National Geographic : 2002 Feb
Eye,. ... QII 4 ,44 Tel., ICA mop . u1-rounded by fire, we are cold. Altitude and sulfurous vapors make it hard to breathe. Yet standing 9,300 feet up the side Of MM101.1I1t Etna, we are willing captives of an apocalyptic landscape. A thousand feet below us, at the center of a valley of black lava called the Piano del Lago, an enormous cone that didn't exist a Week ago erupts incessantly, hurling lava bombs as big as cars hundreds of feet into the air. \Ve hear the roar of the explosions and the thud of' the incandescent rocks as they hit the ground and roll down the sides of the cone. Beside it, lava spews from another cone, smaller but just as active. The golden river of lava to our left is pouring from a fissure in a sum11n1it crater belching smoke and ash above us. I move closer to the lava until the heat is unbearable. It makes strident clicking sounds, like glass rubbing glass. But if you listen more closely, VOLT hear a dark 111tH-111L1ring below. "It's incredible," photographer Carsten Peter says to me. "This cone has grown 300 feet in a 1 v days." Carsten has been on Etna since seismic tremors her alded the July 17 eruption. Lava was already flowing frolll the Summit when his colleague Chris Ileinlein straddled a new fissure on the flank (above). Four days later the fissure blew 11early a mile high (right).