Auguri Sicilia !

Lava throne 27.12.02 - 4.01.03



Touring around the Mt. Etna is fascinating, because here you can discover the original live style in the little cities.


Linguaglossa on the east side of  Mt.Etna. After two month the people are busy to bring the mass of volcanic ash from the streets. The name Linguaglossa means 'glowing tongue'.

Nocturnal scence. Circum polar stars around the northern asterisk together with Etnas lightning shine of the lava flows on the 3.01.03 

Deceptive romantic appears the silent and peacefull fire throne on this photo. But it was an icy WINTER on this volcano and  after two nights in 2700m on the 30/31.12.02 and 2/3.12.03 we can say that Gertrud Keim, Werner Zagler and me had an elementary snow and fire experience in a nearly polar climate.


Advice: The ascend of Mt.Etna during the winter time requires a very good local knowledge of the whole mountain areal. Use maybe GPS for signing your backway because the fast changing weather conditions can be so terrible that your trip can end badly because of disorientation. For suddenly appearing thunder,- hail,- and snow storms, with wind speeds of  more than 140 km/h and temperatures of minus -15C° in the summit region, you won't have any protections or refugies. The Torre del Filosofo can't give you shelter anymore because it's laying under a thick lapilli soil..!!!!

Out of question of corse are fanatical digger who are keen on  rummaging in this meter thick ash and lapilli layer to get down to the main entrance.




Remember the TORRE DEL FILOSOFO, a  place of elementary thoughts 

Photo left: 24.8.2002, Photo middle, right: 2.11.2002

The only visible utensil now of the building which is existing since 1956, is the antenna which is 'overranking' the lapili layer about 30 cm. A photo link is available on the update von B. Behncke ( 12.Dec ). For us it was impossible to reach this place because of the violent weather conditions. Peter Diethelm from Switzerland had this unique happening to get nearly cremated alive at the Torre del Filosopho in the beginning of December. The seemingly weak crater at the right photo above which was laying  in front of the big one, got once more active while the overdimensional lava fontain unfortunately was bending itself far over the refugio. A permanent hail of glowing pyroclasts was covering the building in less then a few hours. Fortunately Peter Diethelm could survived this volcano attack by escaping through the only free eastern window of the building because the other one were filled completely up from the outside. By protecting himself with a rucksack he could get out of this areal bombardement..



This long exposed photos are showing the throne flows and a weak eruptive activity of the new crater behind.


Cooking at the flows

In connection of the lateral eruption of Etna at the 26 th Oktober are standing the new lava domes underneath the new craters.The Td'F is situated upper. The beginning of the out flowing lava was dated on the 13 th Nov 2002 (Update B. Behncke ). An apprx.30 - 40 m high lava throne which leed of has now the altidude of 2770 osl. ( own GPS measurements +-5m) is the result of the high lava effusion in the last eight weeks.


The photos we made on the top of the throne wich was situated south and underneath the new big craters.( a map is following).  The blocked main canal caused by a big stiffed lava rock which came up from the magmatic deep. He was slowly carried through the whole canyon.. The breadth of the lava canyon was about 2-3 meter but the deep was unknown. May it was a fracture because the volume we estimated on 5m^3 per second.


At this place we made the experience to get nearly pushed into the canyon by the strong storm. It was only possible to hold the balance by creeping on you four extremities like apes. So we discussed seriously the worst case. What happens if somebody of us will fall inside this canyon? Our prognosis was at least a 30% survival chance. First you have to fall in, and than if you are not completely shocked you may can stand up very fast. Sinking inside this viscous substance may went slowly, because of the specific weigth of lava.  By running or flying ( this depends on your daily form) over this hot bottom you may have the chance to reach the exit which was situated in a distance between five to eight meters. Unfortunately no one was falling in this canyon and perhaps we will get a useable answer  the next time.


