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Once upon a time, volcanoes erupted suddenly. In the sense that no one could – or knew – how to recognize the signs. Over the centuries, people living on volcanoes have learned to understand their “language”. The farmers, the forest guards simply by walking and living on the territory understood when something changed. When the steam turned to ash. When the ground was deformed. You just had to be “children of the volcano” to understand it.

Times have changed today. Not because we can no longer see the signals, but because we are not used to doing it with our eyes and mind. We no longer know how to recognize the language of nature, but luckily modern technology helps us to recover. And today, Catania and the Etna area can boast one of the most modern and effective centers for monitoring the volcano: the I.N.G.V. The opening of this institute to the web is now educating many people to recognize the signs again, and to become “eruption hunters”, in complete safety.

Who are the “eruption hunters”

Eruption hunters are usually local people, fond of Mount Etna as an environment for recreation and relaxation. They are researchers who do it for work and have now established a sort of “symbiosis” with the volcano. Or they are curious tourists, but not inexperienced: that is, people who study and get information before tackling Etna, and do not go on an adventure without rules or guides. The “eruption hunters” are above all people who want to experience a volcanic event in complete safety. And to do this, they are well informed about everything, first of all.

How do you go hunting for eruptions

 eruption HUNTERS 02How do you “hunt” for an eruption? First of all you shall study the graph of the volcanic tremor. Today this data is accessible to all thanks to the I.N.G.V. website which puts it online. It is actually a set of complex graphs that measure every variation in every sector of Etna. But the one “understandable” to the public is made up of three bands: green at the bottom, yellow in the middle, red at the top. As long as the tremor line remains in green, the volcano is quiet. When it climbs towards the border between yellow and red “something is preparing”.

A true eruption hunter, however, does not immediately flee to high altitude, seeing this signal. First he/she inquires about the weather, for visibility, and above all about the direction of the wind. Because facing a volcanic explosion while the wind pushes debris towards you is certainly suicide. If the wind blows south, you will have to admire the eruption from the north; if the wind blows from west to east, position yourself to the west because debris will fall on the eastern side.

Another tip for being a good eruption hunter: have good photographic equipment, or in any case know a minimum of technique even if you use your digital automatic camera. You must always know how to shoot when there is no sun, or when the fire of the lava lights up the night by surprise. And ALWAYS remember! Never ever take a photo of the eruption with flash light …!

Finally, one must know very well  the paths and the viewpoints opened on the scene of the eruption. Often these shows take place at night and venturing to an active volcano in the dark, without a guide, is highly discouraged. Unless you are familiar with the place enough to know exactly where and how to go!

Tourists chasing eruptions

If you are a tourist visiting Mount Etna, avoid being “eruption hunters”! Or rather, do it eruption HUNTERS 03 together with those who have lived and worked on this volcano for years. On Etna you find  expert guides, competent tour operators, explorers who know the volcano by heart. By relying on these people, on foot or by jeep, you will arrive without problems very close to an eruption. And you can admire it and feel, in part, as if you too are real “hunters”.

But you could be “eruption hunters” even from a distance! Even from your homes in Milan, Naples, Paris or New York you can follow the trend of the tremor graph online. And if the eruption is about to start, through the many web-cams positioned on Etna you can watch the whole event live!

Your guides for the eruption experience

You can contact our expert guides, of course, and our tours designed especially for tourists looking for strong emotions during an eruption. If our tours were already “sold out” and there were no places for you, you can ask the Etna Nord Guides and Etna Sud Guides to accompany you. You can find them, even individually, on all social networks but also on their official sites. (photos by G Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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