Every Lord of the Rings fan remembers their first time watching the climactic scene at Mount Doom. Frodo is grappling with his choices and a heartbroken Sam is screaming for him to destroy the ring, chaos ensues and the characters are engulfed by violent and bright volcanic activity. Did you ever wonder where J.R.R. Tolkein got his inspiration for this iconic sequence? Well, according to prominent literary scholar Clyde S. Kilby, Tolkien was inspired to create this scene after a visit to the Mount Stromboli volcano in Italy. Here we’ll take a look at some fun facts about one of the most active volcanoes on earth.
Mount Stromboli Facts
Also known as the “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean”, Stromboli has been erupting almost continuously since 1932. Located off of the coast of southern Italy, its almost constant eruptions are bright and visible for long distances at night, hence its nickname. And they are even so distinctive that geologists will use the term ‘Strombolian’ to describe similar eruptive activity in other volcanoes.
Stromboli begins its base over 1,000 meters below the Tyrrhenian Sea, rising to the elevation of 924 meters above sea level. The ‘Strombolian’ style of volcanic eruptions involves mild explosive events in which “slugs” of gas rise through a magma-filled volcanic conduit, burst at the surface, and throw bits of lava into the air. So essentially what we’re dealing with here are lava bombs… a concept that we’re astonished isn’t in more apocalypse films. And these lava bombs (larger than 3 inches in size) and scoria (smaller lava fragments) can be thrown from several dozen to several hundred meters until they eventually build into a volcanic cone.
Another characteristic of a ‘Stromboli’ volcano is regular explosion intervals that fluctuate between seconds and minutes. Additionally, a Stromboli volcano also includes vicious but short lava flows.
One of the three active volcanoes in Italy, its almost constant eruptions range from mild to more hazardous. Despite this fact, there are roughly 600 people living on the island today and tourism is quite popular. Mount Stromboli is, in fact, characterized as a Stratovolcano (composite volcano) which are cone-shaped mountains made from many layers of lava and other pyroclastic material buildup. Stratovolcanoes also consist of extremely steep slopes, similar to cinder cone volcanoes.
Sciara del Fuoco
There are three active craters at the peak of the volcano and the eruptions from the upper crater are particularly violent. One of the most significant geological features of Mount Stromboli is called Sciara del Fuoco (stream of fire). This is a horseshoe-shaped depression generated over the last 1300 years by several collapses on the northwestern side of the cone. Additionally, two kilometers to the northeast lies Strombolicchino (little Stromboli) which is a volcanic plug.
In addition to being the inspiration behind the famous Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings, Mount Stromboli has also made appearances in Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne and Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzche.