After 1863 the volcano lay dormant for many decades, its summit just 8 m (26 ft) below sea level. Following the 1986 US bombing of Libya, American warplanes mistook the shoal for a Libyan submarine and dropped depth charges on it. In 2000, renewed seismic activity around Graham Island led volcanologists to speculate that a new eruptive episode could be imminent, and the seamount might once again become an island. To forestall a renewal of the sovereignty disputes, Italian divers planted a flag on the top of the volcano in advance of its expected resurfacing. To bolster their case, Sicilians, who call it Ferdinandea, summoned the descendant of the Bourbon King of Naples. In a ceremony filmed by a flotilla of camera crews, Prince Carlo di Bourbon lowered a plaque into the waves and told cheering locals: “It will always be Sicilian.” Lobbied by fishermen and sailors, Ignazio Cucchiara, the mayor of Sciacca, invited Prince Carlo to attend the ceremony with his wife, The Duchess of Castro Camilla Crociani. To accommodate television crews the plaque was lowered well before reaching the shoal, which is a danger to shipping. Choppy waters forced divers to postpone the operation a week, until November 13, 2000. The diving crew planted Sicily’s flag, which features a Medusa’s head surrounded by three naked legs – a sign traditionally interpreted as “keep away.”
The marble plaque, weighing 150 kg (330 lb), was inscribed “This piece of land, once Ferdinandea, belonged and shall always belong to the Sicilian people.” The Prince told cheering locals: “It will always be Sicilian.” But within six months it had been fractured into 12 pieces, mostly likely by fishing gear but possibly by vandalism.
In November 2002, Professor Enzo Boschi, from the Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, told BBC News Online:
We have observed minor seismic activity, gas emissions but this is quite normal.
He put the time of resurfacing at a couple of weeks or months. However, in an interview with Time magazine, Boris Behncke, a German researcher at the University of Catania’s department of geological sciences in Sicily, said:
Geologically speaking, it’s a possibility, But geology has a very long time scale … We really should not be too worried.
Despite showing signs in both 2000 and 2002, the seismicity did not lead to volcanic eruptions and as of 2006 Ferdinandea’s summit remains about 6 metres (20 ft) below sea level. Should it reappear, Federico Eichberg, an international relations expert based in Rome, believes it would do so within Italian territorial waters — and in all probability would be formally claimed by Italy. Eichberg does not expect that a renewed international rumpus would arise, noting: