In Focus

Uncovering Secrets of Pantelleria

A hidden celebrity getaway and movie filming location in the Mediterranean, which attracts stars such as Madonna, Isabella Rossellini and Giorgio Armani, is now the focus of a new ground-breaking piece of research led by Ulster University.

Known as the black pearl of the Mediterranean, the paradise Italian island of Pantelleria located between Sicily and Tunisia is actually the top of a large active volcano that last erupted in 1891.

Global marine geoscientist Dr Sara Benetti from Ulster University will lead an international scientific team on a week-long expedition to explore the impacts of the island’s volcanic eruptions on underwater or submarine environments.

The results will help to uncover unanswered questions about the evolution of the volcanic island over time and help better understand the impact its explosive eruptions have had on the surrounding seafloor where important ice-age coral communities are most at risk.

Using multi-beam technology alongside samples and images of the seafloor collected with the Italian research vessel Minerva Uno, the expedition brings together a team of scientists from across the UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Funded by the EU Research Infrastructure Eurofleets2 project, the team departed from Messina in August.


Pictured: the research team on the PANTHER marine expedition

Dr Benetti explained: “What lies beneath Pantelleria’s waves is a treasury of preserved clues into the island’s eruptive history that can help reconstruct submarine geohazards and their impact on underwater biodiversity.

“Very little is known about the underwater portions of Pantelleria. The study will focus on its north-west coast where the most recent volcanic eruption occurred in 1891 and deposited most of its material below sea level.

“The volcano is located in the Sicily Channel, an important pathway of mass water exchange between eastern and western Mediterranean. By examining the sediments around the island we will unveil how the volcano’s well known high-energy explosive eruptions have spread volcanic material across a good portion of the Mediterranean over time and also the impact that has had on the important glacial-age cold water coral communities that lie beneath.”

You can follow the expedition story on Facebook here.

© Department of Communications & PR 2016


Sound Interesting? Then Consider a Degree in Environmental Science or Geography

At Ulster we offer a range of degree programmes relating to environmental science and geography. You could then pursue a career in research and work on exciting projects like Dr Benetti!

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