El Hierro Volcano eruption (Canary Islands) : Part 32 – February 17 until February 23

This is Part 32 of the El Hierro Volcano eruption report


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With the collaboration of Joke Volta, an El Hierro resident and Julio del Castillo Vivero, photographer.
Read also : (28/7 – early 09)  – (25/09 – 10/10)  -  (11/10 – 13/10) - (14/10 – 17-10)  -  (18/10 – 21/10)   (22/10 – 26/10 )(27/10 – 31/10 )(01/11 – 03/11 )(04/11 – 06/11 )(07/11 – 08/11)(09/11- 11/11)  – (12/11 – 15/11)  – (16/11 – 19/11)  – (20/11 – 23/11)(24/11 – 27/11)(28/11 – 02/12) - (03/12 – 07/12)(08/12 – 11/12)(12/12 – 15/12)(16/12 – 18/12)(19/12 – 25/12)(26/12 – 31/12)(01/01 – 03/01)(04/01 – 07/01)(08/01 – 13/01)(14/01 – 19/01) - (20/01 – 25/01) -  (26/01 – 30/01) – (31/01 – 04/02) – (05/02 – 10/02) – Part 31 (11/02 – 16/02) – Part 32 (17/02 – 23/02)
Useful links : @VolcanoReportEl Hierro Picasa Photo Album
Our Webcam pages : 3 in 1 pageLas Calmas UstreamLa Restinga villageEruption webcam

Update 23/02 - 20:29 UTC
- No new earthquakes
- Unchanged HT
- The light in the webcam is the Ramon Margalef who is continuing his bathymetry in the dark.

Update 23/02 - 13:40 UTC
- 7 earthquakes today
- The Ramon Margalef has started with his new bathymetry mission. Many ships will take part in this vast bathymetry mission with one goal : making a detailed and up to date image of the El Hierro Ocean floor. The oceanographic vessel is cruising along the coast.

- The vent is active today and creates a faint jacuzzi at the surface waters. Additionally the temperature of the vent waters are still higher than the surrounding waters, a proof that the eruption is still going as superheated steam is warming the water column on top of the cone. The proof for this is the haze above the stirring vent waters.

Haze (evaporating water) above the jacuzzi

- Joke Volta first images of the day. Joke also told us that the Salvamar Adhara was sent to the sea for stone fishing, but returned without a catch.

Image courtesy factmonster.com

Update 23/02 - 08:17 UTC - is El Hierro resembling Hawaii ?
- The earthquake activity continues as IGN listed 6 earthquakes so far today
- In our title we talk about Hawaii. Why ? Because a lot of scientists (not all of them) are convinced that both Hawaii and El Hierro are Hot Spot volcanoes, this contrary to subduction volcanoes like the Andes volcanoes (subduction means that the Oceanic plate dives below the continental plate and that part of the re-melted oceanic plate does create volcanoes by fissuring into the continental plate.
In case of Hot Spot volcanoes, we are (simplified) talking of weak points in the oceanic plates. The solid rock part of these plates (the crust) is very thin (10 to 15 km), below this thickness a variety of hotter material creates other sections (that is one of the main reasons why most of the earthquakes are occurring at a depth of 10 km or more). Magma tries to find weak areas in this material. This process can be found all over the ocean floors where hot vents and submarine volcanoes (if extinct also called seamounts) are doing exactly the same (there are thousands of them).
The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii, Hawaii (the big island) is just like El Hierro the youngest island of a volcano chain that grew above sea level. The older islands are moving away from the weakest point by the normal moving oceanic plates (10 to 100 mm per year depending on the location, which makes hundreds of km's over millions of years). Maui, another volcano island has ie Haleakala volcano, a dormant volcano in the Hawaiian chain. Maui can be compared with La Palma, second youngest island in the Canary island chain.

image courtesy faculty.weber.edu

The Kilauea volcano at Hawaii is constantly active since many years. Some periods are calm, but nevertheless the lava lake is partly filled and the eruption continues by channeling magma through lava tubes to the ocean. At regular times the eruption process intensifies and creates high intensity eruptions like a full crater lake, creating a stream of lava or even rift eruptions along the crater line. What El Hierro experiences at the moment is almost the same. Early November, a submarine rift eruption occurred (see video and pictures Guardia Civil / Involcan) and since many months the cone builds up by flowing lava (even today with limited HT).
Main difference with Hawaii : the depth of most of the earthquakes. The cracks in the Hawaiian crust are in average at a depth of 4 to 6 km, a lot shallower than the average El Hierro quakes.
We hope that "Wally" the ROV on board of the Atlantic Explorer will soon give us a proof of what is happening near the El Hierro main vent. If the crew of the Atlantic Explorer would succeed in delivering footage of the eruption, it would be a big blame to the other agencies working on this eruption.

