Researchers surveying a volcano off the southern coast of Sicily have discovered that it is much bigger than expected. The existence of the volcano has been known since the 19th century but its size has come as rather a surprise. It is almost as large as Etna which, at 3,300 m, is the highest volcano in Europe. They have given the volcano a new name, Empedocle, after a Greek philosopher who lived in Agrigento in the fifth century BC, famous for elaborating the theory that the universe is formed of four elements, earth, air, fire and water.
Volcanic activity was most recently seen in 1831 when, following a series of earthquakes in the area of the southern port of Sciacca, columns of smoke appeared from the sea. Gradually a volcanic island emerged; at its largest it measured 4,800 m in diameter and 63 m high. Scientists, volcanologists and geologists came from all over Europe to witness the phenomenon, which King Ferdinand II of Naples and Sicily named Ferdinandea. By the end of the year the island had sunk back into the sea.