Volcanos One and Two
07 September 2013 | Stromboli, Aeolian Islands, Italy
The Aeolian Island are named for the wind god Aeolus. Luckily, while we were visiting, Aeolus must have been on vacation, because we had very calm weather (except for one exciting night of thunderstorms when one of our neighbor boats dragged close to us, we put some fenders out just in case, but their anchor held on time). Just as well as there are really only a couple of protected anchorages in the whole island group. The islands are tiny, just the tips of volcanos emerging from the sea. Vulcano, for example, is about 5 or 6 miles long by 2 or 3 miles wide. From our anchorage on the west side, we could see the the caldera of the volcano and the active fumaroles smoking white and yellow. If the wind was right (or, more accurately, wrong) one could also smell the sulfur. The view was pleasant, the smell not so much. How can the villagers decide to build just on the base of the volcano. There is no way to escape the smell in town. Humans! gives us some time and we get used to everything.
Before we climbed Vulcano (500m), we visited their information center. There was a nice series of displays in several languages and a couple of nice young ladies to answer any questions. These islands are much more recent than the Azorian islands and also much more active. No guide was needed to climb Vulcano. Compared with our climb of Pico in the Azores with our friends Matt and Marg, this was a stroll in the park (if we had not been so out of shape :-). We made it up and around the caldera, admiring the views and the sulfur fumaroles. We had fun coming down the scree slope almost running.
Next, we went to Isola Stromboli to climb the most active volcano in the world (according to the brochures). We chose a very calm day because there are no good anchorages in this island and we were going to be away for most of the afternoon into the evening. We picked up a mooring and left Por Dos rocking with a gentle swell and no wind.
A local guide must be hired to go up Stromboli (924m). This is not surprising as Stromboli has pyroclastic irruptions every 10 or 20 min and it is visited by many (I repeat) many tourists, with no control, someone would for sure be hurt. Plus, it is a source of income for the island. We paid 25 EU each to go up Stromboli with a guided tour. The climb is relatively easy (again peanuts compared with Pico) but the group was big and there was some older and unfit people so the climb and the descent were slow. There were several groups like ours (maybe 6 or 8 groups of about 20 or 40 people each). All tours start in the late afternoon, 4:30 or 5:00 PM so that you reach the caldera in the evening and can appreciate better the eruptions. We arrived at the top around 7:30 or 8:00 PM, but had to wait until the clouds and some other tour clear out of the area. We walked around towards the North end and started to see the inside of the caldera. A big hole could be seen where lava could be seen and heard all the time. It sounded like a propane stove lighting but at 1000x magnification. Just then an eruption happened. I have no words to explain it: big explosion, lava or rocks spitting out high in the sky and a big black smoke cloud. We waited for another 20 min or so and saw a second eruption. Then, it was our turn to descend and leave the caldera for another tour. By 10:30 or 11 PM we were back at the boat.
We dropped the mooring and motored around the north side of the island to see the volcanic eruptions from the sea. You can tell why Stromboli had been called thiethe lighthouse of the Mediterranean for thousands of years.
After going around the island, we set sail (motoring) for the Straits of Messina and our next volcano, Mount Etna. Vesuvius on the Italian mainland will have to wait until we tour the Italian peninsula by land sometime next spring. Nothing can stop the Morwood-Portoles volcano groupies.