Update 22/02 - 23:55 UTC
- Some people went today to the Tacoron beach to enjoy this great area. Pevolca has told the press a couple of days ago that the Tacoron coast would re-open. Joke immediately went over there and has photographed the coast, pictures we published directly. Well, today the people were not allowed to enter the area anymore and were stopped by the Guardia Civil. It is uncertain whether this happened because the authorities had not installed the necessary signs yet (something Pevolca has said too however they had many days to do so) or because new developments are happening which we do not know. This is a clear example of bad communication.
- 6 earthquakes in total
- same minimal HT than the last couple of days. The short period of jacuzzi has not been continued later today.

La Sardina en fire - end of the carnival period - Image Joke Volta

Update 22/02 - 19:55 UTC
- We are suggesting ER readers tonight to use the village webcam. Tonight the "Sardine" will be set in fire at La Restinga. This is an old custom that marks the end of carnival and the start of the fast period.

Update 22/02 - 16:43 UTC
- 5 earthquakes so far today
- On the picture below some of the 34 consuls at La Restinga. The consuls were invited by Alpidio Armas, the president of the Cabildo El Hierro. The consuls were from 3 continents, Europe, Asia and South America

Update 22/02 - 12:24 UTC
- 3 earthquakes so far today. M 1.6, 1.4 and 2.6
- Joke Volta first series of pictures of the day. one of these pictures shows the short-lived jacuzzi which we referred to earlier on today
- Harmonic tremor minimal, but nevertheless the eruption is still continuing at a very limited rate

Update 22/02 - 08:40 UTC
- Also for the first time in many days, a stain could be seen in the Las Calmas sea. This indicates probably some more activity the last couple of hours.

Renewed jacuzzi activity at La Restinga

Update 22/02 - 08:05 UTC
- A few minutes ago, we saw some renewed jacuzzi activity above the main vent. Unfortunately the webcam was zoomed out completely disabling a better detailed view. We should monitor the webcam closely today as this is the first activity we could notice in many days.
- The renewed activity coincided with a 2.6 magnitude earthquake not very far from the main vent. The depth of the hypocenter was 10 km. this earthquake occurred at 7:55.

Update 22/02 - 06:52 UTC
- NO listed earthquakes so far today

Update 21/02 - 23:55 UTC
- We are ending the day with 15 earthquakes. 2 of these earthquakes had a magnitude equal or greater than 2.0
- A news article from Spanish news agency EFE, published in La Información (in Spanish), states that several boats will map the ocean depths of El Hierro. Below a summary of the article translated to English:
"The government will start from March 1st a bathymetric survey program (study of the deep ocean) on the island of El Hierro in order to continue monitoring the underwater volcano. This decision was taken today at a meeting chaired by the General Director of Civil Defense and Emergencies, Juan Antonio Diaz Cruz. These actions will take place as long as the eruption continues.
A schedule for the months of March, April and May has been set, with different vessels assigned to do the bathymetry with a periodicity of about 7 to 10 days. Boats will be from the State Navy, Police, Marine Rescue Society, Ministry of Fisheries and Department of Customs."

Update 21/02 - 16:12 UTC
ITER Canary Islands and specialized organizations of Cabo Verde are organizing a professional "International Workshop on Oceanic Island Volcanoes & Society El Hierro 2012". This is an international volcano meeting for commemorating the 1st anniversary of the 2011-12 submarine eruption off the southern coast of El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain). This workshop is planned as an international forum for specialists working on active volcanic islands to discuss about reducing volcanic risk. Many oceanic and active volcanic islands are facing higher levels of vulnerability and exposure to more risk because of increasing population.

Update 21/02 - 13:34 UTC
- As said yesterday, the Atlantic Explorer is carrying the ROV Sirio which was baptized "Wally". Because of the weather conditions during the first mission, the ROV was unable to be set at work. While anchoring at La Restinga, the crew made a test with "Wally" in the port of La Restinga. Here is the result of this test. The image you see here is the image which you can expect when Wally would be able to dive to the volcano cone next week.

