El Hierro Volcano eruption (Canary Islands) : Part 3 – October 11 until October 13, 2011

This is Part 3 of the El Hierro Volcano eruption report


Our tweets are also posted into our Facebook Volcano Page
With the collaboration of Joke Volta, an El Hierro resident.

Read also: Scientific paper reveals massive historic Tenerife volcano flank collapse
Read also: Economic impact on El Hierro and the Canary Islands if an aerial eruption would occur

Read also
: Part 1 (from July 28 until early September)
Read also: Part 2 (from September 25 until October 10 )
Read also: Part 3 (from October 11 until October 13 )
Read also: Part 4 (from October 14 until October 17 )
Read also: Part 5 (from October 18 until October 21 )
Read also: Part 6 (from October 22 until October 26 )
Read also: Part 7 (from October 27 until October 31 )
Read also: Part 8 (from November 1 until November 3
Read also: Part 9 (from November 4 until November 6
Read also: Part 10 (from November 7 until November 8)
Read also: Part 11 (from November 9 until November 11)
Read also: Part 12 (from November 12 until November 15)
Read also: Part 13 (from November 16 until November 19)
Read also: Part 14 (from November 20 until November 23)
Read also: Part 15 (from November 24 until November 27)

Update 13/10 - 22:41 UTC : We have seen today and yesterday a series of images from the sea, first a greenish zone which changed today into a brownish sea (latest video below).
Because of a lack of official explanation we give our friends at the Jonfr.com volcano discussion panel a chance to formulate their theory. One of the commentators gave the following plausible explanation :

"There was no eruption going on until sometime between yesterday and today. All we have seen before that was only de-gassing.
The green patches we have seen before is absolutely not the same as the yellow gunk we are seeing today. This is pumice gunk from an eruption. I bet the eruption started at 14.27 yesterday.
Reasoning for this, yesterday at 14.00 there was no eruption (at least nothing at all visible). At 14.27 we had a huge shift in tremoring, I now interpret the decrease as pressure release. We had that enormous spike in tremoring a couple of minutes before as the magma broke through."

Update 13/10 - 20:14 UTC : Video footage out of a helicopter from the eruption area in the sea. These images are very convincing (the best so far) that (lava and/or gases have been released at the sea bottom.

Update 13/10 - 18:30 UTC : PEVOLCA has called a press conference at 19:30 local time (= UTC +1) to inform the population on the changed seismic activity.

Image courtesy ba.ieo.es (Centro Oceanografic de les Balears and Instituto Espanol de Oceanografia)

Update 13/10 - 17:56 UTC : Diario de Avisos reports that the ship 'Ramon Margalef' currently anchored in Vigo, will navigate towards El Hierro and arrive there on Tuesday. The Ramon Margalef will carry the ROV "LIROPUS 2000", a remotely operated vehicle able to dive to depths down to 2,000 meters.
The "Ramon Margalef" is one of the newest ships from the 'Instituto Español de Oceanografía".
The crew of the Ramon Margalef will consist of geologists, biologists and physicists.
We enjoy this news at earthquake-report.com, hopefully not too late.

Update 13/10 - 17:25 UTC : The population wants desperately the re-opening of the Los Roquillos tunnel. The local authorities are sustaining this claim, but the central governments does NOT want to take this risk. Until now the tunnel has been reopened for commercial and emergency transport only.

Data update 13/10 - 17:06 UTC : The Madrid government has reported that the situation at El Hierro is stabilized and that a decrease of the seismic signal has been recorded since this afternoon. We confirm this message (see IGN data image below). This might indeed be a good sign. Volcanologists are hoping that the released pressure will be sufficient to calm down or even stopping the volcano, enabling the evacuated people to return to their houses.

