Would you live in an area named after the mysterious cannon-like noise blasts that have defied explanation for generations? Would you still stay if the cannon blasts coming from the nearby Red Sea were followed by small earthquakes? Would you feel better if scientists finally figured out that cause, and it’s not from earthquakes but volcanic? Those are some of the questions residents and tourists in Abu Dabbab, Egypt, are asking themselves after getting the news that the Red Sea blasts they live with are coming from a volcanic dome over an active fault.
Abu Dabbab comes from Arabic words that mean “the Father of Knocks” – there’s your first warning that you’re not living in Oz. The name was given to this Red Sea coastal region by Bedouin nomads who didn’t stay long because the Red Sea periodically gave off the sound of a cannon before the earth rumbled. Since rocks in the area are twice as warm as elsewhere (yet another sign you may not want to live there), scientists for years blamed the blasts on underground magma movements.
According to a study published in the current Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, researchers used a new technique called seismic tomography which creates a 3D map using the speed of seismic waves as they travel through different types of rocks.
Study author Sami El Khrepy says the map showed a line from Abu Dabbab into the Red Sea that was a 540 million-year-old, 10 km thick dome-like structure of rigid igneous or volcanic rock formed above an active fault. This dome broadcasts the rumbles of the fault plates without distortion to the surface where they are heard loud and clear.
The study concludes that, while the dome of rock itself was formed by volcanic activity, the current noise is a tectonic one caused by the plates rubbing and there’s no danger of volcanic eruption.
Meanwhile, the cannon blasts and earth rumblings continue in the Father of Knocks. Just what you want to hear and feel when you live in the Middle East. Would you believe there’s no danger of volcanic eruption?