Update 21/02 - 11:53 UTC
- 7 earthquakes since midnight
- Joke Volta set of morning images

Geology course at La Restinga

Update 21/02 - 09:46 UTC
- 6 earthquakes since midnight + continuing not listed weak earthquakes
- no visible jacuzzi or stain
- HT at minimum amplitude
- Another day of Geology course for Joke Volta and she enjoys learning about tectonics, volcano types, magma types, magma viscosity, historic events which can be seen at the island, etc etc. Based on what she told us yesterday, earthquake-report calls the geology course a 5-star course. Every important topic is discussed. An example : it is impossible to talk about volcanoes when Ocean ridges are not discussed. Ocean ridges were a part of the course on day 1.
This 3 day course was organized by the diving centers association and joined by partners like the University of La Laguna and the government of the Canary Islands, etc. The biggest part of the course is given by Ramon Casillas, a professor at the university of La Laguna. Javier Morales, member of the parliament, is also listed on the leaflet as a co-speaker.


Update 20/02 - 23:35 UTC
- we have stranded on 19 earthquakes today
- other interesting data : unchanged

Update 20/02 - 18:17 UTC
- unchanged situation : continuing micro-seismicity, listed earthquakes and minimal HT
- Jesus Machin, a fisherman at La Restinga has made a coastal walk along the Naos bay. He said to Joke that he has seen a lot of sardines. Sardines are common around this time of the year, but so many was a real surprise to him.

Jesus Machin fisherman at La Restinga

Update 20/02 - 11:10 UTC
- Joke is currently following a "geology" class in La Restinga ! :). It is a free lecture with a focus on what is happening below the island. (click here to see the 5 pictures she has photographed this morning)
- It tends to be a shaky day in El Hierro as we have already 13 listed earthquakes so far.
- The picture below shows that the volcano is still emitting material in the sea (gray area). The picture dates from this morning

Update 20/02 - 08:13 UTC
- No visible stain or jacuzzi this morning
- Accordingly also almost no harmonic tremor
- Micro-seismicity continues to show the continuing magma pressure
- On top of the microseismicity, IGN has listed 8 earthquakes since midnight. All these earthquakes had magnitudes above M1. All the epicenters are or below the island (main crater system) or in the Las Calmas sea in between the main vent and Tacoron.

Update 19/02 - 23:35 UTC
- Sunday's Cabildo report describing Saturday activity (they are always at least one day behind), mentioned a minor deflation of the vertical GPS deformation. This may be another sign that the eruption is coming to an end.
IGN listed a total of 8 earthquakes today.
No change in harmonic tremor
- A pity that the sea was this rough while the Atlantic Explorer was exploring the vent area. The boat was equipped with a ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) carrying video cameras. Below an image from this ROV.

ROV on board of the Atlantic Explorer - image courtesy SOS Oceanos

Update 19/02 - 16:04 UTC
- Tremor remains very low, with 3 more earthquakes since last update, making a total of 6 earthquakes since midnight.
Date Time Depth Magn Epicenter
19/02/2012 15:09 10 1.1 W EL PINAR
19/02/2012 15:15 11 1.5 SW FRONTERA
19/02/2012 15:16 9 0.8 SW EL PINAR

Update 19/02 - 13:43 UTC
- 3 earthquakes since midnight
- Joke Volta images of this morning. No stain or no jacuzzi, so Joke went to the harbour and photographed the port, the ships and a nice seagull

Update 19/02 - 08:25 UTC
- 2 earthquakes since midnight + microseismicity also weak (frequency of very weak earthquakes)
- flat harmonic tremor (second day in a row !)
- No visible stain or jacuzzi on the webcam

Update 18/02 - 23:55 UTC
ER reader Sissel is a regular webcam capturer. She could not believe her eyes tonight when she saw the start of the Surtseyan eruption in the Las Calmas sea, even without a rimple on the HT graph. Having the experience of other "so called" fire beacons in the sea, she continued looking at it and finally found out that the volcano was traveling in the sea!. Yes, it was the Atlantic Explorer returning from his mission in the evening darkness. Especially the coloring at the beginning is spectacular and will certainly have glued some people on the screen. Great work Sissel, thank you for sharing it with ER.

