El Hierro Volcano eruption (Canary Islands) : Part 4 – October 14 until October 17, 2011

This is Part 4 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 17/10 - 21:30 UTC : - During a PEVOLCA meeting this evening was decided that a decision for the return of the people to La Restinga has been postponed to 4:00 PM (16:00) tomorrow, due to the present bad air quality (very strong sulfurous odor blowing today in the La Restinga direction). The inhabitants of La Restinga have been invited tomorrow at 4 PM in the cultural center of El Pinar to receive the decision directly from Mr. Santana, the person in charge of the safety measures.

- Another decision which has been taken was the reopening of the Los Roquillos tunnel from 08:00 until 20:00 (8 AM until 8 PM) but only for emergency vehicles, trucks of more than 3,500 kilos and transport of dangerous goods.

Update 17/10 - 20:43 UTC : We notice a serious change in harmonic tremors since approx. 1 hour. Explaining what has happened should be highly speculative. We leave it to the scientists.

Update 17/10 - 19:40 UTC : People are getting nervous and cannot wait any longer to see the steam columns. If they do not see them in the sea their imagination will create them. Some pleasant person called a couple of Canary Island newspapers and told them that he had spotted geysers in the sea. The news was denied by the officials.

Update 17/10 - 19:28 UTC : The "Ramon Margalef" oceanographic ship which will leave Vigo tomorrow morning, will have a crew of 12 people, 2 technicians and approx. 10 scientists + our friend the ROV

Update 17/10 - 19:14 UTC : A NO FLY zone has been ordered within a radius of 5 nautical miles around the "Jacuzzi spot" as the people from El Hierro call the bubbling zone now. Helicopters and planes from state agencies are of course excluded.

Update 17/10 - 18:04 UTC : The Cabildo El Hierro has published a little earlier the most convincing video so far. The bubbling spot can be seen very well. The stronger bubbling might be the result of a growing eruption mouth (closer to the surface waters). As we see no real change in seismic activity, there is no reason to believe that a totally new eruption fissure has been opened. If the location gets more and more stronger tomorrow, we might indeed expect a new island to be born!

Update 17/10 - 17:29 UTC : The volcano discussion panel @ jonfr.com is expecting that we are in the stage of a surtseyan eruption. The vent opened in a very shallow depth of 150 m. That means that the magma can form pillow lava so that the “building” soon reaches the surface and then continues with phreatomagmatic eruptions.
A Surtseyan eruption is a type of volcanic eruption that takes place in shallow seas or lakes. It is named after the island of Surtsey off the southern coast of Iceland. These eruptions are commonly phreatomagmatic eruptions, representing violent explosions caused by rising basaltic or andesitic magma coming into contact with abundant, shallow groundwater or surface water. Tuff rings, pyroclastic cones of primarily ash, are built by explosive disruption of rapidly cooled magma.
Phreatomagmatic eruptions are defined as juvenile forming eruptions as a result of interaction between water and magma. They are different from magmatic and phreatic eruptions. The products of phreatomagmatic eruptions contain juvenile clasts, unlike phreatic eruptions, and are the result of interaction between magma and water, unlike magmatic eruptions. It is very common for a large explosive eruption to have magmatic and phreatomagmatic components. (descriptions courtesy Wikipedia.com).
Those among you who want to see a similar videotaped eruption can click here. Please jump to the middle of the recording for the action.

Image from the erupted smurry nearing the La Restinga coast line - Image courtesy Government of Canary Islands

Update 17/10 - 15:08 UTC : Those among you (like we) will be very disappointed to be informed that the Roman Margelef, currently anchored in Vigo will only leave the port tomorrow morning and will arrive at El Hierro 3 days later at earliest. This was announced by the Spanish minister Cristina Garmendia (science and innovation) when she evoked a big 3-year plan to investigate the volcano risks in the Canary Islands ...
This far too slow reaction to the present situation is a blow to science. Due to whatever reason, science has lost valuable time to investigate what really is happening below the sea level (the current instruments are all of them indirect conclusions based on instruments installed on land). If the volcano stops releasing magma before Friday (we think he will only start working at earliest on Saturday), a unique chance will have been lost. We do not understand neither why the science community has not prepared for what happened. A lot of personnel and equipment where already at El Hierro. They should have known that a ROV (the ROV can also sample close to the magma releasing fissure) would be a great additional source of information.

