On the 23d of April the lava reached the sea, which it entered as a stream 600 yards broad and 40 feet deep. The stream had moved at the rate of thirteen miles in twenty days, but as it cooled it moved less quickly, and during the last twenty-three days of its course, it advanced only two miles. On reaching the sea the water, of course, began to boil violently, and clouds of steam arose, carrying with them particles of scoriae. Towards the end of April the stream on the west side of Catania, which had appeared to be consolidated, again burst forth, and flowed into the garden of the Benedictine Monastery of San Niccola, and then branched off into the city. Attempts were made to build walls to arrest its progress.
An attempt of another kind was made by a gentleman of Catania, named Pappalardo, who took fifty men with him, having previously provided them with skins for protection from the intense heat and with crowbars to effect an opening in the lava. They pierced the solid outer crust of solidified lava, and a rivulet of the molten interior immediately gushed out and flowed in the direction of Paterno, whereupon 500 men of that town, alarmed for its safety, took up arms and caused Pappalardo and his men to desist. The lava did not altogether stop for four months, and two years after it had ceased to flow it was found to be red hot beneath the surface. Even eight years after the eruption quantities of steam escaped from the lava after a shower of rain.
The stones which were ejected from the crater during this eruption were often of considerable magnitude, and Borelli calculated that the diameter of one which he saw was 50 feet; it was thrown to a distance of a mile, and as it fell it penetrated the earth to a depth of 23 feet. The volume of lava emitted during the eruption amounted to many millions of cubic feet. Ferara considers that the length of the stream was at least fifteen miles, while its average width was between two and three miles, so that it covered at least forty square miles of surface.
Among the towns overflowed by this great eruption was Mompilieri. Thirty-five years afterward, in 1704, an excavation was made on the site of the principal church of this place, and at the depth of thirty-five feet the workmen came upon the gate, which was adorned with three statues. From under an arch which had been formed by the lava, one of these statues, with a bell and some coins, were extracted in good preservation. This fact is remarkable; for in a subsequent eruption, which happened in 1766, a hill about fifty feet in height, being surrounded on either side by two streams of lava, was in a quarter of an hour swept along by the current. The latter event may be explained by supposing that the hill in question was cavernous in its structure, and that the lava, penetrating into the cavities, forced asunder their walls, and so detached the superincumbent mass from its supports.