El Hierro Volcano eruption (Canary Islands) : Part 5 – October 18 until October 21, 2011

This is Part 5 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 21/10 - 16:28 UTC: - The Spanish secretary of the Estado de Cooperación Territorial, Mr. Gaspar Zarrías, has unfolded a plan to support all the affected economic sectors on the island (mainly fishery, tourism and trade).
- Mr Zarrías told the press that 25 UME personnel (Unidad Militar de Emergencias) will stay at the island to provide almost instant support if needed. Support material like trucks, communication equipment etc will remain at the island too.

Update 21/10 - 10:03 UTC: The acid rich green seawater has reached the western part of the island (Frontera side). This is really bad news for the people living there as the experience of La Restinga learned us that a lot of fish did not survive these waters. Hopefully the acidity will have been diluted a bit since the last 24 to 48 hours.

Press people at work in the cozy bar of El Pinar on October 19 - image courtesy and copyright Desirée Martín

Update 21/10 - 09:42 UTC - overview of the last 10 hours:
- harmonic tremors activity similar than yesterday.
- after the updates of the IGN data we noticed 22 volcanic earthquakes yesterday. The focal depth was in between 11 to 26 km.
- since midnight UTC today, 6 volcanic earthquakes have been recorded by IGN. Focal depth in between 11.8 and 22.3 km.
- we are mentioning these earthquake parameters because they are of high importance to predict eventual activity. If earthquakes are getting more powerful the risk on landslides increases (like people of Frontera experienced) and if they are getting shallower (in between 0 and 5 km) magma may have found a way up the seabed / island (higher degree of alert can be expected soon).
- Joke Volta reports that the calm has returned to El Pinar as there is no longer spectacular news to report on. The tunnel is open again (at least partly) and the Los Restinga people can return to their houses today. Only the (great!) local Canary Island press will continue to make headlines from the El Hierro news.
- The people at El Hierro are divided into 2 camps : the believers and the non-believers. The believers do think that the worst will be over as they do not feel earthquakes anymore (the earthquakes are still occurring even more than before but just below the Feel level) and as the politicians have told that the volcano is looking for his bed (read : become dormant again). The non-believers do not trust the politicians and they are thinking that they still hide something. If it is all over, why is the Red Alert still there ?

Update 20/10 - 23:46 UTC - afternoon and evening overview:
The La Restinga people will finally be allowed to return to their village indefinitely from tomorrow on as the volcanic activity has been decreased a lot
- The Red alert level 1 will be maintained for La Restinga for the time being
- Biologists are fearing the the marine system may need more than 1 year to recover
- The submarine GPS controlled robot has start his work today. The robot will sample and analyze water quality and has an autonomy of 4 to 6 months.
- The mayor of El Pinar said that the volcano is almost dead!
- At Earthquake-Report.com we do not share the "almost dormant again" stories told by the mayor and the president of El Hierro. We agree that the activity has subsided but the harmonic tremors have not yet ended and we notice even more volcanic earthquakes than the last 10 days (19 earthquakes during the last 24 hours)

Update 20/10 - 15:53 UTC:
- PEVOLCA committee will meet today in Valverde at 18:00 local time.
- 10 earthquakes have been recorded by IGN (max. magnitude : 2.0) since midnight UTC.
- The diving companies, one of the important sub-economies on the island, are living through a very bad period. Cancellations have been coming in until december 2012. Alpidio Armas hopes that the present crisis situation will end soon and that business will gradually be back to normal.

El Mundo Radiography animation of the El Hierro volcano eruption

Update 20/10 - 7:46 UTC: Spanish newspaper El Mundo did something what you can expect from a quality newspaper, they invested money in a fantastic animated overview of what happened . The animation is divided into the following parts :
- Geography of El Hierro
- Divergent fault line
- location and size of the craters/cinder cones
- Ocean sea floor surrounding El Hierro
- Eruption specifics.
We advise our readers to take a look at this great animation. Click here to watch the El Mundo animation

Update 20/10 - 7:37 UTC: slight changing harmonic tremors during the last 8 hours. Since midnight IGN reported 2 earthquakes (this number can change when IGN updates her records).
The number of earthquakes yesterday was the highest in number since October 10 when the active period started

Port of La Restinga on October 19 - many fish died by the acidic water - image courtesy and copyright Desiree Martin

Update 19/10 - 23:58 UTC: Killing nature. Due to the lower Ph, the water is very acid and a lot of fish did not survive it. The picture at right has been shot in the port of La Restinga.

