Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
14-28 October 2000
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Eruptive activity at the Bocca Nuova,
27 September 2000

Photo by Boris Behncke

27 September 2000

View from the E rim of the Bocca Nuova into the active eastern vent during a Strombolian explosion on 27 September 2000. The remainder of the large cone that grew in October-November 1999 around the NW vent of the Bocca Nuova is visible in the right background. Poor quality of the image is due to limited scanner capacity

More images of September 2000

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The Etna telecamera is maintained by the "Sistema Poseidon" and there is no relationship of any kind with this site and its author. The Poseidon web site is in Italian, and the link to the telecamera is changed frequently, so that it is not indicated here (click on "Etna live cam" on the Poseidon home page). Please note also that all information provided on the present page (and the archived Etna news pages) is informal, based on personal observations, and is not intended to substitute, or compete with, the news bulletins now issued regularly at the Poseidon web site.

WARNING: Access to the summit area is again VERY DANGEROUS. Explosive activity at the Bocca Nuova is frequently ejecting bombs far beyond the crater rims, most notably on its N, NW, W and SW sides. It is still officially forbidden to go beyond 2700 m elevation on the S flank. Tourists should make excursions only with the mountain guides, even though this will not satisfy the wish to see what's going on at close range. Besides this, weather conditions are often unstable. Strong wind, snow or rain and clouds are occuring frequently in the summit area, even during the summer, and one can get easily lost. The mountain guides can be contacted at the cable car (near the Rifugio Sapienza) on the southern side of Etna (phone: 095-914141), or (during the summer) at the hotel "Le Betulle" at Piano Provenzana, on the northern side (phone: 095-643430).

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28 October 2000 update. Spectacular video footage of the ongoing eruptive activity of the Bocca Nuova has been shown on 28 October in television news in Italy (RAI) and abroad. Some news agencies picked up the news and transformed them into reports about lava fountains and strongly increased activity at "a crater at 3300 m elevation on Etna". The truth is that the video, which was made by the RAI television cameraman Giovanni Tomarchio, shows nothing else than what had been observed during Behncke's recent visits to the active crater. The 1 minute clip, which was presumably filmed on the evening of 27 October, has mainly views into the active NW pit (whose floor seems to be much less deep than on 17 October; see 18 October update below).
The activity at the Bocca Nuova is continuing in a similar manner as before, with waxing and waning phases. No true lava fountains are occurring, but the activity consists of discrete, though very frequent, Strombolian bursts.

26 October 2000 update. A new visit was made to the summit of Etna on 25 October by Behncke and two PhD students of the Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche of Catania University. This visit revealed ongoing eruptive activity at both vents within the Bocca Nuova and the formation of a new collapse pit in the SE part of the crater.
The activity had been quite intense on the evening of 24 October, when mountain guides from the S side of Etna had visited the summit area. Powerful explosions prevented them from reaching the rim of the Bocca Nuova, but they could make observations from the Voragine. Bombs frequently fell outside the crater. Furthermore the guides observed incandescence at the spatter cones that had formed in late August at the lower end of the eruptive fissure on the NNE side of the SE Crater cone.
On 25 October the activity in the Bocca Nuova was at slightly lower levels, though significantly stronger than during Behncke's previous visit on 17 October. Explosions within the NW pit of the crater occurred every few minutes, but most ejecta fell back into the pit. Larger explosions occurred every 5-10 minutes. Some produced vertical jets of bombs, most of which fell back into the pit, but some projected bombs far beyond the rims of the pit, and bombs rained down over a radius of up to 300 m from the pit. During 1.5 hours of observation from the SW rim of the Bocca Nuova it happened twice that bombs fell as close as 10 m from the observers. It was noted in particular that during such explosions bombs traveled on many different trajectories, some quite high (so that the flying bombs were well visible in the air), but others at very low angles, which made them almost invisible to the observers. Explosions of this kind are quite hazardous to visitors to the crater, especially such visitors who lack any experience, and it should be underlined once more that the summit craters are off limits and tourists should in no case approach the rim of the Bocca Nuova.
Due to the risk of stronger explosions it was impossible to obtain any views of the interior of the pit (whose floor had been about 50 m below the S lip on 17 October), but from the noise and from the angle of ejections it could be assumed that there has been little infilling of the pit since 17 October.
Activity at the E vent was less violent, and only at nightfall did incandescent fountains become well visible. Most explosions produced plumes of brownish ash mixed with incandescent lava fragments. The source of this activity was in the S part of the vent, and the magma level appeared quite deep.
The most significant change since Behncke's 17 October visit was the formation of a new collapse pit immediately to the S of the E vent. This new pit was about 80 m in diameter and it was connected to the E vent, with a low, craggy septum between the two. No eruptive activity occurred at the new pit, but it constantly emitted a dense plume of white vapor, hiding its interior from view. The position of the pit corresponds to the site of the former SE vent of the Bocca Nuova, which had been buried during the October-November 1999 activity, whereas there had been no active vent previously in the location of the E vent.
During the descent towards the Rifugio Sapienza (which is currently closed to renovation works), which was made at dark, an incandescent spot was well visible on the upper SE flank of the SE Crater. The intensity of the incandescence was not constant, but at times was barely visible while at other times it was distinct.
No observations could be made of the other summit craters during the 25 October visit, but Giuseppe Scarpinati reports that during the last few nights a faint, fluctuating incandescence has been visible at the NE Crater. This is not visible with the naked eye but only with the help of a night amplification viewer. Scarpinati interprets this incandescence as evidence of deep-seated Strombolian activity within the central pit of the NE Crater.

