Image 1 - Undersea Volcanic Eruptions Continue Near Canary Islands
October 14, 2011

Undersea Volcanic Eruptions Continue Near Canary Islands

Two volcanic eruptions were confirmed on Wednesday near the Canary Islands, forcing at least 500 people to spend the night outside of their homes after precautionary evacuations were ordered by local authorities. These eruptions follow similar earth movement on Monday of the same week.

“I confirm the existence of two points of volcanic eruption at El Hierro,” Laura Otero, a spokeswoman for the local authorities, told AFP. The first eruption occurred at a depth of 2,300 feet and the other at a depth of 655 feet.

Juan Manuel Santana, head of emergency services in the Canaries, explained the locations of the two undersea eruptions, “The two points are located at two nautical miles and 1.5 miles southwest of (the village of) La Restinga”.

He also explained that the eruptions, “Resulted in two stains on the sea surface where there are dead fish and a strong odor of sulphur.”

Wired Science blog writer Erik Klemetti explained that these are the first eruptions in the Canaries in 40 years and the first at El Hierro in possibly 2,500 years.

“Now, I read a lot about what we might have expected from El Hierro, and I don´t remember coming across anyone saying that they expected a submarine eruption, but with these oceanic hotspots, it is definitely not a surprise,” Klemetti wrote.

Authorities pointed to “uncertainty over the coming days”, in a statement and that they were keeping La Restinga on “red alert”, while the rest of the island remained one alert lower in danger, yellow alert.

“It is recommended to exercise caution,” said Paulino Rivero, head of the Canaries administration. But he said people would be able to return to their homes under the protection of civil safety officials to retrieve medicines or clothes.

Perched atop an ancient volcano, the island of Hierro has undergone some 10,000 tremors since July 19, the vast majority of them not felt by its 11,000 residents. The last volcanic eruption on the Canary Islands was on nearby La Palma in 1971.


Image 2: The subtropical Canary Islands off Africa´s west coast are pictured in this image, acquired on 8 September 2011 by Envisat´s Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS). To the north, multiple contrails can be seen over the dark blue water. To the east, the desert flatlands of Morocco and the Western Sahara are visible. The Portuguese archipelago, Madeira, lies to the northwest. Credits: ESA