Underwater Volcanoes: Exceptional Images Filmed In The Mediterranean
The Aeolian Islands archipelago in Italy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its intense volcanic activity.
On May 13th, the Stromboli volcano experienced another major explosion that generated a thick cloud of smoke and landslides that reached the sea.
While this surface eruption was highly visible, most of the world’s volcanic activity is actually hidden from view. More than a million volcanoes are underwater, generating 80% of the world’s volcanic activity.
As part of the Decade for Ocean Science (2021-2030), coordinated by UNESCO, a “UNESCO – 1 Ocean” exploration mission led by photographer-explorer Alexis Rosenfeld conducted an underwater exploratory mission in early June not far from Stromboli, off the island of Panarea, to shed light on the activity of underwater volcanoes.
Diving Into the Heart of One of Europe’s Most Important Volcanic Systems
The images shot by Alexis Rosenfeld and Italian filmmaker Roberto Rinaldi take us deep into the Panarea underwater crater and along the rim of the caldera. At a depth of only a few meters, their cameras captured permanent gas eruptions, coming directly from the volcano’s magma chamber, escaping from the bowels of the Earth to form impressive curtains of bubbles. Some areas release more than a million liters of gas a day.
Much deeper, more than seventy meters below the surface, an exceptional site has recently been discovered: The Smoking Land. It consists of a multitude of hydrothermal vents that expel acidic fluids at high temperatures.
“From the surface, you wouldn’t suspect anything. Yet the underwater volcanoes of Panarea are one of the most striking landscapes I have ever seen. We are at the same time enveloped by the infinite silence of the ocean and in the middle of a Dante-esque spectacle of volcanic chimneys that spit out gases and burning fluids, a bit like being at the gates of hell. You realize that the Earth is alive,” says Alexis Rosenfeld.
If you would like to watch videos and interviews about this incredible discovery, visit their website HERE.
A Constant Threat to Coastal Populations
These phenomena are monitored daily by the team of Professor Francesco Italiano, head of the Palermo section of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), because they can represent a risk to the population.
In recent years, scientists have noted an “instability” in the behavior of volcanoes that requires further research. They believe that a “major event” is possible. “We estimate that, according to a natural cycle, there is a major explosion in this area every 70 years. The last one took place at the end of the 1930s,” the scientist recalls.
In the event of an explosion, “one of the risks is the formation of a tsunami”, explains Francesco Italiano. “This is a phenomenon that moves at a very high speed, at least 300 km/h. It could therefore hit the islands in a few minutes, which means that we have to react very quickly,” he explains.
A UNESCO Priority
UNESCO has long experience in this field, thanks to its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). Since the 1960s, it has coordinated the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWS). In 2005, it added three other systems: the CTWS in the Caribbean, the IOTWS for the Indian Ocean, and the NEAMTWS for the Northeast Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
The UN has also developed a training program for coastal populations. It has been successfully implemented in several regions of the world, such as South-East Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean, and is currently being deployed around the Mediterranean.