Santorini from the Beginning

Here I am for the first time out of the country staring up at the biggest boat I have seen. Getting on the boat I was excited to get to our destination, but also to look out into the ocean and take in as much as possible. When i got to the top of the boat and saw the ocean, I could visualize the journey I was about to embark on. Once the ferry started and we got out into the ocean I could smell the cool ocean breeze and feel the chill. The water was the bluest I had ever seen and the calmest. This journey on the ferry was not only my way of getting to the island but it also served as my classroom. Abroad I got to learn about the start of Santorini. This was probably one of the only times where I got a scenery when learning. As we got closer to our destination my excitement grew and when I finally saw the caldera it was breathtaking and reminded me of why I wanted to join this program. The mixture of both being exposed to the history and looking at some of the past materials and seeing how magnificent this island is formed, was just what caught my attention.

The island of Santorini did not always look this way. The island probably began as two separate and much smaller islands composed of metamorphic and sedimentary rocks that are between 50-23 million years old [1]. There were many events that took place over time to create the current shape of Santorini today. It is not something that happened quickly. Here is a map of what we think it looked like.

1st two islands

The first volcanoes to appear were the Early Akrotiri centers. This, additional island was formed 650-550 thousand years ago when magma breached the surface. The Early Akrotiri Centers were cinder cone and dome volcanoes [1]. A cinder cone volcano is formed when gas-charged, low viscosity lava is blown violently into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as cinders. Dome volcanoes are formed by highly viscous magma being erupted onto the surface and then piling up. Early Akrotiri went through a volcanic uplift; this is how it was brought to the surface and able to connect with the pre-existing rock.

Early Akrotiri

The next island formed north of the Early Akrotiri Centers approximately 540-430 thousand years ago and it was a child volcano (Peristeria) [1]. Shield volcanoes form in areas where low viscosity magma comes to the surface as fast-flowing lava. The lava travels farther than other types of lava, and the steady build-up creates the shallower sides seen in shield volcanoes. After the eruption of Peristria, the land on Santorini was destroyed by its first caldera-forming eruption, approximately 200,000 years ago.  The eruption was so explosive it destroyed much of the Peristria shield, and deposited a 30 m white pumice layer over the land (Lower Pumice) [1].


After the destruction of the island, a new shield volcano began forming approximately 76 thousand years ago (Megalo Vouno)[1]. In addition, another shield volcano (Skaros), quickly formed right next to Megalo Vouno at 67,000 years [1].

Megalo Vouno is the top and Skaro is bottom

South of Megalo Vouno the middle pumice was the next to form approximately 60 thousand years ago. The middle pumice was right above the lower pumice area, this formed into a caldera. The caldera was a result of the eruption of the Thera volcano. A caldera volcano is generally formed by the collapse of another volcano onto itself. The emptying of the magma chamber beneath the volcano triggers the collapse. The Cape Rivas volcano took place about 21 thousand years ago, this volcano made up both the Therassia complex and the Skaros shield. This was the third caldera that had formed on the islands, this caldera was formed by the collapse of the Skaros shield volcano [1]. The last major eruption, the Minoan eruption covered most of the islands except the pre-existing rock, occurred in 1613 B.C. This occurred because each time an eruption occurred the caldera that had already formed would fill up with magma and wait until it was time to erupt again.

Lower pumice top shaded area. Middle pumice is bigger shaded area

Before the Minoan eruption the islands  were believed to have come together to form  almost a full circle that had only one opening. After the eruption the islands separated into what it is now. The last island that was to form was the Kameni shield this is dated back to 187 B.C. This occurred some time after the Minoan eruption, they have formed over the past 2000 years and are the youngest of all the islands [1].

Present day Santorini islands

The formation of Santorini has been a long process that has taken millions of years. This was not something that was able to form quickly. This is part of what makes this island so amazing. All the phases and processes that it went through to achieve what it has now, with its amazing views and remaining pieces of the past.

Works Cited

Friedrich W.L., 2009, Santorini: Volcano, Natural History, & Mythology, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 312 P.

5 thoughts on “Santorini from the Beginning

  1. Hi asm276 (a name would be very nice 🙂
    Thanks for showing us what Santorini might have looked like, and for giving us a history of how the island formed, and reformed. The drawings provided a good visual to see the changes over time.
    I am curious about your own impressions of the island. How did the historical background influence your perceptions of the island? What components, going back to each period you wrote about, are still a part of current Santorini? You brought up that you were learning on the boat, and that you saw the island in front of you. It would be great if you could bring this into your blog entries, showing us that you are “there”, right where history happened, experiencing it with your own eyes and not only through the eyes of an author you read. The fun about blog writing is that everybody can read them; that is also the challenge: How do you write so that you can show what you learned — not only in texts but also “doing the research”, participating in onsite work, and experiencing it first-hand.
    Good luck. I look forward to more entries from you.

    1. Thank you for the feedback. I appreciate the comments and suggestions. I will use all the suggestions to make sure that future blogs are better.

  2. Ashley – As one of the non-geology majors, you are the only one who focused on volcanology for your first blog post. I’m proud of you for this, because I think that through this post, you will have a better understanding of the lessons to come.

    I think that more work could have been done to show the evolution of the island through time. Your maps show the location of each deposit, but not how the island evolved in terms of its shape. But this is okay because these are difficult geological processes to grasp without having many other foundational classes than GLG112. Lets sit and review it sometime today. 🙂

    I hope this exercise was good for you to understand that amount of time it has taken for Santorini to form into its current state.

  3. Hi Ashley,
    Thank you for sharing this post! Your post was full of historical and geological information that taught me a lot.
    The details you described about the transformation of Santorini were very interesting and gave me a great mental picture of the different formations. In fact, a lot of it sounded very familiar because of my Geological Disasters class several semesters ago. As you were talking about the different kinds of volcanoes, I remembered how they looked because I had studied them briefly too. In the future, pictures of these specific formations are very helpful because you’re talking to outside readers. If I hadn’t taken Geological Disasters, it would have been very difficult for me to imagine these different types of formations. The pictures of your notes you provided were helpful in knowing where on the island these transformations occurred, but going one step deeper will make your posts even more insightful.
    It was really great to hear about the beginning of your journey in your opening paragraph. Your passion and excitement about this adventure was easily conveyed. In the future, keep this enthusiasm throughout your entire post. Continue to take us (your readers) along with you as you talk about what you are experiencing and learning about. After your introduction paragraph, you switched directly into the factual information. Because this is a blog post, have fun with it! It can be hard to find a balance between a professional and informal tone, but I highly encourage you to explore that with your next posts. Don’t worry about only providing facts. Continue to share what you’re learning, but also show us what you are experiencing on that gorgeous island. We’re all dying to know!
    I look forward to your upcoming posts!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and give feedback. I will take the suggestions to make my blogs better from now on.

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