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Subject: Scientists on Alert for Hidden Island Off Sicily
From: "David Saum" DSaum@............
Date: Mon, 25 Nov 2002 12:48:06 -0500

Science - Reuters
Mon, Nov 25, 2002

Scientists on Alert for Hidden Island Off Sicily

ROME (Reuters) - A volcanic island submerged off the coast of Sicily for the
last 170 years could reappear in the coming weeks if furious seismic
rumblings continue, Italy's chief seismologist said Monday.

"We've seen Etna erupting, seismic activity to the north and east of Sicily
and gas activity around the Aeolian Islands," Enzo Boschi, head of Italy's
Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, told Reuters.

"The island could come back to the surface, but we'll have to wait and
see... It could be a few weeks or months."

Formed by the tip of a submerged volcano, the island last popped up in 1831,
sparking a diplomatic spat among several nations, before it sank beneath the
Mediterranean waves six months later.

The volcano's peak now sits just 26 feet under water about 19 miles south of
Sicily, near Tunisia.

"We are monitoring things very closely," Boschi said. "The process could
begin at any time... It would be a very beautiful and fascinating event."

Over the centuries, the island has emerged four times, with underwater
volcanic eruptions first recorded during the first Punic War of 264-241 BC.

The last emergence on July 2, 1831, caused months of international wrangling
with four nations making territorial claims including Britain, Spain and the
Bourbon court of Sicily.

The rock, which rose some 213 feet above the surface and had a circumference
of about 3 miles, emerged for six months, giving the British time to claim
it as Graham Island, while Sicily's King Ferdinand II called it Ferdinandea.

Scientists refer to it as Graham Bank, but Italians still call it

This time, Sicilian divers have gone down and planted a flag on the rock in
the hope of claiming it as Italian the moment it rises above the surface,
Boschi said.

While it may not spark the same diplomatic spat as 170 years ago if it
emerges, there could well be a new claimant.

"I'm sure the European Union  will want it as a member, won't they?" Boschi


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