Western Ionian Sea site

Network: EMSO
Area: East Sicily
Location: Ocean > Atlantic Ocean > North Atlantic Ocean > Mediterranean Sea > Sicily


The Western Ionian Sea node located in the central Mediterranean basin, Eastern Sicily Island (Southern Italy), is based on infrastructures developed over the last decades and undergoes continuous enhancements.

The area is prone to numerous natural hazard issues due to high seismicity and the presence of Etna Volcano, which is one of the largest active sub-areal volcano in European continent and it is positioned on the subduction plate. The region experienced large historical earthquakes and some of this strong earthquakes caused intense tsunami wave. The area is strategically relevant also for the oceanographic circulation between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean Sea through the Messina Strait and the Sicily Channel. Moreover, the position is a key site for analyse the mechanism governing the Ionian dynamics and so on its role in the general eastern Mediterranean circulation pattern. 

The infrastructure is composed by the onshore station, hosted in the INFN laboratory in the Catania Harbour, that manages the real- time acquisition system of the marine infrastructures ‘components. From this onshore station an underwater electro-optical cable runs on the seafloor to about 20 km off the Eastern Sicily coast and splits in two branches each of 5 km. The south branch hosts the acoustic station ONDE, part of the KM3NET test site managed by INFN. 

The north branch hosts at about 2100 m water depth the following components managed by INGV:

  • a junction box,
  • the geophysical and oceanographic deep sea observatory NEMO-SN1.

The deployments of

  • the Ionian SMART (Scientific Monitoring And Reliable Telecommunications) cable,
  • two other geophysical and oceanographic deep sea observatories, Calipso and Dione, that are a new upgrade of NEMO-SN1

will strengthen the infrastructure on the INGV branch during the 2023 (PON InSea Project). 

The deep-sea observatories are cabled with the on shore facility, hosted in Catania harbour, through an electro-optical cable that provides real-time high bandwidths connection and power supply to all the instruments. The data acquisition system, at onshore facility, also manages data insertion into INGV database. All the measurements are time synchronized by a GPS receiver which provides time stamp to the seabed instrumentations through the optical fibres.

During 2023, to consolidate and enhance the infrastructure of the Western Ionian Sea, a new site will be implemented at Portopalo in the south of Sicily. It will host:

  • two geophysical and oceanographic deep sea observatories, Teti and Dorite, both an upgrade of NEMO-SN1 -class observatory,
  • the data centre at the on shore Portopalo station which will act as  the EMSO Western Ionian Sea facility data storage and elaboration center and will be able to provide services for the EMSO community.

Teti and Dorite will be deployed at a distance of about 100 km from the coast and a depth of 3500 m slm and they will connected to the data acquisition center through an optical cable.


Campaign list of this site
# campaign observatory project period
1 SMO 1 NEMO-SN1 SMO June 10, 2012 - June 12, 2013
2 GNDT 2 NEMO-SN1 GNDT-SN1 September 20, 2005 - April 20, 2008
3 GNDT 1 NEMO-SN1 GNDT-SN1 October 09, 2002 - February 20, 2003