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Tourists ask it all the time. Local people are almost sure of that. Etna and Stromboli must be connected. Maybe by a thin, underground and lava-red thread! It must be so, because their explosions and eruptions are often concurrently. One calls, the other answers back. Like an echo. This fact is quite funny, but the real thing is these volcanoes are not connected at all.  There is no single link but the fact they both belong to the meeting of the African and Euroasian Faults.

Etna and Stromboli, the most actives in Europe

Sicily has this record of keeping on its territory many volcanic phenomena. Mt Etna and the island of Stromboli are the most active of all. They are the most active volcanoes in Europe. Since they lie a few kilometers one from the other the coincidence of their activity is continuous. This is why they look closely connected.

Etna is a volcanic system that produces all manifestations – effusive, explosive, Hawaiian, Strombolian … – almost at the same time. It alternates  long periods of moderate activity and short spectacular eruptions. Stromboli instead explodes constantly (every 15, 20 minutes approximately) with small fountains of lava which rarely – once a year- give way to more powerful and dangerous explosions.

Two distinct systems

stromboliThe fact is Etna and Stromboli, although born from the same fault dynamics, have distinct systems, both for loading magma and transforming it. The magmatic ducts of the island of Stromboli are very long.  They sink directly into the crust of the African plate. So the magma that goes up in them is very hot, almost liquid. But re-emerging it comes into contact with colder magmas … sometimes with water too. This produces strong constant explosions.

Etna instead takes its own magma from rocks that melt in the clash between the African and Euro-Asian plates. The material then arrives hot and fluid at the top, often without obstacles. Therefore it has an effusive aspect. Occasionally the rise of gas causes explosive eruptions or the widening of fractures that can cause lateral eruptions. There is no physical evidence of any connection between the two eruptive systems: that is, there are no tunnels, common magmatic ducts, common types of material emitted.

The differences in popular culture

But Etna and Stromboli are “different” also in Sicilian popular culture. Just think that Etna is female, because seen as a “mother” who pampers her children and sometimes shakes them. Etna is an “old lady” with her crooked moons. She is also protective, feeding her loved ones with water, fertile soil, shade and rain.

Stromboli, on the other hand, is seen as the male. Being a cone, the inhabitants call it “Iddu” (he) and as a rebellious boy it is often capricious, violent, strange. In short, a wild and mad teenager. He too offers fertile ground on which man can settle. But just as he gives everything in the same way, whenever he wants, will  take everything back. Perhaps this very difference in definition – Etna a woman, Stromboli a man – creates the magical legend according to which, in the end, there is a link between the two. Perhaps a loving bond. But too intimate to ever come out!

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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