Update 19/10 - 23:55 UTC: A total of 16 volcanic earthquakes have been recorded on Wednesday. Max. magnitude: 2.6

Update 19/10 - 17:44 UTC: La Restinga fishermen demand that the Ramon Margalef will not only have geologists on board, but also the "best possible biologists". They want to know from the biologists when their fishing grounds will get back to normal.

Update 19/10 - 17:06 UTC: We had to cut another part of this very long article and made it Part 4 (see link above). It contains the updates from October 14 to October 17.

Update 19/10 - 15:47 UTC: In our prior 13:54 UTC update we mentioned 4 earthquakes since midnight. The total has increased to 7 in about 2 hours time. The 3 additional earthquakes had values of 1.8, and 2 times 1.5. Another important element to notice is that we noticed today 2 shallower earthquakes, respectively 7.9 and 9.6 km deep. This did not happen anymore since October 10.
The initial shallow quakes started on October 9 and ended on October 10 and were often only a few 100 meter deep, typical for volcanic earthquakes.
Harmonic tremors were almost constant all day long.
To conclude, we are far away from the October 9 / 10 conditions, but earthquakes are not over yet.

Biologists (not disaster tourists) on the blocked road to Tacaron. Biologists are using binoculars to spot whales and dolphins who are frequently seen in the Sea de Las Calmas - Image courtesy and copyright Desiree Martin - Click on the picture to view her photo blog

Update 19/10 - 13:54 UTC: Not much to tell since our latest update.
- Journalists and photographers went down to La Restinga as they have nothing else to do or to report from.
- People in La Restinga have told Joke that the smell is not at all sulfurous. Some of them do not feel at ease with such a special odor.
- Since midnight UTC IGN reported 4 earthquakes. One shallow at 7.9 km (1.1), the rest in between 1.3 and 1.9. None of these were felt by the people.
- We want to make a little publicity for 2 very nice photographers blogs (the girl works for the major agencies). www.desireemartinphoto.com/blog and www.andresgutierrez.eu
- The politicians from El Hierro are trying to get more money from the Canary Island government and from the National government. The economic damage price is growing daily.
- at 19:00 tonight IGN and CSIC people will inform the population on the current state of the eruption.
- the evacuation of boats from La Restinga to La Estaca is continuing. Some have sailed on the engine others are transported by road. 3 port cranes are helping to get the boats out of the water.

Update 19/10 - 08:58 UTC: Next episode in the Ramon Margalef ROV soap.
Well ... the good news is that the ship has been traced by our reader Xana near Porto in Portugal early this morning. http://www.localizatodo.com/puertos/Ships.aspx?name=ramon%20marga.
BUT .... the ROV is not build to go into an acid Ph enviroment nor can he withstand temperatures higher than 35*C!. Conclusion: the ROV will not be able to enter the eruption zone. Of course nobody wants that costly material will be damaged, but why has it only been said now! The press wrote from the very beginning that the ROV of the Ramon Margalef will deliver video and images from the eruption vents. Everybody has been fooled that long.
When activated, the ROV will be used to sample, to make topographic studies of the seabed. The camera on board will be greatly useless.
After surfing the web we found easily a number of ROV's able to film eruptions. JASON ROV (used by NOAA) is one of them. See an eruption video filmed by a ROV here.

Update 19/10 - 07:41 UTC: Scientists are quoted as "a new step could be visible in 48 hours. The volcano may close the current rift, he opens a new one even on land or the eruption is simply shut down forever. Everything is possible in the development of a volcano.

Update 19/10 - 07:32 UTC: A very interesting article this morning in LaProvincia.es, a Las Palmas (Canary Islands) newspaper. Following this article, NO basaltic fresh lava has been found by the scientists yet. The hot material filmed earlier and which could be seen on the videos (also in this report) is in fact older material heated by the volcano and broken away from the seabed. Click here for the article in Spanish

Update 19/10 - 07:27 UTC: The degree of acidity in the green stain water is killing all fish and plant life. This is a huge blow to the rich fish waters of the Las Calmas sea and the La Restinga southern El Hierro coastline.

