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It’s been having fun for months now, creating its amazing gas rings calmly and happily… the Bocca Nuova Crater has been trying to get noticed for a while. Not that it needs it, given that it is one of Mount Etna’s oldest and largest “vents”. But it’s as if it wants to remind everyone that no, it’s not sleeping at all. And what should we expect tomorrow if this crater decides to erupt again?

Bocca Nuova, the immense

Bocca Nuova (New Vent) bears this name because when it opened, in 1968, as a simple collapse of a few meters into the ground, it was in fact a new degassing vent and disturbed the apparently perfect balance between the historic and very ancient Central Crater and the crater Voragine (formed in 1945). The North East Crater (1911) not far away dominated as the highest peak of Etna and nothing seemed to disturb it. The South East did not yet exist. In a short time, however, that “little hole” became a gigantic crater which today has a diameter of 500 meters! Over the years, Bocca Nuova has literally “eaten” its father, the Central, so much so that today we have almost forgotten that it existed. The immense pit measures about 200 meters deep, which is not little but not very much either. In fact, this crater often gets “clogged”.

The various phases of Bocca Nuova

Punctually, the Bocca Nuova crater fills with lava and debris until it plugs itself. It then tends to collapse under the weight of the material until it fills up again at the next eruption. The last time Bocca Nuova made headlines was at the end of the 1990s when, between 1995 and 1998, the crater made its activity clearly felt. Since then, the erupted materials have formed a solid plate that remained intact until a year ago.

bocca nuova (2)
gas ring

A new collapse

At the beginning of 2023 a new “pit” opened in the center of the Bocca Nuova plate, immediately starting to emit smoke and gas. The collapse, in itself, did not immediately indicate a danger or a sign of an eruption but it certainly demonstrates that there is once again a lot of space beneath the crust. And that the gases found their way to the surface. Just as the gases came out, so could the magma boiling in the underlying conduit – the main one of the volcano – to which Bocca Nuova is connected.

Since this summer, the vent has become much larger and has begun to emit gas rings. The rings come out with this circular shape because the push of the gas is very strong. So strong that it follows, rotating, the circular wall of the crater and when it is expelled it keeps “going round” in the air for a while. All this, combined with some particularly powerful roars heard in recent months, suggests that a period of Bocca Nuova activity is approaching.

What to expect?

When Bocca Nuova erupts you should expect a short but grandiose spectacle. And very loud too. It will almost certainly be an eruption full of ash and debris, so better there are no tourists around at that time. There may be so much material that it refills the hole from which it was ejected. After this eruption, therefore, Bocca Nuova will go back to dozing under the “blanket” that it has created for itself. Perhaps, we will be left with the memory and images of a rare and particular, impressive and unique eruption. Not to be forgotten. (PHOTOS  BY G MUSUMECI)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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