of the most spectacular eruptions at Etna during recent decades began
in early September 1989, culminating in a series of violent lava fountaining
episodes from Southeast Crater (SE Crater) that were followed by a flank
eruption in the upper N part of Valle del Bove (called Valle del Leone),
and, later, by more fountaining episodes from SE Crater. The main phase
of the eruption occurred during the declining tourist season when there
were still many observers around, and therefore it was very well observed.
I was among those observers and thus lived the first major eruption of
One of the main features of the 1989 eruption and associated geophysical
events was the formation of a fracture system that extended several kilometers
southeastwards from SE Crater, towards densely populated areas. Fortunately,
no eruption occurred from this fracture system, but the development of
similar fractures in the future could well culminate in an eruption.
eruption photos by Giuseppe Scarpinati
SE Crater in vigorous Strombolian eruption on the evening of 16 September
1989. Between 11 and 27 September, the SE Crater produced 14 episodes
of paroxysmal eruptive activity, characterized by high lava fountains
and voluminous lava emission. Between some of these episodes, Strombolian
activity like that shown here occurred between some of the paroxysms.
view of the SE Crater from the Torre del Filosofo mountain hut on
25 September 1989. Compared to what it is now (in early 2000), the
cone around the crater was quite insignificant. A steaming crack is
seen on the near flank of the cone, evidence of fracturing of the
cone on its flanks during the later events of the series of paroxysmal
flows produced by the eruptive episodes of the SE Crater (which is
hidden by weather clouds in this photo taken on 25 September 1989)
have flowed several kilometers towards the Piano del Lago (in the
foreground), interrupting the dirt road which leads to the Torre del
Filofoso building (seen on a hill in front of the fuming main summit
cone, in the background).
flows erupted from the SE Crater on 22 September 1989 have encircled
the Torre del Filosofo mountain hut. One lava lobe has touched the
NW corner of the building (right photo), but the wooden shack used
during the summer season by the mountain guides has been miraculously
left unharmed. Photos were taken on 25 September 1989.
seen from the home of Giuseppe Scarpinati (the photographer of this
image) on 28 September 1989. This is the second day of the flank eruption
in the Valle del Leone, whose lava flow is visible at right. A dense
ash plume is rising from the SE Crater, which continues to produce
Strombolian activity, but no longer lava flows.