Update 17/10 - 14:54 UTC :
- The maritime current has changed direction and has pushed the volcanic material rich waters into the La Restinga bay (see image at right).
- Everything is becoming big news in Spain, even when the impact is almost nihil. A volcanic earthquake of 2.5 (like we had several of them for many weeks is nothing special and does not deserve a big title. It makes local people even more nervous.
- Scientists are convinced that the El Hierro volcano has a bigger magma chamber than the La Palma volcano (1971 La Palma eruption). The La Palma eruption went on for 24 days and released approx. 40 million cubic meters of magma. Scientist have now calculated that the amount of magma beneath the volcano should be probably (nobody is 100% sure of course as these calculations are theoretical) 50 millions cubic meters. The basis of their calculations is the deformation of the island related to the time.

Update 17/10 - 12:49 UTC :
- The Ramon Margalef, equipped with a deep sea enabled Remote Operated Vehicle or ROV will hopefully set sail soon from Vigo to El Hierro today . The thumbnail below links to the full size image @ laprovincia.es. We congratulate laprovincia for this outstanding image, which shows the difference in between the 2 ships. What cannot be seen on the image is that the sampling tool on the "Profesor Ignacio Lozano" cannot be directed towards a certain destination in the sea, it sinks perpendicular to the sea bottom. The ROV from the Ramon Margalef on the other side has screws enabling the ROV to navigate away from the ship (the ship has also to follow strict security guidelines).
The GPS position of the Ramon Margalef can be followed every 12 hours here. At midnight he was still in Vigo.

Click on the thumbnail to see the full size picture of what both ships will be doing

Update 17/10 - 11:21 UTC : Tonight at 7:PM the authorities will decide when and on which conditions they will be allowed to return to their houses, Manual Santana told the press.

Update 17/10 - 10:01 UTC : Installation of the hydrophones was completed at 19:00 (7 PM) yesterday. The hydrophones have been installed to create early warnings for La Restinga. The hydrophones will indicate where the eruption is occurring and will give more detailed information about the direction of the fissure. The installation of the hydrophones was the main reason to allow the return of the La Restinga people to the village.

The Spanish press is very greedy to get the latest news from scientists and politicians. The rest of the world hasn

Update 17/10 - 09:47 UTC : We have just cut off a huge part of this article because it became too long and was creating a too big load on our server. A link to Part 3 has been written above.

Update 17/10 - 08:13 UTC : Volcanologists from the CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas) are convinced that it will take about 2 weeks to form a new island 2 km out of the present El Hierro coast if the eruption continues like it does today. As IGN people say this is only one of the many possible scenarios. Researchers are convinced that if a new island would be formed at the current spot, the chance that it will connect to El Hierro above sea level is almost nihil.

Update 17/10 - 08:04 UTC :
- Only 7 boat owners have followed the advice of the authorities to move their boats to La Estaca
- The police will help the inhabitants of La Restinga to regain their houses
- Some people of La Restinga are reluctant to go back to the village out of fear of the unexpected
- People are allowed to go back to the village after being told to be "always ready" to evacuate again if needed

Update 17/10 - 08:00 UTC : The Oceanographic ship "Profesor Ignacio Lozano" has left the La Estaca port this morning for another day of sampling and examining the eruption area. In the video below you can see that besides taking samples, also dead fish, probably killed by the eruption, is collected for later analysis.

Important Update 16/10 - 16:50 UTC : The PEVOLCA meeting which took place in El Pinar at 13:00 today, did take some very important decisions. Among the most important are :
- The Los Roquillos tunnel, very important for the inhabitants of the western part of the island (Frontera, etc) and Valverde (other side) will be reopened within 24 hours.
- The evacuated people from La Restinga are allowed to return to their houses under strict conditions and IF the newly installed equipment will give green light. The main reason of allowing the return of the La Restinga inhabitants is the installation of hydrophones. The hydrophone(s) is an additional instrument which allows security people and scientists to call an immediate evacuation if needed. An sound alert will be installed in the village of La Restinga. If it hurls people have to auto-evacuate towards El Pinar and Valverde.
The news was brought by Paulino Rivera, the President of the Canary islands. Mr Rivera was applauded by the islanders for the PEVOLCA decision.

