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Etna in eruption - volcanic eruption Sicily

 

I remember the first time I sat feet on Sicilian soil. At the fime I had no idea that this was to be the start of a long relationship with an island, that slowly introduces it secrets to its visitors. One of my first memories from Sicily is the vulcano Etna and its eruptions. Not in a physical way, because the weather was cloudy, but the remains of the giant that overlooked the area around Catania. It was during my trip thought Catania I saw the first traces of Etna. The grey basalt blocks, old lava which was used as building material, road pavement, and for anything imaginable. Here the locals really understood to use the flood of destruction that Etna during history has send after the city. A closer look at the houses revealed that here Catanians had taken the free building material and we use bricks for building.

 

A harmonic co-existence

Maybe it is a sort of compensation that falls on the Sicilans who have to live with the changing moods of the volcano, or Etna and the sicilians like some animals live in a sort of symbiosis, where it is the volcano setting the pace.

During my time on the island I have seen Etna in eruption several times. One hot summers night we climbed the vulcano and were sitting a couple of hundred yards from the floating lava stream with a bottle of wine and enjoyed the sight of the night sky lit up, as if we had reached the Inferno of Dante. In the theatre of Taormina I have listened to operas, concerts, and even seen movies with Etna as backscreen and a red "snake" of lava running down from the smoking mountain.

 

Eruption form the air

When I travelled with a TV-crew to make some programmes for danish television about the island, a new experience awaited me. From the plane I noticed strange clouds over the island. And even further down I saw another blanket of clouds from the Eolian Islands and south. The plane turned west and passed Etn, and as we ascended towards Catania, I studied the strange cloud cover. Suddenly I saw a thick, black column of smoke and after a couple of seconds later the area was lightend in an inferno of yellow and red lava that was thown up in the air a few miles away. I couldn't take my eyes away from the sight. And I turned abound in my seat to get a better look. The photographer was annoyed that we were getting close to the airport and the was no chance that he could get hold of the camera. The locals just sat still, nodding understanding to the escapades of the local vulcano.

 

Vulcanic rain

When we landed we felt a humid heat. It was late in the evening and the temperature was well over 25 deg. We got into our rental car and started driving towards Taormina. On the way out of Catania it started to pour down. A heavy rainfall started and when we got the the autostrada a layer of 1 inch of vulcanic ashes and pomice was spread over the road.The force of the vulcano had pushed them high up in the air and as the hot humid air had cooled down the moist turned to rain.

 

Ashes on the corso

In Taormina elegant ladies had found their unbrellos, they didn't want volcanic stains on the nice Versace-dresses and outside of our hotel the portier was already cleaning the ashes away. The cars were not as at home covered in a light coat of snow, here it was covered in the finest layer of vulcanic ashes. What a welcome!