BIG flying rocks: Etna, 15 November 2011 [Explored]
During the culminating phase of the latest paroxysmal eruptive episode at Etna's New Southeast Crater, on 15 November 2011, we had the chance to make observations at relatively close range, as here from the site of Torre del Filosofo, 1 km south of the raging crater. We always wore helmets and stayed close to our 4WD car that was parked so that we could rush of into a safe direction instantly. Repeatedly we changed our observation points when we considered the situation too risky.
And we were rewarded. While we never got into a really dangerous situation, we were able to watch The Greatest Show On Earth in full force and physically experience all of its facets. Besides the ground-shaking noise (the ground was truly vibrating) and the distinctly perceptible heat from the lava fountains, what impressed us most was the vast amounts of huge chunks of rock - incandescent bombs and non-incandescent blocks - that were continuously thrown from numerous vents within and on the flanks of the New Southeast Crater, often reaching awe-inspiring heights, and then pounding down on the cone and its immediate surroundings, including the old, now-silent cone of the Southeast Crater, seen at left. Some of these rocks were as large as a good-sized SUV, and crashing onto the ground they produced plumes of dust that seemed small explosions (though volcanic bombs do not explode).
Meanwhile I have written and posted the "official" report of the 15 November 2011 paroxysmal episode at the INGV-Osservatorio Etneo (Catania) web site - including some photos that you will not see here on Flickr because they were not taken by myself :-D (well, a sort of a hint is in the comments)