Update 16/10 - 18:00 UTC : Press conference with Paulino Rivera after 2 hours meeting at El Pinar. The video has been recorded by Joke Volta

Update 16/10 - 12:39 UTC : The giant gas bubbles occur approx. every 15 minutes

Update 16/10 - 11:19 UTC : Giant bubbles visible from the coast! (see also update from 10:44 UTC)

Eruption bubbles at El Hierro - picture courtesy and copyright laprovincia.es

Update 16/10 - 10:44 UTC : Villagers are mentioning "bubbles" coming up in the spotted area in the sea. We expect to receive fastly images from the bubbles as the many camera teams with their superior equipment will certainly be able to shoot detailed video from an event which can be seen by the naked eye.
Ramon Ortiz, a technician from the CSIC (Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas) is predicting that a new island is being formed at this moment and that the chance that it will happen now is evaluated as very probable, at least of the eruption process will continue a little longer.

Update 16/10 - 09:50 UTC : The volcano's activity can in part be evaluated in looking at the "live" seismogram published by the official Spanish geographic agency IGN. We hope that scientist will be commenting later today on what has happened around midnight (see seismogram below). We also hope that we will get more detailed video and pictures from the supposed new fissure area later today.

Update 16/10 - 09:40 UTC : PEVOLCA, the team of scientists and local authorities is meeting at El Pinar at 13:00 (1:00 PM) local time this afternoon.

A few words of merit : At earthquake-report.com we have the feeling that we are residing at El Hierro. Joke Volta's multiple emails and SMS's are like a webcam for us. Joke talks not only with a lot of people in the village, but also with people from the press, with the mayor and even the president of the Canary Islands. In the name of our thousand's of readers we thank Joke for her relentless energy to feed us with news.
- As earthquake and volcano followers in almost every corner of the world, we know from many experiences that local people are often kept away from the news and that politicians, mayors etc can only be seen on TV.
El Hierro is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT story. Even when they get loads of irritating comments from villagers of La Frontera for not opening the tunnel, local and province politicians and authorities are still AMID the islanders and are open to a talk with everyone. At earthquake-report.com we are experiencing this as a unique and much to be respected service to the people who elected them. The information bulletins from the local authorities to the islanders are very detailed and has even more information than can be read in the press. Also this service is of great value to the population.

Update 16/10 - 08:39 UTC : Joke Volta reports from El Hierro
- everything is calm this morning and even the journalists seems to have stayed ion bed longer today
- everybody is still "excited" about yesterday's experience. The images of hot pumice arriving at the surface waters is the 100% proof that the earlier coloring is really an eruption. Also the non-believers became believers at the end.
- have just had a conversation with Jesus Perez, Chief security as they call him locally. He told me informally that nobody knows the next phase of the eruption, but that everybody from the safety team is prepared that the eruption will gradually come close to sea level and that steam explosions cannot be excluded.
- Yesterday afternoon, "the green spot"or so called "mancha verde", was seen fom the village of el pinar.
- At 5 pm yesterday (17:00), the complete council of El Pinar was gathered in a special meeting, to proclame to the population of this small mountain-village the start of the red tape proceeding in asking economical help to european, and national organizations, for supporting this crisis situation.

The meeting of the El Pinar council, yesterday afternoon

Update 16/10 - 00:23 UTC : In case the magma would reach the surface waters, local steam explosions might be generated.

Update 15/10 - 23:58 UTC : We expect that based on the current harmonic tremor change something new has started approx. at 11 PM (23:00) UTC.

Update 15/10 - 23:36 UTC : The seismogram HI03 has had the strongest modification a few minutes to eleven UTC.. Some eruption conditions have been changed at the moment. The depth of the registered earthquakes has not changed and is still below 10 km. A total of 5 earthquakes have been recorded today 2.7, 1.5, 1.8, 2.5 and 1.8.

Update 15/10 - 23:00 UTC :
(Overview of the last 10 hours) :
- the eruption fissure discovered on Saturday is located at 2.4 km out of the coast and at a depth of only 150 meter!
- if the eruption would continue on the present location for a prolonged time, scientists say " a new island" will be born.
- as said earlier, the alert levels remain unchanged
- the NO GO zone has been extended today by 1 km.
- What the Spanish press is calling Pyroclastics are just pieces of cooled lava (pumice). We have to pray to god that no pyroclastic flows will not be triggered during these eruptions. There is however no reason to be scared for such violent outbursts.
- the local government of El Hierra made a call for economic and humanitarian assistance at both the central government in Madrid and the EU in Brussels.
- the images of hot ash still smoking when coming to the surface is the absolute proof that an eruption is going on the slopes of the volcano below the sea level. The video below has been shot by scientists from IGN and CISIC while overflying the affected zone by helicopter.

