Saturday, February 23, 2008

Volcanoes are linked to historic legends

STANDING at almost 11,000 feet, Mount Etna dominates the Sicilian skyline.
It is the most active volcano in Europe.

The Romans believed it to be the home of Vulcan, the god of fire.

And to them, Mount Etna erupting merely meant Vulcan was forging weapons for Mars, the god of war.

Since 1500BC the volcano has erupted around 200 times, with lava flows halting just miles short of the nearby town of Nicolosi.

But regardless of the history of Mount Etna, the people who live within the volcano’s destructive reach seem completely unfazed.

Near the foot of the volcano, there are a multitude of vineyards and olive groves.

As you climb higher, the lowlands evolve into dense woods sheltering a surprisingly large number of animal species that call the mountainside home.

Dotted with snow most of the year, some of the lava is 300,000 years old.

In the past, scientists have used this area to test robots before they send them to Mars because the atmospheric and geological conditions are so similar.

The most violent eruption in the history of Mount Etna occurred in March, 1669.

On the first day, lava flows cut a smouldering gash out of two mountain villages and continued to spew molten rock for days.

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