Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Mount Etna Miracles

Written by Janet Lawrence, Resident Director

Mount Etna may be best known for its eruptions, hot lava, and destruction, but it also has a niche in the miracle department.

This Saturday, CET Catania united with CET Siena and CET Florence for a tour of Catania's mistress from above, Mount Etna. It was a rainy, misty day and our guide Sandro worried the fog would obscure the view of the summit.

During our tour, the group traced the oldest vestiges of Etna's volcanic rock on the shores of Aci Castello to its newest output at the volcano's summit.

The 500,000-year-old volcanic rock on the shore has been smoothed and rounded by the
Mediterrenean water so that it interlocks
like cobble-stones. Quite different from the brand new, flinty charcoal-like substance that we would find on the volcano's summit. It erupted from the volcano just a few weeks ago.

As we made our way up the mountain, we learned about Etna miracles. The veil of Sant'Agata was said to have shielded sacred objects from oncoming lava at various moments in history. Then, during the 1991-93 eruption, the town of Zafferano was nearly overtaken by hot magma.

Our students visited the site where the lava flow miraculously stopped--just a few short kilometers from the city center. Of course, Etna's inhabitants haven't always been so lucky--we also saw the rooftops of homes that were swallowed up during eruptions.

Then our very own miracle--the thick fog parted as we made the final ascent to the Silvester Craters, near the summit of Etna. A corridor of blue sky emerged through which we had an unobstructed view from the craters to the Mediterrenean shoreline far below.

Sandro, a man who has made a career of studying this feisty volcano, said he had never seen the view look so particularly beautiful.

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