Joke Volta, trying to pick up some news for Earthquake-Report.com at the El Pinar press center

Update 15/10 - 14:15 UTC : Part of the emotion at El Hierro comes after the Guardia civil has closed a 2 km perimeter around the Tacaron cruce (we think this is the cross square where people have to choose among La Restinga and Tacaron). The cross Square point was the last couple of days a viewing point to see the Colored sea area.

Update 15/10 - 13:55 UTC : Joke who is currently near the El Pinar press center at El Hierro just heard from a "to be trusted" journalists, that the news of the new eruption was based on " volcanic material floating to the surface". Journalist who were allowed to the viewing points came back stating "Nothing to see".
- People are getting really nervous on the island and rumors of More To Evacuate had to be declined fast to regain calm

Update 15/10 - 13:50 UTC : At earthquake-report.com we are far from sure whether the current eruption is a magmatic eruption. There are NO certain leads to this news. As no planes or helicopters are allowed to overfly the area and as the oceanographic ship ran away from the eruption spot and as we have NO real-time satellite pictures, the present news in the Spanish media may be over exaggerated. Some news treads are reporting even an undersea pyroclastic flow ..........?!?

Update 15/10 - 13:20 UTC : Joke Volta reports that the cross road La Restinga - Tacaron, where people could have an overview over the water has been closed by the police. Everybody on the island is very nervous right now and is awaiting further news from the authorities.
Authorities are pressing that the current eruption has no risk for the population on the island because of the water column who is keeping the magma at the bottom of the sea. Accordingly, coastal explosions are not expected based on this new eruption.

Update 15/10 - 13:15 UTC : At 13:15 local time an urgent order has been given by the authorities to immediately evacuate La Restinga. Some local people have been allowed to pick up personal belongings.
- The new eruption is said to occur at a depth of 600 meter and approx. 2.5 km from the coast.
- Authorities are claiming this time that the eruption taking place is a Magma eruption.
- Helicopters and airplanes have been ordered to NOT overfly the new eruption spot and the "Profesor Ignacio Lozano" oceanographic ship has been ordered to IMMEDIATELY leave the sampling area.

IMPORTANT UPDATE 12:57 UTC : A NEW eruption is currently going on at 2 miles from La Restinga. This news has been brought by local newspaper Diario de Aviso. We have no pictures of the new eruption yet - More information will be available here soon. This new event cannot be seen on the seismogram like in earlier events.

Update 15/10 - 12:15 UTC : Rapideye.net, a satellite imagery company has published a series of pictures of outstanding quality and by far the best ever seen so far! The pictures have been taken on October 13 (last Thursday) and the comment which came with the pictures is :

These are true color, high-resolution RapidEye satellite images featuring a gigantic stain visible on the surface of Las Calmas Sea resulting from a submarine eruption out of the coast of El Hierro, Spain. The eruption occurred at 1200 meter below sea level at 10.43 local time (09:43 UTC) on October 10, 2011.

The main discussion among scientists right now is whether the colored area is degassing only or a real magma eruption. In an update published here on Thursday evening, also earthquake-report.com was focusing on both phenomenons.
The pictures are courtesy and copyright of Rapideye.net. Clicking on the picture will bring you directly in the RapidEye website where you can watch the pictures at full quality and size.

El Hierro eruption high definition images October 13 - courtesy and copyright RapidEye.net

La Restinga villagers cueing to return shortly to their houses - Picture courtesy and copyright diariodeavisos.com and Fran Pallero

Update 15/10 - 07:58 UTC
(Overview of the last 12 hours) :

