Vulcano and Lipari

Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian

Lipari, the economic center of the Eolian islands, is well known for the occurrence of massive pumice deposits and obsidian flows. Obsidian was exported already in neolithic times and was used in continental Europe in manufacturing knives, arrowheads etc. These days the only volcanic export product is pumice.

Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Pumice quarry and, on the right horizon, the large obsidian flow. While obsidian was an "export commodity" from Lipari in the stone age (arrowheads etc.) today pumice is the only commercial mineral product.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Thousands of individual layers of pumice representing an equal number of eruptive phases form a massive deposit here exposed in a canyon above Canneto.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Pumice is easily eroded and can form towers and spires. Note stratification. In the mines pumice is sorted by grain size. Italpomice gives details regarding the use and properties of pumice.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
The eastern pumice quarry as seen from the north. The two pumice mining companies (Pumice Pumex S.p.A. Quarries and Sta Siciliana per I'Industria ed il Commercio della Pomice) sold a total of 800'000 tons in 2001.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Monte Pelato offers a splendid view over southern Lipari, Vulcano and - on a clear day like this - Mount Etna (with snow, center background).
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Monte Pelato is the highest point of the large crater from which the obsidian lava (brown, behind the white roads) flowed towards the sea.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Marco Fulle surveys a huge block of intensely fractured obsidian in the lower part of the flow. The section he looks at is shown as close-up on the right.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Here the obsidian fractured into blocks. The gaps between them were filled by bluish "obsidian foam". One Euro coin for scale.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Weathered obsidian looks grey or brown. The glassy black is only revealed when bits are broken off (which may be very difficult even with a big hammer...).
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Freshly cut sample of obsidian, about 6cm long. Typically this piece shows banding caused by internal shear and micro-bubbles formed during the flow process.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Some obsidian contains much larger bubbles several millimetres in size. Due to shear they were deformed from an originally spherical to an elliptical shape. Sample length about 8cm.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Enlarged section from the sample shown on the left. Note that many bubbles contain small white spherical objects, possibly radially arranged minuscule quartz crystals.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Lipari impressions (1): Snow white pumice, turquoise sea and distant Panarea and Stromboli islands.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Lipari impressions (2): Under a grey and gloomy winter sky a rope provides a bit of lively colour.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Lipari impressions (3): After taking on a load of pumice a cargo ships departs over a calm winter sea.
Lipari: Pumice and Obsidian
Lipari impressions (4): The view across to Vulcano, for which one needs "four eyes" (viewpoint "Quattrocchi")!
All photos on this page are copyright J. Alean