Mary Tobin

Reports from the Field

CAT/SCAN: Calabria-Apennine-Tyrrhenian / Subduction-Collision-Accretion Network
A Joint American-Italian Project to Monitor Earthquakes on the Most Active Seismic Belt in Italy

The Italian peninsula across the Mediterranean Sea is part of the tectonic plate boundary - the accommodation zone -- between the Eurasian and the African plates, which continue to move closer to each other. This motion controls the long-term evolution of the boundary, but recent geologic changes suggest a more rapid tectonic event superimposed on the slow motion of the big plates and localized to the Apennine arc. This signature event of the Italian peninsula is most dramatically manifested in the current deformation along the Calabrian portion of the arc and is the main focus of this project.

Researchers from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in conjunction with researchers from the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, are working to deploy 50 portable digital broadband seismographs throughout southern Italy. These instruments will record both global and regional earthquakes for 18 months. Researchers are also working to deploy an additional 10 digital broad-band ocean-bottom seismometers (OBS) offshore for a period of 12 months. Researchers will use signals from distant earthquakes to develop a catscan, or a three dimensional image, of the Earth's crust and mantle beneath the Italian Peninsula of the earth. read more background information on project

In Campana, researchers placed a seismograph in this crypt, located below the alter of a church.
Report 4: A Collage of Portraits (read report 1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
by Nano Seeber, Seismologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Each station we set up is a new window onto a world of nuances and surprises — another facet of the cultural and physiographic architecture of southern Italy.

In the chilly wind of the dying afternoon, Francesco was frolicking alone in the little public garden overlooking a deep chasm just east of Campana. His frail figure moved in the graceful dance of a young person engaging his growing body while lost in distant thoughts. His response to my inquiry, however, was immediate and intelligent. First he jumped over the fence to confirm that Don Salvatore was not answering his iron bell at the gate because he was not home. Then this 7th grader, one of five children whose mother cooks for the old-folks home, shared the back seat of our old Lancia, loaded with seismometers and assorted cables, and guided us to the town's four churches in search of Don Salvatore. Not finding him, he led us then to the attractions, such as the door of 'Eternal Bliss' overlooking the chasm at the southern edge of town and the switch-backs of the mule path leading up from it; and the "whale rock," sculpted by the wind in the sandstone across the valley; and to the XVII century 'King's Palace' where repairs started a decade ago, but never went beyond the scaffolding. It was to be a museum, Francesco said with sadness. Although sweetened by Francesco, our first evening in Campana was a defeat and also an unfinished encounter.

So, we were back in Campana the next day. We met Don Salvatore tiding up the altar of San Domenico following afternoon Mass. He promptly led us through the dark and narrow streets of the medieval town. Words and gestures of greetings to the few who passed by in the cold penumbra of the evening were subtle, but elegant. The unassuming façade of Santa Maria Assunta overlooks a small rise surrounded by roofless buildings covered with mosses and tall grass. Don Salvatore opened the heavy door and disappeared into the dark. He was looking at me, possibly for the first time, as he switched on the light. The contrast between abandonment outside and the care inside of the church was breathtaking. The warm incandescent illumination revealed the hansom XIII century Romanesque structure gently overprinted by baroque friezes. A light terracotta floor blends softly with off-white walls. Uniformity in tone contrasts with a symphony of shades across uneven surfaces, reminders of handwork and age. The stark baroque freezes in white are clear and elegant. Such minimalist baroque style is common in southern Italy, but it is almost a contradiction in terms for someone familiar with Rome. Dark thick paneling sustain the pipe-organ above the front door and thick and gnarled hand-honed beams high above the semicircular Romanesque arches remind us again that maximum strength is achieved when humans respect natural shapes.

Love is written all over the freshly painted walls of Santa Maria Assunta, generations of it — Don Salvatore and his parishioners having recently added the last layer, 50 proud euros at a time. Campana, this little town perched on the Sila Greca, is behind many 'tornanti' from the 'superstrada.' It has a world-class view over the Ionian Sea and an equally admirable determination to continue to add chapters to its long history. Campana claims a Magna-Grecia origin, in the V century BC town of Kalasarna. Countless breads, salamis, and barrels of wine were extracted from small and steep fields and produced in dark kitchens and cellars. Those Campanians could not imagine that the best and most expensive gourmets of future years would try hard to emulate them. After the Romans, the Normans, and the Spanish, Campana is now facing the World. First, men left for jobs in 'Europe', then young women did too, instead of mothering children. The fields are overgrown and the streets empty of young chatter. What next? Difficult to say, but the spectacular 4D scenery of valleys, ridges, and clouds and the commitment written in the beautiful communal space of Santa Maria Assunta have probably something to do with it. We left Campana that evening thinking that the earthquake recorder we left in the crypt below the altar of that magnificent church may contribute to a good future for Campana, as well.


Stations Successfully Established to Date
Location Station Name Latitude (N) Longitude (E)
Grottaminarda GROM 41.07273 15.05993
Sant'Andrea di Conza SACO 40.84334 15.37066
Minervino SX11 41.06107 16.19686
Pietragalla SX17 40.73606 15.84757
Venosa VENO 40.96443 15.82340
San Giovanni a Piro SGIO 40.04098 15.45745
Cocozzello (Cosenza) CO22 39.49259 16.30505
Capaccio Vecchio CAVE 40.45000 15.00540
San Marco la Catola   41.51685 15.0076
Montella   40.83333 15.03333
Casteldelmonte   41.05000 16.25000
Craco   40.38333 16.43333
Tricarico   40.61667 16.15000

This joint project involves researchers from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO): Michael Steckler, Leonardo Seeber, Arthur Lerner-Lam, and Maya Tolstoy; researchers from the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV): Alessandro Amato, Gianni B. Cimini, Claudio Chiarabba, Marco Cattaneo, and President Enzo Boschi; and researchers from the Universita di Cosenza, including Professor Ignazio Guerra. Support provided by the Continental Dynamics Program of the US National Science Foundation. Additional support provided by the NSF EAR Instrumentation and Facilities program through IRIS, and the OCE MG&G program through the OBS deployments and support of the OBSIP facility.

Additional collaborators include: Protezione Civile (government agency and local volunteer networks); Comuni (Town governments); Grottaminarda; Sant'Andrea di Conza; Montella (Avellino); Venosa (Foggia); San Giovanni a Piro; Craco (Matera).

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