Update 18/02 - 23:17 UTC
- 21 earthquakes today, less than yesterday, but still enough to call it active
- HT hasn't changed almost all day
- The Atlantic Explorer could not use his ROV today due to the weather. The ship has navigated along the coast and later deeper into the sea. It has mainly sampled the bottom were it has found a lot of ash, even away from the cone (probably because of the strong currents). It took the staff about an hour to sample at a depth of 1120 meter. To pull it up another 30 minutes. They had planned to use nets to catch fish close to the vent but could not accomplish this beacause of the rough sea. The crew also said that they have not seen any stain today (we neither).
A long day for the crew as they left the harbour at 08:00 and returned at 20:00, this to use the authorized time frama as much as possible.
The first mission of the ship comes to an end (it was authorized to be 2 days in the forbidden area) and it has to return to Gran Canaria. The people from the Universityof Las Palmas de Gran Canaria will not return with the ship but probably by plane. The Atlantic Explorer is scheduled to be back in approx. 2 weeks for a new campaign.
- A set of new Joke Volta pictures showing sunset and the arrival of the Atlantic Explorer in the port.

- Joke was at the CAP center this afternoon and was authorized to show this big screen (in fact a computer screen projection on the wall). This is what the CAP scientists and personnel are seeing when we get an almost flat HT graph. The picture was photographed earlier today. Of course to see every detail, the picture is heavily zoomed. What we seen is however very weak HT. The bigger amplitudes (a lot of them in some stations) are microseismicity (weak earthquakes not listed by IGN)

Enlarged screen at CAP showing a lot of microseismicity

Update 18/02 - 18:12 UTC
- 12 earthquakes so far today. The 3.3 earthquake was along the coast of Tenerife and is probably tectonic
- HT unchanged
- When the camera was zooming in the Las Calmas sea we could see some minor stirring for a couple of minutes, proving what we told this morning that we have still some minor surviving action (see image below)

Update 18/02 - 13:21 UTC
- 9 listed earthquakes since midnight
- HT almost no change but still rich on microseismicity, which may lead to renewed visible activity in the vent area
- with the current sunlight it will be hard to see any action in the Las Calmas sea
- below the first series of Joke Volta images of February 18

Update 18/02 - 08:48 UTC
- Our title "Did the eruption (in the current vents) stopped completely ?" is based on a number of parameters like :
* very minor harmonic tremor, in a way that we have not seen since long
* no more visible degassing of the main vent
* no jacuzzi
* no visible or hard to see stain on the webcam
- Do we mean with these words that everything has stopped ? NO, not at all, but we only think that the currents vents may have been collapsed in a way that almost NO magma flow is occurring.
- Since midnight IGN has listed 7 earthquakes, all of them below the island itself or in the Las Calmas sea. This indicates that the magma is still trying to find his way to the surface. If the vent does not reopen, the earthquakes may rise again in number or strength (with a new uncertain and risky phase) or the volcano is throwing his towel in the ring (proverb) and the activity will stop for now. Next week will be once more decisive!
- We saw the Atlantic Explorer leaving the port of La Restinga about an hour ago.

Image courtesy SOS Oceanos and qstar.es

Update 17/02 - 22:48 UTC
- IGN has listed 17 earthquakes today + microseismicity most of the day. The strongest of these earthquakes had a magnitude of 2.5 and was felt by Herreños. The epicenter was close to the Tacarón coast.
- Joke did talked to the people behind the Atlantic Explorer and SOS Océanos in the port of La Restinga. The crew/owners will share some findings as open source information (we will bring it to you as soon as we hear it).
- The Atlantic Explorer has taken water samples near the volcanic cone. The sampling started at a depth of around 120-110 meters and was repeated every couple of meter higher. The results will give a beautiful picture of the pollution of the waters above the vent. The water samples contained ash, many gasses, Co2, sulphur, but in La Restinga this is not noticed as the wind blows mostly to the South (direction open ocean).
In the water samples they also found small living creatures, worms, less than a millimeter long. They are some of the first kind of life forms.
- They couldn't use the ROV for the bad conditions at sea, but they will try it out as soon as it's possible.
- The reason why not all detailed information will be published is that the University of Las Palmas will write some scientific papers on their findings, but as the owners told Joke, there will be enough to share for everybody
- The story of SOS Océanos and the Atlantic Explorer is something really special. Idealism is the base of their non-profit organization. We will come back onto this later on as we really admire what they are doing. The main actors on the ship and the non-profit organization is a family consisting of the parents (2 pensioned professors) and their sons.