The sampling robot arrived in the port of La Esteca - image courtesy and copyright Diario de Avisos and Fran Pallero

Update 19/10 - 06:49 UTC: The Robot who arrived yesterday in La Estaca will be carried to his diving spot by the oceanographic ship Profesor Ignacio Lozano. The robot is in fact a sampling and analyzing instrument. It can be guided by satellite and is able to navigate. The robot can dive to a max. depth of 1000 meter. He has an autonomy of several months! The robot has NO CAMERAS on board.

Overview Update from the last 8 hours:
* Harmonic tremors were almost unchanged during the night
* 10 earthquakes occurred yesterday and the the first 7 hours today only 1 (1.9)
* La Restinga inhabitants will only be allowed to return to their houses during the daylight hours
* Police will continue to guard the roads to La Restinga
* Alpidio Armas, the President of El Hierro has told the press that the economic damage is increasing every day. He has announced the creation of a commission to calculate the damage

Update 19/10 - 05:53 UTC: GeoLurking, a plotting specialist uses public available data to create very interesting 4-D plots (more to find in the other parts of our reporting). As he states himself, they may not be used for scientific purposes but on the other hand they are reflecting very well what is going on on the island. The deformation is derived from Prof Sagiya's GPS network. The deformation showed is from October 16 to October 17.

Update 18/10 - 20:53 UTC: Another part in the ROV soap - The RAMON MARGALEF RETURNED TO HIS VIGO PORT! - This news explains probably the flying in of another less powerful ROV from Barcelona as was told informally to Earthquake-Report.com (to be confirmed). (we appreciate the work of our readers who send us the news of the return to the port)

Update 18/10 - 20:30 UTC:
- Well, the La Restinga soap continues. After being told twice that people could regain their houses, they were told by local and National authorities today, that due to security measures a permanent return will NOT be allowed. People will have the facility to return to their houses for a short period if circumstances allow it. La Restinga people were angry about this decision. The decision will be for an unlimited period.
- people have been advised not to swim in the La Restinga waters due to a too high Ph
- Social workers will visit evacuees from La Restinga and will aid them with food, NO money.

Meeting of the La Restinga inhabitants at El Pinar on October 18 2011

Update 18/10 - 20:15 UTC: Video of the Jacuzzi Eruption zone filmed today Tuesday!. It is a surprise for us that the whirlpool is still present and it contradicts an earlier report that the stain and Jacuzzi was not noticed anymore. The video was published by Diario El Hierro a well informed local newspaper.
If we put the video in relation with today's harmonic tremors who stayed unchanged all day and connect it to the time of filming, which must have taken place during the morning hours, we would be surprised that the vent shut off completely. We expect that the eruption still goes on at a weaker strength? This scenario is in line with the still recorded harmonic tremors.

Update 18/10 - 20:00 UTC: Our plea to use a ROV to make video and images from the magma releasing vents was unfortunately not heard for a long time. Finally the Ramon Margalef, a Spanish oceanographic ship carrying a ROV has been ordered to navigate to El Hierro (see below) and will arrive on Thursday or Friday..
Well, to our great surprise we were informed that a ROV was carried by a plane from Barcelona. This news has still to be confirmed.

Update 18/10 - 16:43 UTC: The long attended meeting of the La Restinga inhabitants at the cultural center in El Pinar has not satisfied many people as some of them have left the meeting being unhappy that they are not allowed to return indefinitely to their houses (see also above).

Update 18/10 - 15:46 UTC: We are happy to tell our readers that the Ramon Margalef has left Vigo for Tenerife (intermediate port) and El Hierro.

Update 18/10 - 14:30 UTC:
- The El Hierro local government has decided to pay for the rent of the La Restinga people who are rather staying away from the village.
- The authorities have decided that home owners from 4 of the 11 evacuated houses in Frontera can return to their houses. These houses were evacuated because of landslide/rockfall risk.

Update 18/10 - 14:20 UTC: Scientists : the current subsiding eruption pattern is a normal phase during an eruption .

Update 18/10 - 14:15 UTC: The green stain which was a few km out of the El Hierro coast the last couple of days, is now in the La Restinga port and surroundings (this was predicted by Mr. Santana yesterday evening based on the maritime current and wind direction).

La Restinga Fisherman : Not being able to live in your own house is irritating, but most of the La Restinga people have jobs elsewhere on the island or can continue their profession in for example La Esteca (ie the diving schools), but one of the biggest victims of the present period are approx. 40 fisherman families from La Restinga. These people have simply NO INCOME anymore since the authorities have closed the port of La Restinga. Additionally they fear that the current sea pollution might chase the fish away for a very long period. We press upon the local government to support these fisherman with a temporary income.

Update 18/10 - 13:31 UTC : Based on our data (www.marinetraffic.com) we think that the ROV ship Ramon Margalef did not left Vigo yet. Click here for the GPS data.

Update 18/10 - 13:10 UTC : It will be a turbulent meeting in El Pinar this afternoon. The PEVOLCA people and the authorities will be eye in eye with hundreds of La Restinga inhabitants who claim the direct return to their houses. Some of them are very angry as the PEVOLCA committee postponed an earlier decision with 24 hours due to the strong sulfurous odor in the village.

Data Update 18/10 - 12:12 UTC: As we have mentioned before, harmonic tremors decreased a lot the last 12 hours probably the reason why the Sea stain diminished and the Jacuzzi nozzles stopped working. However, this does not mean that everything came to a stop. Seismic activity has not stopped yet and since midnight UTC we noticed 3 earthquakes measuring almost all above 2. These are the values so far : 2.3, 2.0, 2.2, 1.6 and 2.1. We have had however no more shallow earthquakes (hypocenter at less than 5 km from the surface) since October 9, when we think that the eruption started.

Update 18/10 - 11:18 UTC: Local scientists are confirming unofficially that the the volcano has a reduced activity this morning. At earthquake-report.com we can confirm this news (see update 08:20 below)

Update 18/10 - 11:16 UTC: Joke Volta reports some "nice to know" El Hierro facts:
- a French Sailing ship with a photographer on board was sailing in the colored sea area and even on the Jacuzzi, when the police urged them to follow them to La Restinga. The crew and photographer where not aware of any volcanic risk and were just sailing for fun the calm "Las Calmas" sea .... We did not expect any danger at all ... he commented on Spanish TV stations. Police has taken him to Valverde where he said that he wanted to stay on El Hierro to shoot pictures.
- The old president of El Hierro, Don Tomas Padron, said in a chat with locals at El Pinar that everything was calm and that he not waited yesterday evening PEVOLCA outcome, but that he went to bed and slept well.
- people are excited about the first cars driving through the Los Roquillos tunnel
- people in the street are also talking about skin irritation on people who returned yesterday for a short time to La Restinga. Was it more than sulfurous odor ?

Update 18/10 - 10:03 UTC: During the last couple of days, The Directorate General of Telecommunications and Information Technologies, has installed a significant reinforcement of additional telecommunications infrastructure at El Hierro to guarantee redundancy required in case that existing masts would fail.
Additional ifo from Joke: TETRA installed 3 mobile stations in taibique (part of the village of Pinar where I live), another in "la Peña" a vieuwpoint over the golf-valley and another one in the centre of the island. island.
Telefonica also contributed to the improvement of the connections mainly in the center of the island and in Valverde.

Update 18/10 - 09:47 UTC: People of El Pinar just told Joke Volta that the the Jacuzzi spot in the sea has disappeared. This is in line with what we expected (see below).

Update 18/10 - 09:39 UTC: US-based travel and leisure specialists EZE Group has evacuated yesterday almost 50 holidaymakers from the south coast of the Canary Islands’ smallest island as fears grow over the activity of an underwater volcano. The move affected 23 couples, and was taken as authorities in El Hierro raised their alert level to red. The majority of the holidaymakers were taken to resorts in Tenerife, although some have decided to stay on the island, but have been moved to safer areas.

Update 18/10 - 08:49 UTC : Some boats have been moved from the port of La Restinga to the port of La Estaca. A few days ago most fisherman and boat owners refused the evacuation, but it looks like authorities could persuade them.

Update 18/10 - 08:20 UTC : The harmonic tremors which increased seriously late last night have started to decrease gradually since midnight. We have the impression (to be confirmed by the local scientists) that the eruption is gradually winding down unless a new event would happen.

El Hierro harmonic tremors from October 17 14:00 until October 18 08:00

Update 18/10 - 08:15 UTC : According to Nemesio Perez, a scientific coordinator at the Volcanology Institute of the Canarias, the eruption and quantity of magma need to be far greater to form a new island.

Update 18/10 - 08:04 UTC : - No important news in the morning hours. The decisions of PEVOLCA from yesterday are still the "talk of the town (rather villages)". People are at the same time eager to go back but are also reluctant as they now know that a volcano is raging under the island.