- The HI03 seismogram shows a light increase since yesterday evening to stabilize again during the night.
- The sampling and analyzing ship "Profesor Ignacio Lozano" has been tracked right on the troubled water sea spot this morning. The ship has no ROV with camera aboard, which means we will not see anything what is happening below.
The "Profesor Ignacio Lozano" carries however equipment which enables the ship to sample depths up to 1500 meters. This instrumentation could reveal more than we kwow with certitude so far. Among the crew of the ship are 6 scientists with a different disciplines.
- the 600 evacuated people from La Restinga have been allowed to return to their houses for a very limited time. The authorities allowed it to make life for the evacuees a little more comfortable. A long cue of cars formed at the Guardia Civil checkpoints. People went back not only to bring some vital belongings to a safer place, but somebody went looking for the friendly street who was part of her life.
- people who returned from La Restinga are talking about a "sulfurous" odor hanging around in the village.
- Some of the La Restinga diving clubs have moved their operations to the safe port of La Esteca.
- People of La Restinga are more and more nervous as they want to get clear answers on their many questions about what is going on and will be happening next. Scientists have a hard life in dealing with questions they cannot answer. Mother nature makes sure that all of her plans are kept secret.
- scientist have installed an accelerometer in La Restinga. An accelorometer is recording the displacement of the soil when an earthquake occurs. Buildings will have to be inspected for eventual damage if important values are noticed.
- Those who found the evacuation exaggerated have changed their mind after smelling the sulfurous odor in the village.
- The Los Roquillos tunnel, called vital by the people of Frontera to have a normal life, is still not open to everyone. The tunnel became the main irritation of the islanders. The authorities are still not 100% sure that the tunnel is safe ... only they do not tell what is wrong with it.
- Tremors of M3+ have not been felt for many days in a row, although we @ earthquake-report.com are seeing an increase in the tremors again. Some tremors are near to M 3 again.
- RTV, the Spanish national broadcasting station has written an article "El Hierro economy: collapse or tourist attraction?"
- 3 tremors have been recorded since midnight UTC - The quake at 03:52 was the strongest with a magnitude of 2.7. Strangely only the 1.5 magnitude one was felt by villagers. All tremors had an hypocenter (focal depth) in between 15 and 16 km.
- Since October 10 NO shallow earthquakes have been recorded.
- 3 scientists from the "Instituto Geológico y Minero" are studying the impact of the recent earthquakes on the island surface, cliffs etc. The fear of landslides led to the early evacuation of a village and the calling of the initial Yellow alert.
- IGN scientists told the islanders on Thursday that magnitude 4 earthquakes are still possible

GPS deformation data at HI03 - image courtesy IGN

Update 14/10 - 16:27 UTC : The scientists from PEVOLCA have postponed the 18:30 meeting to be held later today until a later date. Reason : they have nothing new to tell. The situation is somewhat unchanged (like we reported earlier), but the situation remains dangerous and the current alert levels are maintained.

Data update 14/10 - 15:15 UTC : No big changes in seismicity. We noticed a 2.6 quake at 13 km depth at 08:55 this morning. The epicenter was located approx. 700 meter out of Puerto Naos. Click here to see the exact location of the epicenter (green arrow). The 2.6 tremor was the strongest since October 12, 12:27 UTC.
A total of 4 +1.5 quakes have been recorded since midnight UTC today. When looking at the GPS deformation data, the deformation is gradually increasing again.

Update 14/10 - 14:13 UTC : The Spanish army has send the Medas, an army patrol boat which will be used the coming days to guard the prohibited eruption area.

Village square at El Pinar with people discussing the crisis situation

Update 14/10 - 12:09 UTC : The villagers are in constant discussion and are commenting what happened and what should happen. Politicians from the government, but also from the opposition party are visiting the island. This morning representatives from the PP (Partido Popular - conservative Spanish party) were visiting El Pinar.
- The press cam back from La Esteca because the "Profesor Ignacio Lozano" was already gone when they arrived. - Next they tried to chase the ship by driving towards La Restinga, but the journalists and photographers were stopped by the police.

Update 14/10 - 09:21 UTC : The press people are all returning their back to La Restinga and the lava area in the sea and are heading for La Estaca, the port where the ship "Profesor Ignacio Lozano"' WITHOUT a ROV is awaited. This ship will enter the 'supposed' eruption waters and will take and analyze many samples. Another ship with a ROV aboard will set sails to El Hierro on Monday and will hopefully arrive at the eruption spot on Tuesday. This ship will enable us to see what happened at the Ocean floor.

Oceanographic ship Profesor Ignacio Lozano - image courtesy estoc.es

Update 14/10 - 07:40 UTC : A calm night at El Hierro. No fundamental changes since yesterday.
Since yesterday evening, the main topic on the island is the still closed Los Roquillas tunnel. Islanders are calling the tunnel vital for their living conditions and do not understand why the government has not yet reopened it completely. Local population and local mayors are insisting more and more to open the tunnel immediately. The main reason for the closure were the earthquakes prior to the submarine eruption, but since the quakes are leveling around M 2, this should be no longer an issue. The central government though does not want to take any risk and is hesitant to open it completely even after the inspection report was positive. A complicated matter!