Italy begins drilling into super-volcano that, if erupts, could kill millions

August 4, 2012 ITALY – Across the bay of Naples from Pompeii, where thousands were incinerated by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, lies a hidden ‘super volcano’ that could kill millions in a catastrophe many times worse, scientists say. The boiling mud and sulphurous steam holes of the area west of Naples known as the Campi Flegrei or Phlegraean Fields, from the Greek word for burning, are a major tourist attraction. But the zone of intense seismic activity, which the ancients thought was the entrance to hell, also could pose a danger of global proportions with millions of people literally living on top of a potential future volcanic eruption. ‘These areas can give rise to the only eruptions that can have global catastrophic effects comparable to major meteorite impacts,’ said Giuseppe De Natale, head of a project to drill deep under the earth to monitor the molten ‘caldera.’ Benedetto De Vivo, a geochemist at Naples University, has said the drilling could cause an explosion. The Naples city council blocked the project in 2010 but it resumed on the site of an abandoned steel mill at Bagnoli, west of Naples, late last month after the recently elected new mayor, Luigi De Magistris, gave the go-ahead. De Natale scoffed at the objections, saying that the drilling was perfectly safe and that similar probes had been sent down by mining projects looking for sources of thermal energy in the 1980s and earlier. “There were dozens of drillings in the past, with much less secure instruments for industrial motives and nobody said anything,” he said. He added that those raising objections were not experts on drilling and that their suggestions of potential earthquakes or escapes of magma or liquid molten rock had been exaggerated by the local press. “Some of the things they suggested are laughable,” he said, adding that the project’s priority will be scientific knowledge and safety of the local population rather than industrial exploitation as in the past. “We believe the security of millions of people deserves the most powerful methods of inquiry without thinking too much about the economic aspect,” he said. He added that drilling is the only way to discover the geological history of the area because successive eruptions buried previous evidence. The probe has already found volcanic rock from a major eruption 15,000 years ago. De Natale’s team has begun drilling a pilot hole at the Bagnoli site, where a long jetty built to load steel is used by joggers and courting couples enjoying the spectacular Neapolitan sunsets. The pilot hole is aimed not only at studying the stratification of the area but to establish a deep geological observatory with new instruments which De Natale says are many times more sensitive than those in the past. “This will increase by a thousand or 10,000 times our ability to detect small episodes that are precursors of future eruptions,” he said. –Reuters
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33 Responses to Italy begins drilling into super-volcano that, if erupts, could kill millions

  1. John K says:

    “And when they cry ‘peace and safety’ then sudden destruction comes upon them”. We sincerely hope not for the innocent people’s sake, but aren’t they going a bit too far drilling into a volcano? John K

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  2. romalynn says:

    All I can say is keep these idiots over in Italy, do not send them here to drill around Mt Rainier please. Oh forget it, America is just as stupid as the rest of the world for sure.

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  3. Lori says:

    They need to stop thinking about themselves & think about this on a global scale. If super volcano goes off, the whole world will be affected – economically, ecology, etc. The economy is already hurting, this will only further decimate what is left.

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  4. letty says:

    As a Geology Major who emphasizes in Volcanology I can say this has to be the most ridiculous thing that I have ever read. The only thing that they have going for them is that there is not a large chamber of molten magma underneath like that of Yellowstone. So it could be successful however, the down side is that i guarantee some company in America will come up with the bright idea to do the samething at Yellowstone. Because with our corporations we have to go bigger and dumber. So this should be interesting to watch. For the love of GOD lets all pray that we do not get that idea in our heads over here. We have some highly old and volatile volcanoes that we really do not need to set off. Plus our motive would be strictly money.

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  5. Jared says:

    It could give us peace and knowledge. It could also give us fire and misfortune. These guys are rolling the dice, can’t blame them really we’ve all been a bit adventurous before.

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  6. Irene C says:

    “…saying that the drilling was perfectly safe…” Famous last words?

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  7. letty says:

    A volcano is a large bottle of pressure. We can speculate all we want but there is not telling if drilling can or cannot set of the lithostatic pressure or not. My philosophy is don’t risk it. However, I agree with romalynn we are that stupid in America however, we are dumb enough we would probably try it on yellowstone.

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  8. Therese says:

    The potential impact of this area poses a tremendous risk and I believe he has a right to ask and or insist. When you drill for Industrial purposes you would think that it would be far more invasive than research drilling. One would hope that a Professional who studies and helps create the standards for industrialists to follow would have an easier time trying to protect and observe.