IGN seismogram El Hierro October 13

Update 13/10 - 16:47 UTC : An additional note why the Leon Thevenin will not be contracted. The main issue in not sending the ROV ship to the area is that the Canary Governments did NOT want to take the risk that a ROV would be damaged or even destroyed, a condition that Telefonica consortium was setting before the Leon Thevenin would sail out. We @ earthquake-report.com can understand such a position from the local government, but we remind Mr. Zapatero on his Monday formulated words "everything which is needed"

The initial green area went brown earlier today - image courtesy Guardia Civil de España

Update 13/10 - 13:57 UTC : Our dreams will finally not come true! What happened? The French cableship Leon Thevenin was making cable inspection trips for the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica. Telefonica, aware of what looked as a unique way of using the technology aboard the ship, offered the ship to the authorities. However .... negotiations (probably to charter the ship) did not deliver result as the ship is owned by a consortium of France Telecom, Portugal Telecom and Telefonica and talks were broken off.


Instead ... another ship, the Profesor Ignacio Lozano, will leave this afternoon from the Taliarte port (Gran Canaria). BUT, THIS SHIP IS NOT EQUIPPED WITH ROV's ! The ship will arrive in the eruption waters early tomorrow morning and will take images and water samples The news has been confirmed by sources close to the "Instituto de Ciencias Marinas"

Data update 13/10 - 13:03 UTC : IGN seismic data show that 8 tremors > 1.5 have been recorded since midnight UTC. Max. magnitude was 2.1. The location of most of the epicenters is in between Puerto Naos and the cliff area in the middle of the South coast (West of Puerto Naos).
The harmonic tremors pattern has had a slight increase since 2 AM this morning and is almost unchanged since then. The GPS deformation graphic starts to slightly increase again.

Update 13/10 - 13:00 UTC : In an official report to the press, the IGN scientists are confirming their earlier statements that the Green Areas are the first signs that an eruption is occurring. Samples of water, dead fish and black coral have been send to the labs to be analyzed. The water samples will be analyzed to get evidence of Magma gases.

Update 13/10 - 11:56 UTC : People of El Hierro can spot the "supposed" eruption areas (green colored sea areas) from a viewpoint above La Restinga.

Update 13/10 - 10:39 UTC : This great video has been made by GeoLurking, a skilled volcano follower. The 4D-plot he made shows for the first time the deformation data into perspective (2 Oct 2011 to 10 Oct 2011). The video will show you that the La Restinga peninsula has risen a little (most activity detected so far is in that area) and that the western part of the island did sink.
He wrote in his adjacent note :
A different sort of 4D plot. This is a plot of El Hierro's terrain elevation change from 2 Oct 2011 to 10 Oct 2011 as estimated from four GPS sites on the island. It's not perfect, and does not account for the dynamics of the rock or underlying crust. The data from the four sites was interpolated in order to come up with elevation changes having a common time stamp. Remember, this is nothing more than a ROUGH estimate.

Scarab ROV + Leon Thevenin - images courtesy Wikipedia and Atlantic-Cable.com

Update 13/10 - 09:10 UTC : The green water spots are still there this morning.
- some of the scientists are currently staying in La Restinga, the evacuated city/village.
- Press people are hanging around in the pub of El Pinar
- Fisherman have decided unanimously that they will leave their boats in La Restinga (see remark about the unsafe port of La Resteca below)

Update 12/10 - 23:28 UTC : Our prayers have (probably) been heard.
The French cableship Leon Thevenin who is equipped with many ROV's (remotely operated vehicles) is currently anchored in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and will probably be used to find out what is happening below sea level. The Canary Island government has contacted the French company and will charter it to make the necessary dives. The ROV "Scarab1", a hydraulic operated robot can dive to depths of more than 2,000 meter. It is not known yet when the ship will be navigating to El Hierro, but we expect that it will happen soon.
We are anxious to see the images. Hopefully, the ship carrying the name of France Telecom, and which is used normally to lay and inspect telecommunication cables, will have the equipment to broadcast a live signal like we normally have from the Nautilus ROV's.

Update 12/10 - 20:30 UTC : The new eruption spots have been detected by a fisherman and people waiting in a cue to get their belongings from La Restinga. They had nothing else to do than discussing and looking out over the see. High tech like in the middle ages 🙂
Closest to the eruption locations is the old port of Puerto Naos. The port is no longer in use and no people are living there. Those people following the El Hierro reports from the veru beginning must surely remember that most of the initial tremors where located in this area.

