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The Daily Volcano Quote: on the summit of Etna 12 March 2012

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Smoke was belching out continuously as if from a furnace and, where the surface of the mountain had been split by a long line of fires, under pressure from the winds inside (which on that day were raging quite violently), it also forced an exit for itself in many places; sometimes it even broke out beneath our very feet and would not let us stay still. It also happened that we might be watching some place particularly closely because it was encrusted with stones which had only just been poured out and were still smoking and sulphurous, when it would crack open somewhere, and a stream of fire would flood it, while the stones shot out with this would scorch our feet.

Pietro Bembo, De Aetna (1496), xxvii; from Pietro Bembo: Lyric Poetry, Etna, edited & translated by Mary P. Chatfield (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), p. 223.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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Time speeds up in Sicily: an Etna enigma? 11 July 2011

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Sicily’s Mount Etna has been having a lively time of it over the past few days: there will be a more detailed report here soon. For the moment, here’s a bizarre thing. Did the most recent eruption on 9 July affect electronic clocks across Sicily, setting them fifteen minutes fast? The UK’s Daily Mail ‘newspaper’ seems to think so. However, the Italian press was reporting on this strange Sicilian phenomenon more than a month ago (as the Mail‘s reporter would have found out, had they bothered to check). Here’s an Italian television news report from 9 June 2011, for example. The Corriere della Sera pointed out on 11 June that the alleged misbehaving clocks have been reported across the island, not just around Etna, suggesting that the volcano’s electromagnetic woo waves, or whatever, are not to blame.

UPDATE. Dr Boris Behncke of the INGV e-mails to say: ‘As for the clocks, none of the clocks that we have at home – 15 km from Etna’s summit – have shown any anomalous behavior’. Boris goes on to suggest that ‘this is one of those bulls**t things put into circulation on the internet’ to keep things ‘a bit metaphysical’.

News
Tutti avanti di 20 minuti al giorno Il mistero degli orologi sicilianiCorriere della Sera, 11 June 2011
Clocks in Sicily inexplicably run ahead – RIA Novosti, 11 June 2011
Mount Etna eruption closes airports and ‘knocks clocks 15 minutes fast’Daily Mail, 10 July 2011 (nice pictures at least)
The case of the volcano that set time 15 minutes fastThe Atlantic Wire, 10 July 2011

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Keeping an eye on Etna 7 July 2011

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Etna webcam 7 July 2011 23:19

Etna is stirring and might be ready to put on a show … time to watch the webcams, perhaps. Thanks to the Sage of Etna Boris Behncke and to Erik Klemetti for keeping us informed about the changing moods of the giant of Sicily.

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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.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Etna, volcano of our dreams 7 June 2011

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Etna is the volcano of our fantasies, of our torrid slumbers, of our explosive-packed revolts with their warning signs, black rain, fog, fumes and loquacious smoke, familiar all their lives to the people of Etna: four craters, four mouths that speak the language of the gods for the closed lips of men. The volcano is the passageway for the nightmares that emerge from Tartarus. Tumultuous murmurs that rise from the earth, gripping the erect flanks of this fantastic defiance, follies of the imagination reaching into the starry spheres, to force out, violently, their words of desire, whose birth is denied by the feeble reasons of a too-polite culture. Is not a volcano for understanding the whys and wherefores of our dreams?

Christine Escarmant, ‘Un volcan pour mémoire’, in Dominique Bertrand (ed.), Mythologies de l’Etna (Clermont-Ferrand : Presses universitaires Blaise-Pascal, 2004), p. 18.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: use a hot water bottle, dream of Etna 14 September 2010

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Thus, with reference to dreams occasioned by corporeal sensation, Dugald Steward mentions the case of a friend, who, having found it necessary to apply a bottle of hot water to his feet, when he went to bed, dreamed that he was making a journey to the top of Mount Etna, and that he found the heat of the ground insupportable. This dream was evidently the result of the mind, or imagination, which, between waking and sleeping, had associated the sensation excited by the bottle of hot water with that which might be excited by the hot cinders that surround a volcano.

‘Dreams, and visions of the night’, La Belle Assemblée; or, Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine, 1 October 1823, p. 154.

La Belle Assemblée, a British magazine ‘Addressed Particularly to the Ladies’, was founded by John Bell in 1806 and ran until 1868. Dugald Stewart (1753-1828) was a Scottish philosopher, ‘the pride and ornament of Scotland’.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Empedocles on Etna 27 April 2009

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… And thou, fiery world,
That sapp’st the vitals of this terrible mount
Upon whose charr’d and quaking crust I stand,
Thou, too, brimmest with life! — the sea of cloud
That heaves its white and billowy vapours up
To moat this isle of ashes from the world,
Lives! — and that other fainter sea, far down,
O’er whose lit floor a road of moonbeams leads
To Etna’s Liparëan sister-fires
And the long dusky line of Italy —
That mild and luminous floor of waters lives,
With held-in joy swelling its heart!

Matthew Arnold, Empedocles on Etna (1852), Act II.

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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Saturday Volcano Art: Thomas Cole, ‘Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily’ (1843) 21 March 2009

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Thomas Cole, 'Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily' (1843)

‘What a magnificent site! Etna with its eternal snows towering in the heavens — the ranges of nearer mountains — the deep romantic valley … I have never seen anything like it’. So wrote the American artist Thomas Cole (1801-48) of Taormina in Sicily, which he visited in April 1842. While staying at Taormina he climbed Mount Etna, and made many sketches of the landscape and the Greek and Roman remains that were to be found there. When he returned to the United States he produced several large paintings based on his time in Sicily, of which ‘Mount Etna from Taormina’ is one of the most notable.

Cole is perhaps chiefly known and celebrated today as an artist of the American landscape, and particularly of the Hudson River Valley and the Catskill Mountains. He sought in his art to represent the American landscape as an unspoilt Eden, steeped in natural rather than cultural antiquity, yet the spirit of the Italian landscape, shaped by the hand of man and haunted by history, is always present in his work. He was an artist with a deep sense of the past and a moralizing vision: he was profoundly attracted by the tranquility and harmony of the Italian landscapes he saw and painted during his two visits to Italy in 1830-32 and 1841-2, and which he continued to recreate throughout his career, but just as his American landscape views are haunted by the cycle of natural destruction and renewal, so his Italian views are deeply imbued with the presence of antiquity and the lessons of human pride and folly.

Cole’s view of Etna is structured into three zones, following established classical landscape tradition: foreground, middle ground and distance. The foreground represents the past, in the form of the ancient Teatro Greco, the Greek theatre (although most of the presently visible structure is Roman), one of the celebrated sights of Taormina. Beyond the ruined arches and broken columns of the theatre lies the present, in the form of the cultivated valley in which man and nature exist in pastoral harmony. Still further beyond, and dominating the canvas, is Mount Etna, representing the eternal. Cole thus imbues his landscape with a narrative meaning, reflecting on the long history of human civilization and yet its relative insigificance and fragility compared with the eternal forces of divinely-ordered nature.

Two versions of ‘Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily’ exist: one (1843) in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, and the other (1844) at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London.

References

Brigitte Bailey, ‘The panoptic sublime and the formation of the American citizen in Cooper’s Wing-and-Wing and Vole’s Mount Etna from Taormina, Sicily‘ (1997) [online here]

Cedar Grove: The Thomas Cole National Historic Site

Louis L. Noble, The Life and Works of Thomas Cole, N.A. (New York, 1853)

Barbara Novak, American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism, and the American Experience (1980; 3rd edn., New York: Oxford University Press, 2007)

Thomas Cole Online (Artcyclopedia)

Wilderness Art of the 1800s (Idaho State University)

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The Daily Volcano Quote: Pindar on Etna 28 May 2008

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 Snowy Etna, nurse of biting snow all year round,
from whose depths belch forth holiest springs
of unapproachable fire; during the days rivers of lava
pour forth a blazing stream
of smoke, but in times of darkness
a rolling red flame carries rocks into the deep
expanse of the sea with a crash.
That monster sends up most terrible springs
of Hephaistos’ fire — a portent
wondrous to behold.

Pindar, Pythian Ode I, lines 15-27. From Pindar: Olympian Odes, Pythian Odes, edited and translated by William H. Race (Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library, 1997), p. 215. Slightly adapted (i.e. ‘Etna’ substituted for ‘Aitna’).

The Daily Volcano Quote: from Monday to Friday, a new eruption of volcanic verbiage each day.

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Etna update, 28 May 2008 28 May 2008

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Things appear to be quiet at Etna right now, after some weeks of occasionally spectacular activity. The last week has seen episodes of strong tremor and strombolian activity with ash emission and small lava flows associated with the new eruptive fissures that have been the focus of the eruptions that have been taking place since April. The latest activity report (PDF) from the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia – Sezione di Catania indicate that only a single new lava flow, some 5.75km in length, could be observed from an overflight that took place this morning, and that activity at the summit craters was limited to degassing and fumaroles. Geochemical analysis (PDF) indicates that no new eruptive phase is currently under way: ‘The geochemical data acquired during the last week of observations do not give evidence of any variations in activity of particular importance … The slight decrease in helium isotopes in peripheral gas samples and the constant level of CO2 emissions from the soil would seem to indicate the absence of new phases of the recharging of deep magma (5-13 km below sea level)’. Toulouse VAAC reports indicate no current ash emissions.

Information
Global Volcanism Program: Etna – summary information for Etna (0101-06=)
Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia – Sezione di Catania – INGV-CT is the volcanological authority responsible for Etna; current activity reports are here
Toulouse Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre – volcanic ash advisories for the area that includes Etna

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