Unearthing the history of the ‘Island of Glass’

Posted by ap507 at May 21, 2014 11:26 AM |
University team uncovers explosive history of a ‘celebrity hotspot’ on Pantelleria
Unearthing the history of the ‘Island of Glass’

Spectacular sea-cliffs of Pantelleria volcano island reveal how volcanoes work

If you are planning a Mediterranean holiday this summer, you may wish to consider the tiny island of Pantelleria as your destination of choice - but only if you can handle the heat.

University geologists Drs Mike Branney, Rebecca Williams and colleagues at the Department of Geology have discovered that the tiny Mediterranean island, which has been visited by celebrities such as Madonna, Sting, Julia Roberts and Sharon Stone, was once covered in a searing-hot layer of green glass 45 thousand years ago, the effects of which can still be seen today in the emerald hue of the terrain.

Dr Branney said: “A ground-hugging cloud of intensely hot gases and volcanic dust spread radially out from the erupting volcano in all directions.

“Incandescent rock fragments suspended in the all-enveloping volcanic cloud were so hot, molten and sticky that they simply fused to the landscape forming a layer of glass, over hills and valleys alike.  The hot glass then actually started flowing down all the slopes rather like sticky lava. ‘Ground zero’ in this case was the entire island  – nothing would have survived – nature had sterilized and completely enamelled the island."

The team have discovered that the seemingly tranquil island, now used as a quiet getaway by celebrities, has been the site of at least five catastrophic eruptions of similar type - suggesting that it may erupt again one day.

Their study, published in “Geology” earlier this year, also provides insights into the nature of hazardous volcanic activity in other parts of the world.

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