Precisely between Pantelleria and Sciacca, on the trade route between Europe and Malta, a volcanic island sprouted in 1831, and from its birth to its disappearance its development was followed and studied by the most illustrious scientists of the epoch.
On June 28 1831 there was a series of earthquakes that caused lesions in many houses. The sea was violently shaken and on July 4 the sulfur was in such quantity in the water that it blackened objects of silver. July 13th there was a column of smoke, and it was said
The place becomes annoyed with sea.
It was thought to be a steamboat en-route; then with the persistence of smoke, to be a steamboat in flames.
Two days later sailors of Sciacca returned from fishing, noticing there were many fish afloat - some corpses - others senseless. After a pair of days started the eruption of lapilli, of pumices of tufi and of fiery cinders falling red-hot into the sea.
July 17 one islet grew quickly in dimensions and height. The sanitary Deputation of Sciacca sent a fishing boat to the place and commanded by Michael Florins, planted an oar on the strata of the dawning volcano, like first discoverers, and then carried the news to the coast.
They gave the island seven names:
Sciacca, Nertita, Corrao, Hotham, Julia, Graham and Ferdinandea.
The Real Society and the Society of Geology from London adopted the name of Graham who was then a man of political importance, and claimed the island by raising a flag.
The Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies planted a flag and named the island Ferdinandea, after King Ferdinand II.
The French Derussat hoisted a flag on the taller part of the island, to which he gave the name of Julia remembering the apparition of the island came in the month of July. He likened the recent eruption to a freshly uncorked bottle of champagne.
Within months the perimeter of the new island was decreasing. By December 17th two officers from the topographical Office in Naples found that the island was gone, slipping beneath the waves where it remains today as a constant hazard for shipping.
Diplomats report that the submerged island last featured in an international dispute in 1987, when a US warplane patrolling the area during a confrontation with Libya mistook the submerged tip of Graham Island for a Libyan submarine and dropped depth charges on it.
More recently, a man persuaded Ferdinand's descendant, Prince Carlos of Calabria, to allow a marble plaque inscribed with the words
This piece of land, once Ferdinandea, was and shall always belong to the Sicilian people.
to be placed 20 meters below the surface of the sea on the remains of the underwater island. Weeks later, a diver found the plaque smashed to pieces.