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The Daily Volcano Quote: the power of Etna’s lava 23 June 2011

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Among the many eruptions of this volcano, the one in the year 1669, deserves to be recorded. In that year the summit was observed to send forth great quantities of smoke and flame; the top had fallen in, so that the mountain was much lowered; the islands of Vulcan and Stromboli, two volcanoes to the westward of Sicily, were observed to rage more than usual. Eighteen days before the eruption the sky was very thick and dark, with thunder, lightning, frequent concussions of the earth, and dreadful subterraneous bellowings. On the 11th of March, sometime before the lava got vent, a rent was opened in the mountain twelve miles in length, into which, when stones were thrown down they could not be heard to strike the bottom. Burning rocks, 60 palms (15 of our feet) in length, were thrown to the distance of a mile; others of a lesser size were carried three miles off; the internal noises of the mountain were exceedingly dreadful, and the thunder and lightning from the smoke scarce less terrible than they. When the lava get vent, it burst out 20 miles from the crater, and sprung up into the air to a considerable height. Here it formed a mountain of stones and ashes, not less than half a mile perpendicular in height, and three miles in circumference. For 54 days neither sun nor stars had appeared: but soon after the lava got vent, the mountain became very quiet. The terrible effects of this fiery stream may be imagined from its amazing extent; being no less than fourteen miles long and in many places six in breadth. In its course it destroyed the habitations of 30,000 persons; and meeting with a lake four miles in compass, it not only filled it up, though several fathom deep, but made a mountain in place of it. Having reached Catania, it destroyed part of its walls, and ran for a considerable way into the sea, forming a safe and beautiful harbour; which, however, was soon filled up by a fresh torrent of the same inflamed matter.

William Kirk, The Fiery Museum, or the Burning Moutains; Containing Authentic Accounts of those dreadful Eruptions which have so frequently broke out at Mounts Vesuvius and Ætna (Lewes: J. Baxter, 1808), pp. 30-32.

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1. Tony UK - 23 June 2011

Who needs pictures when you have such evocative words. It’s fascinating comparing these old descriptions with today’s scientific discussions.

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