Six Underwater Volcanoes Newly Discovered Just a Few Kilometers Off Sicily, Italy

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A series of six Late Quaternary underwater volcanoes have been discovered just off the SW Sicilian coast.

Lurking below a heavily trafficked waterway, the discovery highlights how many mysteries still simmer under the sea.

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Location of the 6 newly discovered underwater volcanoes off Sicily, Italy. Map by NatGeo

Just four miles off the coast of Sicily lie 6 underwater volcanoes previously unknown to geologists around the world.

The discovery was made while scientists were mapping the underwater landscape of the Sicilian Channel, a heavily trafficked waterway off the southwest coast of the island.

The volcanoes rise between 52 and 350 feet from the seafloor. But because they sit inside the shallow channel, their tops are not very deep and they may even pose a threat to the above marine ships, and, of course, to the population nearby. 

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3D map reveals the seafloor magnetic anomalies in the Sicilian Channel. Each peak corresponds to one of the newly identified volcanoes. Picture by Emodnet Bathymetry via NatGeo

A new threat?

More study is needed to better understand potential risks from the newfound structures. But the revelation that six volcanoes are lurking under a region regularly crisscrossed by maritime traffic underscores the importance of fully exploring what lies beneath the waves.

While most of the the Sicilian Channel’s submarine volcanoes have remained quiet since written records began, one burst to life in 1831, forming the now-submerged Ferdinandea Island some 25 miles from the coast.

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Eruption of volcano in the northern part of Sicily .

The 6 new underwater volcanoes

The three northern volcanoes show a tuff cone-like morphology, while the three most southern edifices have a truncated-conical shape. They rise between 52 and 350 feet from the seafloor.

From these analyses, the team deduced that five of the volcanoes seem to have erupted just once sometime around the last glacial maximum, some 20,000 years ago.

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Location and map of the 6 new underwater volcanoes off Sicily. via paper in Marine Geology

Only the northernmost volcano shows indications of a post-LGM magmatic reactivation, as evidenced by the 2.5-mile-long lava flow the team found solidified off its flanks. And bubbles rise from its crater. Methane?

This is now the largest flow yet found in the northwest Sicilian Channel, who compares its size to those pumped out by Italian giants, including Vesuvius and Mount Etna.

6 new underwater volcanoes newly discovered off Sicily… This could become very dangerous!

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