The ancient Greeks thought of mount Etna, on the Italian island of Sicily, as the home of the Blacksmith of the gods.
The ancient Greeks thought of mount Etna, on the Italian island of Sicily, as the home of the Blacksmith of the gods. And as the mountain erupted, ravaged and destroyed villages and homes over the centuries with floods of molten lava, it did indeed appear to have connections with the ancien gods of wrath.
For Mount Etna is the largest and most active volcano in Europe and scientists believe that it is related to the legendary Mount Vesuvius on the Italian Peninsula, the volcano that destroyed the city of Pompeii in 79 A.D.
However, Vesuvius is now dead, but the Etna lives on as an open threat - a dangerous, unpredictable mountain of fire. But nature is not always completely cruel and the volcanic soils, spewed from the mountain centuries ago, yields a rich harvest as compensation for those who dare to live under its ever present threat of eruption.
There are more than 400 extinct carters on the pock marked slopes of the volcano, and each could erupt with little or no warning and each crater has a history of destruction, of towns and villages burned and buried under the heat and weight of the lava.
Since ancient times the mountain has been the centre of legends and miracles such a when a major eruption occurred in 1886 and a river of molten lava steamed towards the town of Nicolsi. A white coloured statue of Saint Anthony was taken to the head of the flow, and as the colour of the statue turned black, the lava flow stopped....just short of the outskirts of the town.
In 1971 a priest in the village of Saint Alfio offered his life in return for heaving of the village threatened y a massive river of liquid rock that was pouring down Mount Etna towards Saint Alfio. A small cottage blocked the flow from the village at the last moment. The village was saved but four months later the priest died.
The volcano has erupted, on an average, fifteen times a century and many once-thriving villages, farms and vineyards have been destroyed in each eruption.
An Icelandic physicist, Professor Thorjourn Sigurgeirsson, now claims to have discovered a method of controlling the direction of lava flows from volcanoes in order to direct the molten rock away from villages and valuable farming land.
Professor Sigurgeirsson's theory is to simply pour cold water on to the front of the flow, causing it to quickly solidify and form a dam against the rest of the river of liquid rock.
But so far the Professor's theory has only been tried on a small scale, and over the years Mount Etna ha built a reputation of conducting its affairs in a big way....perhaps too big for mere mortal man.