Update 12/10 - 23:30 : The YouTube video below shows the green ocean areas to the south of Puerto Naos. IGN has categorized the green water as a clear indication of the eruption, although many observers are not sure at all that magma erupted. Some expert volcano followers are indicating that the green color might come from gas which is emitted out of the fissures, NOT from released lava. The dead fish may be additional proof of such a scenario as well as the change in harmonic tremors. As long as we will not have a visual image of the eruption, speculation will lead the debates

Red spot is old Puerto Naos to the west of La Restinga

Update 12/10 - 20:04 UTC : 2 new eruption locations have been detected this afternoon. The eruption sites discovered today are much nearer to the coast than the initial location at 5 km out of the La Restinga coast.
Today's most remote location is at a depth of 750 meter and 2 nautical miles out of the coast. The second at a depth of 500 meter and 1.5 nautical miles from the coast. (1 nautical mile = 1.85 km)
Authorities told the press that fissures has been opened which resulted in green water spots with a strong sulfurous odor. Just like Monday a lot of dead fish have been detected at the surface waters too.
Scientist are hoping that the present submarine eruptions will decrease the pressure on the main island and are hopeful that the tremors will weaken.
The new fissures have been opened when we reported the strong change in seismicity during the afternoon.

Update 12/10 - 20:04 UTC : Fisherman of La Restinga have not yet received permission to move their boats to La Estaca.

Update 12/10 - 16:51 UTC : The authorities have a called an "urgent" press conference to be held at 19:00 hours at El Hierro. Sources have revealed that the important Los Roquillos tunnel will reopen for commercial transport and emergency vehicles only after that he was inspected by the Canary Islands government.

Update 12/10 - 16:33 UTC : We have been reorganizing our articles and have split them into 3 parts. The current latest updates became too long and was putting too much load on our servers. We expect also that this volcano eruption with his many side effects might go on for a while and had to create some space for our new updates.

IMPORTANT UPDATE 12/10 15:30 : Fundamental change in seismic activity registered since less than an hour. Harmonic tremors have changed as you will see on the map below. In specialized blogs like Jon Frimann, an Icelandic volcano and earthquake follower, the discussion on how to read the current change is overheating. Opninions are varying. We hope to receive the opinion of PEVOLCA soon.

seismograph image 12/10/2011 - courtesy IGN

Javier Morales, representative for the Canary Islands in Madrid - image Joke Volta

Update 12/10 - 14:57 UTC : Javier Morales, representative of the Canary Islands in the Spanish parliament said that as far as the situation is at the moment, nobody can tell how long the current situation will last. From hours, to days to even several weeks.
Javier Morales also told the press that on the political instances are negotiating if sending a ship with a robot would be the best to do. Morales could not give any conclusive answer on this.
- a little later Joke Volta picked up the news from journalists that apparently the decision has been taken to send a ship from the Instituto Oceanologico de Gobierno de Canarias to the eruption area. This ship will have a submarine robot on board to look for eruption evidence.
- The PEVOLCA committee is in almost constant meeting in Valverde.

Update 12/10 - 14:14 UTC : We have noticed that the "Harmonic Tremors" have changed fundamentally vs the strength of the last 24 hours. This is going on since a couple of hours. Take a look at the IGN seismogram and you will notice that the signal is weaker than before, although it is still going on.

Pina Mayor Juan Miguel Padron Brito - image Joke Volta

Update 12/10 - 11:51 UTC : The mayor of El Pinar, Mr. Juan Miguel Padron Brito, said that he is VERY PROUD of his citizens. The way they are behaving during this crises owes an "honorary mention in the Guinness book of record" he said.
* Joke also reports that a big cue of cars is lining up at the cross section of Restinga / Tacoron, where they are stopped by the police. The police allows 3 cars at once to drive to Restinga. All the others have to wait until the 3 cars come back and then the next shift can proceed.
* Many boats people do not want to take their boats to La Estaca, not only because of the high waves, but also because they do not trust the guards at the port as many of them had a bad experience during a prior storm where an evacuation of boats was advised too.