Update 17/02 - 16:28 UTC
- 13 earthquakes so far
- The Atlantic Explorer is heading back to the La Restinga port still out on top of the volcano.
- The first Joke Volta pictures of the day. She made a long walk along the coast and is currently working on the results who will appear later today.

Update 17/02 - 14:02 UTC
- We welcome how open with information SOS Océanos are compared to other organizations. They reported just an hour after leaving the port about sulfur smell above the vent and now they have uploaded photographs from the Atlantic Explorer boat! Click on the photograph to go to their Facebook page.

The Atlantic Explorer taking water samples at El Mar de las Calmas - SOS OCÉANOS

Update 17/02 - 13:45 UTC
- 11 earthquakes so far today with the strongest one just minutes ago, of M 2.5. It may have been felt by some of the population.
17/02/2012 13:16:54 12 2.5 SW EL PINAR

Update 17/02 - 12:17 UTC
- The Atlantic Explorer is currently taking water samples. The crew reports a sulfur smell above the vent.

Update 17/02 - 10:46 UTC
- 8 earthquakes since midnight
- The Atlantic Explorer, oceanographic ship with a SOS OCEANOS person on board is on his way to the vent. For more details see below. In the image below the ship has left the port of La Restinga a few minutes ago. Other crew members are scientists of the Universidad de Las Palmas, also the people behind the U-stream webcam.

The Atlantic Explorer on his way to the vent

Update 17/02 - 07:29 UTC
- 5 earthquakes so far today
- almost flat HT
- no stain at all this morning
- the images from Joke Volta below have been photographed yesterday. Again a nice set of pictures.

Update 17/02 - 00:38 UTC
- We have just seen burning lava balloons on the eruption webcam. Upper left part of the screen. they must be rather big as they burned for several seconds. Hopefully it will be repeated for people who start to look now.
- HT is still very low but as seen in earlier periods, a relation in between HT and SLS was never proved.
- ER reader Martyn was able to capture a few minutes on the webcam. He proves what we were talking about. As the webcam is zoomed out completely, the lights are very small but the flames must have been at least a meter or more on the spot itself.
Update : ER reader New wrote a comment below and is talking about a boat or even stars or planets. She may be right and we may be right.
It is up to everyone to make a guess about it, we respect every opinion.
ER is reporting whatever we see that can be linked to the eruption. The flashes have been noticed a number of times. The video below is only 1 episode. The main reasons why we are convinced that it is SLS was not said before : besides the time of appearing, the flames are also slightly floating to the right, different incandescent colors and the position of the vent in relation to the harbour entrance (even taken into account the possible current). This slight movement is a normal current movement. Very little on this image, but with a webcam completely zoomed out, a slight movement is quite a bit of meters. + Since we look at the webcam every night, we know the star and/or planets (bright points of lights which are only needle points)

Links to earlier parts of this extensive El Hierro eruption report :
(28/7 - early 09) - (25/09 - 10/10) - (11/10 - 13/10) - (14/10 - 17-10) - (18/10 - 21/10) - (22/10 - 26/10 ) - (27/10 - 31/10 ) - (01/11 - 03/11 ) - (04/11 - 06/11 ) - (07/11 - 08/11) - (09/11- 11/11) - (12/11 - 15/11) - (16/11 - 19/11) - (20/11 - 23/11) - (24/11 - 27/11) - (28/11 - 02/12) - (03/12 - 07/12) - (08/12 - 11/12) - (12/12 - 15/12) - (16/12 - 18/12) - (19/12 - 25/12) - (26/12 - 31/12) - (01/01 - 03/01) - (04/01 - 07/01) - (08/01 - 13/01) - (14/01 - 19/01) - (20/01 - 25/01) - (26/01 - 30/01) - (31/01 - 04/02) - Part 30 (05/02 - 10/02)

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

Volcano Discussion Panel : If you are a person who wants to discuss and read about all aspects of volcanoes, this discussion panel might be a very good place to hang around. Especially if we start speculating about what to happen next, this panel is a great place to look at. Give it a chance.