Volcano Discovered Off Sicilian Coast

Sicily is always full of surprises. Last week, an immense underwater volcano was discovered just 30 meters off of Sicily’s southern coast, near the city of Sciacca. The volcano was discovered by an oceanographic team who was attempting to study the mysterious island of Ferdinandea , which appeared off the coast of Sicily in 1831, only to disappear within the same year.

In their effort to study this “island that was no more,” however, the oceanographers found Empedocle: an active volcanic complex in a horseshoe shape, currently active, whose base measures 25 x 30 kilometers, comparable with Etna in size except for its height, rising only 500 meters from the ocean floor. Empedocle is believed to have been formed several million years ago, when the continental plates of Africa and Europe collided.

The volcano was baptized “Empedocle” in honor of the Greek philosopher and natural scientist who threw himself into the depths of Mt. Etna to discover the elusive secret of her continual eruptive activity. The oceanographers even attached a plate to the rocky wall of Empodcle in honor of the philosopher, who shared the scientists’ curiousity, but unfortunately, not their technology. Read the whole story, in Italian, on Corriere della Sera’s Web site. — Cailin Birch

This is also a good time to note that Dream of Italy’s Special Report: Sicily (also our September 2005 issue) is on sale for just $7.