Update 12/10 - 10:56 UTC : The authorities are making a list of boat owners (fisherman and tourists) who have their boats still anchored in the La Restinga port. Emergency people and scientists are examining a perfect time frame to allow the fishermen to move their boats to La Estaca, the northern port of El Hierro. A time has not been set yet. A boatman talking to Joke Volta told that he was not eager to do it, as the sea is very turbulent today. Not everybody wants to be enlisted as they have to navigate themselves and are in fear of a possible unexpected volcano danger.

Boats people in the El Pinar City Hall waiting to be enlisted to move their boats - Image Joke Volta

Update 12/10 - 10:47 UTC : The authorities are allowing people from La Restinga who were not able to take their belongings with them yesterday or forgot vital things, to go to their houses accompanied by police. They are currently coming together on a certain location until PEVOLCA gives the green light.

Update 12/10 - 10:08 UTC : 78 evacuated people have spend the night in the Valverde school at the northern side of El Hierro. Since the red alert was called in La Restinga, 11 new low magnitude quakes have been recorded (max. 2.7).

Diary of Joke Volta, a Dutch artist living and working on El Hierro (El Pinar)
(Joke Volta is in almost continuous contact with earthquake-report.com)
Tuesday October 11
- The dive event "Foto-Sub" which was planned to be held next Saturday will probably be cancelled. Sad!
- Television Canarias stayed at La Restinga until the last person was evacuated. Now they are gone too.
- Only scientists, rescue personnel, police (to guard property) and Pevolca people are remaining at La Restinga
- Guardia Civil is even guarding the trails to prevent people from coming back to La Restinga
- Roads to Tacaron are also closed
- I have been lobying local authority people i know to call in the Nautilus, even some PEVOLCA people!
- a crazy warm wind (short gusts) is blowing on El Hierro during the night

Dutch artist Joke Volta residing and working at El Hierro

Wednesday October 12
- Festival day "Dia del Pilar" today
- just saw rabit hunters with their hunting dogs leaving the village. Tradition forbids them today to hunt with rifles. Live as usual
- The southern hills "El Julan" are surprisingly not closed to the public (according to someone from National Forest service)
- The 4 Holland people staying at El Hierro have setup an Micro-Emergency network (in cooperation with the consulate at Tenerife)
- just talked with a sheep herder. The sheep are still grazing at the southern hills (la Dehesa) and he says nothing unusual. They give milk as before, eat like always, but i have remarked that the sheep are restless and they fight more with each other than usual
- the saint of protection is still in the Chapel at La Dehesa
- The Protective Saint has been evacuated out of the La Restinga church too
- The authorities are allowing people from La Restinga who were not able to take their belongings with them yesterday or forgot vital things, to go to their houses accompanied by police.
- The mayor of El Pinar, Mr. Juan Miguel Padron Brito, said that he is VERY PROUD of his citizens. The way they are behaving during this crises owes an "honorary mention in the Guinness book of record"
- A big cue of cars is lining up at the cross square Restinga / Tacoron where they are stopped by the police. The police allows 3 cars at once to drive to Restinga. All the others have to wait until the 3 cars come back and then the next shift can proceed.
- The new eruption spots have been detected by a fisherman and people waiting in a cue to get their belongings from La Restinga. They had nothing else to do than discussing and looking out over the see.
- 15 students from La Restinga will have to go to school in Valverde. The school management and the teachers are doing all they can to inegrate the new pupils smootly
- So silent in El Pinar during the evening
- i do see helicopters flying above the so called eruption area (probably with scientists observing everything we can't see with the naked eye)
- A lot of people from El Pinar are driving to the cross roads where the eruption spot was initially detected hoping to see something special in the water. So far without luck.
- Hope i will have a calm night
Thursday October 13 (so far)

Update 12/10 - 08:56 UTC : All IGN graphics are showing the same activity than yesterday. Harmonic tremors continue like yesterday too and at least give the impression that the eruption goes on.
The deformation decreases slightly which is a good sign that energy is released and which is an additional reason for the claim of an ongoing submarine eruption.
The lack of underwater cameras in these modern times to record this event is a blame for science. Speculating about an ongoing eruption close to a populated island which can only be guessed by indirect data and knowing that underwater rov's (remotely operated vehicles) who can dive more than 1000 meter are not called in is hard to accept.

