then, the African plate relentlessly pushes north at a speed of 2 cm a year (= 4’000 km!) which closed the Tethys Sea.

Volcanos active in Italy the last 2'000 Years - could not find a Map thus had to do it myself

Given that maritime plates are heavier than continental plates (granites crystals were formed with lighter water), the heavier maritime plate is subducted under the continental plate. This is what is still happening in Italy where the remainders of the Tethys Sea floor disappear below Italy and form the chain of volcanos. But for the rest of Europe it is different since most of the Tethys plate as already been subducted. Here, continental plates clash with continental plates and form giant mountain ranges. At one point, the Alps were higher than the Himalaya and geologist predict that in 5 million years that will again be the case.

The Mechanics of Subduction as we know it in California or in Western Indonesia - but Europe is more complex

Mount Vulcano is a result of the subduction of the little plate that remains of the Tethys Sea. Still spectacular though. And as a side note, the Romans named the island after their God Vulcano, the oldest God the Romans had. Maybe it is related to Monte Albano which was an active volcano during Rome’s early years in 700 BC. But it may also relate to the Roman warrior culture which relied heavily on the use of iron weapons. And iron weapons need Blacksmith to make them!

No Wonder the Romans were impressed by this - the Photo is from Monte Stromboli!

Be it as it may, am looking forward to climbing Monte Vulcano with you guys. It is going to be awesome including the foul sulphur smell we bring back!

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I’m bringing proper sneakers for you; no flip flops this time ;-)

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