24 October 2000 update. Eruptive activity has continued at the Bocca Nuova through the past four days. Both vents in that crater were active, with frequent Strombolian explosions and occasional ash emissions. Sporadic observations made at night revealed fluctuating glow at the crater at the sites of the two vents; in a few cases explosions sent incandescent bombs more than 150 m above the rim of the crater. No direct observations have been made since 17 October of the interior of the Bocca Nuova, so that it is not known whethere there has been further infilling of the NW vent, whose floor was about 50 m below its rim on 17 October. So far there is no evidence of effusive activity at the Bocca Nuova.
The slow heating of the SE Crater, noted since a few weeks, is continuing, and now there are several incandescent spots visible in the upper part of its cone, the most conspicuous on the SE side of the crater rim.

20 October 2000 update. The continuing eruptive activity at the Bocca Nuova is going through highs and lows. On the evening of 19 October, Scarpinati was unable to see incandescence with his naked eye, and even his night light amplifying viewer revealed only a very weak incandescence at one of the active vents of the Bocca Nuova. However, on the early morning of 20 October (before sunrise), the activity had intensified notably, and incandescent bursts were perfectly visible with the naked eye. Using a telescope, Scarpinati was able to see bombs flying high above the crater.
During the forenoon of the same day, the Bocca Nuova was seen to emit a dense yellowish-white gas plume occasionally mixed with ash, and the activity seems to continue vigorously.

The summit craters of Etna,
17 October 2000

Photos by Boris Behncke

17 October 2000
17 October 2000

Left: The SE Crater cone and the Sudestino (dark mound at base of the SE Crater cone) seen from Torre del Filosofo on 17 October. Part of main summit cone is visible in left background
Right: Photo taken from the SW side of the Sudestino (at right) with the SE Crater cone at left. Gas plume before the blue sky comes from the Bocca Nuova (out of the photo towards left), not from the SE Crater

17 October 2000
17 October 2000

Eastern vent of the Bocca Nuova emitting ash, seen from SW rim of the Bocca Nuova (left photo) and from S rim of the crater (right photo). Note that the rim of the vent is darkened by countless fresh bombs in the right photo

17 October 2000
17 October 2000

Left: Eastern vent of the Bocca Nuova during a Strombolian burst without ash emission (ejected bombs are visible in the large version of the image)
Right: Wide angle view into the NW pit of the Bocca Nuova, showing active vent on its floor, about 50 m below the rim. Incandescent fountain is about 10 m high, but many bombs (invisible in this image) are rising higher than the rim of the pit

17 October 2000
17 October 2000

Zooming on the active vent on the floor of the NW pit of the Bocca Nuova. Inactive second vent to the right of the erupting one is not visible due to gas plume filling the pit