Update 12/10 - 07:46 UTC : The scientists have declared that and eventual eruption would certainly not be explosive. (ER: this news is repeated since the beginning - the normal eruption type is strombolian - see La Palma eruption video at the lower part of this article) .
An additional 56 people (technicians, scientists, police, UME, Maritime personnel, etc) will go to El Hierro to sustain the present operations.

Update 12/10 - 07:34 UTC : The president of the autonomous Canary Islands, Paulino Rivera, will fly today to El Hierro to discuss the present situation with the PEVOLCA committee.

Update 12/10 - 07:30 UTC : A meeting is held at the moment to allow people living in La Restinga to pick up personal belongings as a lot of them were not allowed to enter their houses when the red alert was called .

Update 11/10 - 20:30 UTC : The Spanish government guarantees all what is needed to cope with the current emergency situation on El Hierro. The government also send a "message to stay calm" to the population. The Chief executive of the Canary Island government, Mr. Paulino Rivero, decided not to travel to Madrid and talked with Prime Minister Zapatero on the phone to discuss the situation. Mr. Rivero wanted to stay close to his El Hierro fellow islanders.

Update 11/10 - 19:40 UTC : The evacuation of La Restinga has been finalized without incidents (see our other post below :)). A boat is kept on alert at the port of La Estaca to be used as an emergency evacuation vessel if needed.

Update 11/10 - 17:17 UTC : People in La Restinga have been evacuated to Valverde with buses and private vehicles. They are asked to stay with family if possible or can spend the night in a student home or in tents in Valverde. La Restinga people who were not at home when the Red Alert was called were denied to enter their homes. This happened also to people living in the higher parts of La Restinga! Police threatened people protesting against the fact they could not get belongings from their houses with high fines. Only the press is admitted to La Restinga!

Update 11/10 - 16:32 UTC : TVE, the state owned Spanish Broadcasting Company has a very good news bulletin reporting on the present situation. We encourage our readers to watch it (in Spanish)

Update 11/10 - 16:30 UTC : Earthquake-Report.com learned from people on El Hierro that the population still present at El Hierro has been evacuated to Valverde in buses, proivate cars, etc. People will spend the night in

Update 11/10 - 16:20 UTC : Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero has called an urgent meeting at 7 PM (19:00) to be informed by the volcanic experts, emergency agencies and local authorities on the situation at El Hierro. Jose Blaco, Antonio Camacho and Carme Chacon, government ministers, will also be present at the meeting.

Update 11/10 - 16:08 UTC : The Canary Islands Maritime Authority has recommended ships NOT to enter a 4 nautical miles radius zone around the presumed eruption location.
Click here for a great 3-D Google map from ElMundo showing the eruption location with the islands.

Update 11/10 - 15:27 UTC : A few moments ago the following message has appeared on the Emergencia El Hierro website :

RED ALERT - Phase pre-eruptive. It involves the initiation of a preventive evacuation. Make yourself available to the authorities.

FASE PRE-ERUPTIVA. Implica el inicio de la evacuación preventiva. Póngase a disposición de las autoridades.

In a first measure only the southern part of the island (mainly La Restinga) will be evacuated to the northern part of the island (to Valverde and other northern localities). The authorities are pressing that there is NO immediate danger and the measure is purely precautionary.