Left: This subterrain lava flow journey wents about a distance of 50m and appeared in the photographed lava canyon which had the deep of may 15 m.Right: The map of the southern region


Videoclips: (click on pictures above)

Left; Lava bubbles at the effusive canyon. The enclosed gases in the uprising magma get free at the surface and this scene remembers to an big hot flabby stone pudding. Right; Down flowing lava. Because of decreasing level of the lava the yellow / white walls got visible. Very nice to see were the special looking surface of this walls. The mechanic power of friction of the viscous lava left horizontal grooves on the natural shaped rock. Nearly similar signs of this mecanism you can see for example in the old ice glacier beds of the European Alpes.


The upper photos are showing the up to 8 meter broad  mass rich and very fast moving lava flow. The speed was about 3 m/s at the most inclination


Why lava throne ?* Everbody which had seen this exposed place didn't found a better explanation. Like a majesty seat looks this canyon if you look from the down position. And when this throne is not occupied by gods, you  have really enough people in the moment for this hot chair.




Videoclips, Icebreaker (1,4 MB )

Of corse a small surprise is, when a new lava flow comes promptly towards during your second ascent (2.1.03) . This reminded me of an ice-braker who divided the whole ice - field constantly. Experiences of my first attendance 1991 came into my thoughts. In the picture left you can see how even up to one meter large ice- floes were pushed easily aside. About 50 m behind the front, the lava formed at the flank under the 2 meters thick ice layer little cooking seas by developing a high steam pressure. After a previous announcement by an audibly dull/musty sound this steam caves seem to ' explode' under developing again little eruptions. Up to a time of 30 seconds the ash - steam mixture pushed through the ice and reached the height of may 5 meter. That probably came along, that the water was partially completely included and compressed in the cavities by the constantly moving lava stream and thus under high pressure got explosively pressed through the ice surface. This phenomen could be observed also with the first nocturnal lava stream. The principle of a steam boiler with a defective over-pressure valve was demonstrated descriptive and live (For me at least!).

Lava attack at 2:00 am


Dream ends at 2.00 pm: After descending the throne, we had to escape from the stormy suspended ice plateau on 2600 m and discovered beside the three meters high warm lava walls (may three days old)  the only wind protected niche in the whole Aetna areal. So we could lay despite of the low temperature ( lausi minus 10 - 15°C ) without tent in sleeping bags under the stars. Devotion-fully (honeymoon) Werner chopped for Gertrud and himself a 2 x 2 meter large flat recess in the ice and gave themselves the supposition for a more or less comfort night. Gertrud said at 1 o'clock still sceptically to me, "are you sure that the right lower flow does not increase". With my boundless optimism I did answer "no, no, the branched lava flow (picture center) show for hours no change". Packed inside my sleeping back and most contently, nearly already in sleep, I heard a clear clinking sound at 2 o'clock behind me. Well well, lifting one eye-cover by turning around, I had unfortunately to discover in a distance of 10 m red glowing rocks still moving in my direction. But there was still the hope that maybe the new flow pushes itself through the old canal. O.K. lets sleep again and may count some sheeps. Nothing ! Ten minutes later Gertrud was shouting to me, "he Thorsten, don't you like to get up". Meanwhile the 5 meter high and glowing front came nearer on to a few meters. Because of my close position to the existing wall it was not possible to see this glowing roller. Laying also in a niche we noticed that this place will be very unsafe for the next minutes because the lava will cross exactly here the walls. Overtired and extremely angry I peeled myself out of the sleeping bag and noted very fast that we should leave our elegant accomodation as soon as possible. And so it came that within two minutes EATING, LIVING and SLEEPING was found itself as meltwater again (right). In addition a five meter layer of lava above,  the destruction was successful finished. Easily 'sourish' we stood at two o'clock at night this time in pants in the middle of the storm again.....



Colours in the evening on 2700m , and a nearly permanent light apperance??? in the afternoon. Color prosecuted mania!


Morning impressions over the cooled down lava flows the past three days


The destroyed cafe Esagonal at the Sapienza

Werner Zagler, Gertraut Keim


In the closer area we enjoyed the little green

Map of the new lava flows

Jump to Etna October 2002


      Imposing impressions      
      A fiery arena      
Morning at the Td'F


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All photos and text by Th. Boeckel

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