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  9. Jake says:

    And on the next episode of “In Hind-sight that was a HUGE mistake”……

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  10. Jennie says:

    I think this is complete MADNESS!!!!!!!!!!

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  11. victor tomas says:

    YOU WILL FALL OFF THE EDGE OF THE EARTH IF YOU SAIL WESTWARD TO FAR.

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  12. Big Al says:

    It sounds like what they wanted to do here in US a few years ago with “ol’ faithful” in Yellow Stone National Park, another super-volcano. This idea was poo-pooed after they studied what might happen if the drilled our super-volcano to relieve pressure. Basically, it would accelrate the eruption killing millions.
    I would tell Italy, don’t be so arrogant that it makes you mess with nature.

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  13. isis2012 says:

    Time to pick up skirts and go

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  14. Michele B. says:

    Oh the irony! “This will increase by a thousand or 10,000 times our ability to detect small episodes that are precursors of future eruptions.” Good luck with that when the “future eruption” is the one that YOU CAUSE!

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  15. a politician gave the go-ahead ….. a “politician” … recently elected .. what does that tell you?

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  16. Lela says:

    I think the polls were fixed, just for them to drill

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  17. Lorne says:

    Wow It was done in Canada and now the community uses it so heat and power there homes. But of course in this world Oil is No. 1 and oil is what makes it easy to create wars and make the poor people even poorer that makes the population eaiser to controll . A cheap energy source like thermal energy would destroy the Rich and they cant lose controll or the world might be a better place for all

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    • jehjeh007 says:

      Wow Lorne! I didn’t know this. Please educate us and send a link if possible. My question is what safety measure were put in place when they did this in Canada? This is awesome….

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  18. WTF, Are they Nuts??? Oh Yeah, they are, sorry. :P
    Playing with Fire!!! (Pun Intended)

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  19. Frank says:

    what if the maps they have are wrong and they drill straight into the chamber… oh dear.

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  20. Drilling into a know super-volcano is sheer madness! I think that it says something about human overconfidence when they say that they can drill safely into such a feature. Geothermal energy is a viable source of energy and an alternative to oil consumption, but you need to be smart and safe about it. Good luck to all of the Italians living in that area, but I smell a massive tragedy coming on. Are they forgetting that Vesuvius is ripe for an eruption and is showing signs of waking up again? Sheesh!

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  21. Joe says:

    I believe this could be like drilling into a super heated steam boiler .

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  22. tal says:

    the so called wise people seem to have become too stupid to see what can and will happen. No wonder God has had enough of our arrogance and greed. God help us all.

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  23. Al says:

    I thought that the Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico would seal it’s self fairly quickly and on it’s own, through erosion of the piping and collapsing soil around the opening, it didn’t so who knows this too could end up having the same effect as lancing a boil. Then there is the Java mud volcano, that was set off by drilling, and is still erupting. As a species we still don’t know wtf we are doing, but we continue doing it.

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  24. Alan says:

    Hmmm- drill into molten magma, magma flows upward, hits water pocket, turns to steam, steam expands rapidly…. I’m outta here!!!

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  25. Taffyduff says:

    ooops! There goes another eruption! Ahem…..oh dear! Now what was I supposed to be doing ?

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  26. Dion says:

    For some reason I dont trust the politician. Can you boost my confidence and stand beside it while you experiment or are you going to go hide in another country?

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  27. Dennis E. says:

    There was a proposal at one time to side drill Yellowstone, to let it drain into the ocean.
    Yes, that is true.
    There was a proposal in World War 1 to blow a great Abyss between the US and Germany so they couldn’t cross.

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    • B
      BP Oil Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico 2010

      O, the folly of man! Will he ever learn he is no match for the forces of nature. Here’s to drilling geniuses who had other bright ideas:


      Turkmenistan – 1971

      While drilling in 1971, Soviet geologists tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole with a diameter of 70 metres (230 ft) at 0°15′10″N 58°26′22″E. To avoid poisonous gas discharge, it was decided the best solution was burn it off. Geologists had hoped the fire would use all the fuel in a matter of days, but the gas is still burning today. Locals have dubbed the cavern “The Door to Hell.”


      Lake Peigneur Disaster, Louisiana 1980


      Mud volcano, Indonesia 2006

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  28. Dave says:

    Can you release some of the pressure at Yellowstone by drilling into the volcano?

    Scientists agree that drilling into a volcano would be of questionable usefulness. Notwithstanding the enormous expense and technological difficulties in drilling through hot, mushy rock, drilling is unlikely to have much effect. At near magmatic temperatures and pressures, any hole would rapidly become sealed by minerals crystallizing from the natural fluids that are present at those depths.

    Like

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