Update 11/10 - 14:40 UTC : Following Joke Volta, a Dutch artist living on El Hierro and talking to Earthquake-Report.com, a RED ALERT has been declared for La Restinga, the southernmost city on the island. The Yellow Alert remains for the rest of the island. The precautionary measure has been taken as the eruption might come nearer to the island (ER: it is far from sure that such an eruption will occur on the island itself). We have still NO official press report of this measure in Emergencia El Hierro. La Restinga has a population of 547 people.

IMPORTANT UPDATE 14:04 UTC : The government of the Canary Island has asked the population of the Southernmost City of La Restinga (also an important port) with an urgent call to come together on the local football field. People at the island think that the meeting is scheduled to prepare for an eventual opening of vents closer towards the island.
The authorities have called a press conference in Valverde soon to give more information about their decision. We will bring you the information as it is published. We will however not speculate on the next measure to be taken. Click here for the latest news in one of the best

Update 11/10 - 09:24 UTC : Ay 9 PM UTC yesterday, authorities have finally confirmed that an eruption took place on the ocean floor 5 km from Restinga, the southernmost location on El Hierro. IGN (Spanish seismological agency) has set the eruption depth at 600 meters. The alert level remains at yellow and authorities are asking the population to remain calm. The confirmation came after that scientists from IGN and CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas) have been circling the presumable spot of the eruption with helicopters. An important number of dead fish where the convincing sign that an eruption took place. Until then it was presumed that an eruption took place, but only based on indirect instrument readings (harmonic tremors, decrease of deformation, etc.).
Carmen Lopez from IGN, said to the press that the next 24 hours will indicate whether the eruption vent widens in if it does, in which direction (towards the island or towards the south).

One of the Nautilus ROV

Earthquake-report.com statement : What a shame ! The Nautilus deepwater RO'V's (Remotely Operated Vehicles) are currently diving towards the Gettysburg Seamount off the coast of Portugal (see video link above). It left Malaga on Saturday!
We do not want to decrease the value of the Portugal seamount dives, but science has the occasion in El Hierro to search and watch in HD for the first time an underwater volcano eruption which has been closely monitored by many instruments for months. We cannot understand why the Spanish government does not make a deal with the Portuguese government to call the Nautilus (or other ROV's) directly to El Hierro. What are they waiting for? We think that in modern times science has his priorities too. So we call upon the Spanish and Canary Island authorities to contact the Nautilus management and hope to see the ship within a few days around El Hierro.

Update 11/10 - 07:05 UTC : An (second) eruption closer to the island cannot be ruled out, but has a very low probability following Spanish volcanologists.
As there is no real visual proof of an eruption, volcanologists have reported "a probable eruption" based on deduction of the measured parameters.
A very good indication of magma being released at the bottom of the sea is the decrease in deformation (indicating less pressure from the underground). Click here to see the GPS deformation graphic.
Click here for today's live seismograph (unchanged situation).
Emergencia El Hierro has not published a new report yet (latest yesterday morning)

Parador de El Hierro, gives a good idea on the coastline - Click on the picture to watch a video

Opinion of vulcanologist Tom Pering: It is now clear from seismic plots that magma is moving at El Hierro with the initiation of seismic tremor. Around the time of the possible eruption there were a small number of shallow earthquakes (

Update 28/09 – 00:26 UTC : A local Tenerife newspaper (Laopinion.es) has a few interesting notes on “worst case scenarios”
- the entire population of the island can be evacuated by 5 boats in less than 3 to 4 hours!
- as written earlier in this article, some people are predicting silly scenarios like giant explosions which could generate even mega tsunamis reaching the east coast of the USA. Hard to believe, but these are circulating!
Well to contradict such Armageddon scenarios, IGN scientists have emphasized that a possible eruption at El Hierro will have a low explosive value. We recommend reading a very well written article (in Spanish) here.
If if if if …. (what nobody expects at this time) an eruption would occur, Scientists of IGN are expecting activity similar to the October 1971 La Palma eruption (see video).
Canary Island eruptions are generally ‘Strombolian’, similar to Hawaii and Sicily eruptions.
La Palma October 1971 eruption video – an eventual eruption is expected by scientists to be the same style