marks the spot, midway between Sicily and Pantellaria, of a submarine volcano called Empedocles. In July 1831 it gave a sulphurous burp and then blurfed its lunch above the waves. On the 1st August that year, as soon as it was cool enough not to melt boot-heels, Captain Senhouse of HMS Vincent put a party ashore to claim it for His Britannic Majesty. Senhouse named it Graham Island after his naval boss
. The Italians called it Isola Ferdinandea or, more recently, L’isola che non c’è
- the Island that Isn't. La francophonie knows this non-existent island as île Julia. It is non-existent because, having caused a running diplomatic incident and been a tourist hub for six months, the heap of cinders sank beneath the waves again. The rise is now 6-8m below the surface (all the time, the Mediterranean has virtually no tides) and known as Graham Bank or Bar. Several other names have been proposed
. It seems unliklely that any country other than Italy would lay claim to it if it re-appears anytime soon. It would soon be full of African refugees like Lampedusa
and nobody wants to take responsibility for them.
In 1831, au contraire
, it was 60m above the surface as seen in the images [L from amusing planet
] by French geologist Constant Prévost. That was its most spectacular and best recorded appearance, although it bobbed up again in 1863 and in 2000 and 2002 showed signs of activity that might have presaged another showing . . . which did not materialise. It is rather like the dynamic ups and downs manifested in the Vestmannaeyjar
off the South coast of Iceland. Empedocles and other well known volcanoes in the region (Stromboli, Etna, Vesuvius and indeed Volcano] are a consequence of the African tectonic plate crashing into Southern Europe and subducting. This Restless Earth!
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