18 October 2000 update. Another visit was made on 17 October to the active Bocca Nuova by Behncke, who was accompanied this time by two students of the University of Catania. The observations revealed ongoing eruptive activity at both vents of the Bocca Nuova and a significant amount of infilling of the NW vent of that crater.
On the outer SW and W flanks of the main summit cone, several dense bombs and scoria clasts (0.1 to 1 m in maximum diameter) were found during the ascent to the Bocca Nuova; these had been ejected during stronger activity at the NW vent - a circular pit with vertical walls and a diameter of about 150 m - on the previous days. During the 17 October visit that vent was not as violently active as during Behncke's most recent visits on 10 and 13 October, but loud degassing occurred almost continously after the group had reached the SW rim of the Bocca Nuova. Occasional louder explosions ejected bombs a few tens of meters above the lip of the pit. Only rarely did bombs fall outside the pit, and when this happened, they fell mainly to the S and SE of the pit.
At the same time the E vent ("1964 vent") showed a much more spectacular activity. Since the early forenoon that vent had produced frequent emissions of brownish-gray ash, and observation from the SW rim of the Bocca Nuova disclosed that most emissions were accompanied by strong Strombolian bursts, which ejected bombs up to 150 m above the vent. Many bombs fell outside the vent, mainly to the S and NW. The crater floor to the S of the two active vents was covered with thousands of bombs ranging in size from 5 cm to 1.5 m. The remainder of the October-November 1999 pyroclastic cone, which stands between the two vents, was completely covered with a black sheet of fresh ejecta.
At around 1415 h, a few stronger explosions occurred within the NW pit, which were followed for the next 45 minutes by near continuous emissions of brown ash, at times punctuated by vertical Strombolian bursts. After that the ash emissions ended, and the vent returned to very loud, almost continuous degassing. At this stage it was possible to peer into the pit over its S lip for a few minutes. The last time Behncke had cast an eye of the interior of this pit was on 29 August; at that time its bottom had been invisible, and other visitors (including the local mountain guides) had failed to see its bottom ever since the Bocca Nuova had again become accessible after its large October-November 1999 eruption. It had been assumed that the depth of the pit was of many hundreds of meters. On 17 October the floor of the pit was only about 50 m below the rim, much less than had been assumed after the previous visits. The floor was entirely covered with fresh black ejecta. Close to its center lay a small active vent which was the site of incessant lava fountaining, producing the sharp hissing noise that had been audible for most of the time since Behncke and his companions had reached the crater. The vent lay at the top of a low mound which grew visibly due to the continuous accumulation of fresh blobs of lava. Every few minutes the loud degassing noise and fountaining stopped abruptly for 5-10 seconds and then resumed in the same manner as before. During the few minutes spent in that place, a dilute fountain of incandescent ejecta rose almost continuously to several tens of meters above the rim of the pit, but fortunately all fell back into the pit.
A second vent filled by a plug of semi-solid lava lay about 20 m to the E of the active one on the pit's floor; the surface of the plug was criscrossed by glowing cracks but did not show any sign of activity.
Ash emission from the E vent was intermittent from 1500 until 1630 but then became near continuous until night fell (observation made during descent to the Rifugio Sapienza on Etna's S flank). After nightfall, Scarpinati observed intense Strombolian activity at the E vent from his home in Acireale, which was visible with the naked eye (for much of the recent months he had made his observations with the aid of a night vision device, and no incandescence had been visible with the naked eye; a small incandescent spot on the NNE side of the summit of the SE Crater had been detected in this way).
On 18 October, ash emissions continued from the E vent of the Bocca Nuova; the plumes were darker than on the day before. Furthermore, new fumaroles were visible on the upper flanks of the SE Crater cone, and gas emission was noted at the summit vent of that crater during the 17 October visit; a small gas plume was visible at the same site on the 18th.
The current activity at the Bocca Nuova marks a return to a relatively mild persistent summit activity at Etna, where for a long period the scene had been dominated by brief, violent episodes of lava fountaining and short-lived lava flows, separated by intervals of almost complete quiet. Yet it is not safe at all to visit the stage of this activity (the Bocca Nuova), because many of the explosions occurring there eject bombs beyond the rims of the crater. Although the activity was slightly less intense at the NW visit on 17 October than during the previous visits, this might be only a temporary decrease, and stronger activity might return at any time. Visitors who climb Etna without being accompanied by mountain guides should not get close to the Bocca Nuova, even though the possibility to see the persistent activity is extremely tempting. During the intense summit eruptions of the past 5 years and 3 months there have been no fatal accidents due to the eruptive activity, and this seems a mere miracle. It is in the interest of all concerned people - mountain guides and visitors - that this remains so, because a fatal accident would probably lead to even more serious restrictions of access to the summit area.

Eruptive activity at the Bocca Nuova,
5 October 2000

Photos by Boris Behncke

5 October 2000
5 October 2000

Strong gas and ash emission from the Bocca Nuova during the early afternoon of 5 October 2000, photographed from the W flank of Etna (at about 1700 m elevation). These images render a clear impression of the poor weather conditions during the excursion made that day with a group of students from the Geomar research institute (Kiel, Germany)

14 October 2000 update. Eruptive activity at the Bocca Nuova is continuing, and during the past few days it has shown a gradual, though irregular, increase.
After the latest visit by Boris Behncke (Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche, University of Catania - DSGUC) on 10 October, the activity was again observed at close range by Giuseppe Scarpinati (Italian correspondent of the "Association Volcanologique Européenne", seated in Paris, France) and Jean Claude Tanguy (Université Paris 6 and IPGP, France) on the afternoon of 12 October. At that time the NW vent activity was similiar to that observed two days earlier, but the E ("1964") vent had grown significantly more active. Scarpinati described frequent jets of dark ash, at times accompanied by ejections of blocks which were followed by dark trails of dust (ash). He also noted occasional sprays of incandescent lava fragments from that vent, some of which dropped bombs beyond the rim of the vent.
On that same day, Behncke observed the volcano from near Bronte, on the lower W flank, after nightfall, with a bright full moon rising behind the mountain. Every few minutes small incandescent explosions occurred at the Bocca Nuova, and one fairly strong explosion generated a 200 m high incandescent column.
On 13 October, Behncke visited the summit craters for the 100th time since 1989; he was accompanied by Scarpinati, Giovanni Sturiale (DSGUC), a German journalist and a German photographer. During the morning, a strong wind had blown the gas and ash plume from the summit craters toward N, causing light ash falls and a strong smell of sulfur dioxide around Piano Provenzana. By the time the group arrived near the summit, the wind had calmed, and viewing conditions were favorable. Observations were made from the SW rim of the Bocca Nuova, just outside the range of frequent bomb falls.
Explosive activity was near continuous at both the NW and the 1964 vents, and it appeared somewhat stronger than on the previous day, as noted by Scarpinati. Bombs were ejected almost continuously from the NW vent; most fell back into the vent, but frequent stronger explosions ejected bombs (some of them up to 1 m across) far beyond the rims of the vent, and beyond the W and N rims of the Bocca Nuova. Explosions occurred at an unknown depth within the active vent, a pit about 150 m wide with vertical walls; any approach to the rim of that pit was impossible due to the frequent explosions. It was noted by all observers that the strongest explosions were accompanied by distinct ground shaking.
The 1964 vent in the E part of the Bocca Nuova was less violently active; every few minutes it produced prolonged loud roaring noises followed by emissions of ash clouds - most of them dilute, but some rather dense, and then by a few Strombolian bursts. On several occasions bombs were flung far beyond the venti's rims, mostly to the S. The crater floor around that vent, which three days before was covered only with older ash and scoriae, was littered with numerous fresh black bombs.
Shortly after the group had descended from the main summit cone (which hosts the Bocca Nuova and the Voragine), explosions at the NW vent grew significantly stronger. At about 1430 h, a particularly strong explosion produced a cannon shot like detonation and ejected large bombs that fell down to the NW and W base of the main summit cone.
While the Bocca Nuova is doing much of the show alone in these days, there are some signs that the SE Crater is slowly heating up as well. A single incandescent spot has been observed at night near the summit of the SE Crater cone by Scarpinati over the past week. During his 12 October visit, Scarpinati had also found a small incandescent vent at the Sudestino, which had not been active since 16 April. On the early afternoon of 13 October a thin column of white gas was seen rising from the summit vent of the SE Crater when observed from Piano delle Concazze (2.5 km to the N); mountain guides of the N flank remarked that on the day before in the same lighting conditions there had been no gas emission at all from that crater.
It seems that just before the onset of the next winter Etna is once more entering a most interesting phase of activity - yet another chapter in the long saga of the summit eruptions initiated in the summer of 1995.

Several other web pages covering the recent and ongoing eruptions of the Southeast Crater are now available; these contain photos and movie clips of some of the most spectacular moments of that period.

Etna in 2000 - a list of all paroxysms at the SE Crater since 26 January and photos (this site)

Etna in 2000 - various pages at Stromboli On-line with photos and movie clips of SE Crater paroxysms and Bocca Nuova gas rings: most photos are of Marco Fulle, the artist photographer among us

Extremely spectacular video clips, taken by British cameraman and film maker David Bryant on 15 February 2000
At "Italy's Volcanoes" -
At Stromboli On-line

An interview with Boris Behncke, made in late February 2000 by a BBC team and a video clip (RealPlayer)

Photos of the eruptive activity, 15-23 February 2000, by Tom Pfeiffer (University of Arhus, Denmark) - scroll to bottom of page

Photos of an eruptive episode on 13 February 2000, posted on the web site of the Association Volcanologique Européenne, Paris, France

Thorsten Boeckel's web site (Germany) with photos and movie clips of several paroxysm of the SE Crater in February, April and June 2000

A small web page reporting on Etna's current activity - and check what happens to your cursor on that page...

Charles Rivière's Etna home page, with many photos and video clips (the most recent of the paroxysm of 5 May 2000), frequent updates, and other, highly interesting items (in French and English)

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