Friday, June 23, 2006

Empedocles and the Law of the Sea

If you wonder if Empedocles wrote about the Law of the Sea - no he did not. The link between these two is a more tricky one.

Empedocles (of Acagras in Sicily, c. 492-432 BC) was a philosopher and poet: one of the most important of the philosophers working before Socrates (the Presocratics), who also claims magical powers including the ability to revive the dead and to control the winds and rains. Legend has it that the philosopher died by throwing himself into Mount Etna, the nearby Sicilian volcano.

The mystical powers brought Empedocles back this month, reincarnated as an underwater volcano. On Thursday, Jun 22, 2006 Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology reported a discovery of an underwater volcano with the base of 30 km (18.6 miles) long and 25 km wide, and at least 400 meters (1,300 feet) high, making it Italy's largest underwater volcano.

The identification of Empedocles came during research into the submerged volcanic island of Ferdinandea just off Sicily's southern coast. Often held to be the tip of a small volcano, it was just a part of Empedocles. Volcanic activity has raised the island out of the sea several times in recorded history, with underwater eruptions first described during the first Punic War of 264-241 B.C. Its emergence in 1831 caused months of international wrangling, with several nations making territorial claims before it submerged again. It is now about 7 meters below the surface of the water. Now this is an interesting case for the Law of the Sea.