Mass Wasting on Santorini

Santorini is a beautiful island full of spectacular and amazing views; having been able to experience all the views that it had to offer has been incredible. The last in-depth look at the island came on boat day, this was the day that we got to go all around the island and look at the formations made by the volcanoes. Even at the port before we took off there was a beautiful mountain above us made out of scoria that was a brick like color. When looking at these you just see that they are beautiful and magnificent, but they are also fragile and can fall victims to mass wasting. Mass wasting is something that affects many of the bigger formations that have steeper slopes. It is the movement of a large mass of rock, soil and debris downward due to the pull of gravity [1]. In other words mass wasting can be things such as landslides, rock flows, debris flows, rockslides, etc. It is a type of erosion and it is capable of making big changes to the side of a mountain. These changes can happen suddenly, as in one minute the rock is there and the next it is gone, or it can happen more slowly over time. It is something that has to be monitored and watched because it could ruin formations that are thousands of years old.

One of the main causes of mass wasting is gravity. Gravity is constantly trying to pull rock and debris down the slope of a mountain. At the same time, the resistive forces of the rocks, including the connected strength and inner friction between the materials, referred to as the rocks shear strength, constantly pulls back against gravity [1]. Other causes can be attributed to water, which is also a factor because any amount of it that hits the rocks starts to wash away the particles that are there to hold them together. After so much water it can really waste away the cohesion. Vegetation can also have an impact because there is no barrier to keep from all moisture being soaked in. The vegetation being present can also be a bad thing because the weight of the plants can cause strain on the slope. Earthquakes are also a main reason for a mass wasting, since they cause movement in the ground they allow for the rocks to break and come down the slope [1].

The cliffs here on Santorini are prone to mass wasting because there is layering in the rocks. The rocks are a mix between hard rocks and soft rocks, this makes the cliffs less stable and more probable to have rock fall. Mass wasting is a problem because of the rock fall and then the damage that the rock fall can cause. The rock fall can cause damage to houses, cars, and personal property, etc. Since there are these hazards there are some measures that I have noticed that were taken.

In front of many bigger rock masses that are above a street or business are fences/nets around the parts that could one day come down. If they are fully effective is unclear, but they are there to essentially catch any of the debris that fell. On the side by the road there was a sign that warned that there could be loose material that could fall.

Cliff with net surrounding it

With such beautiful cliffs that Santorini has to offer it is easy to see the beauty but also easy to forget the hazards that may come with it. Mass wasting will have to be watched but in the end the main goal is the preservation of the cliffs and all their beauty.


[1] Gillaspy, Rebecca, 2011,Mass Wasting: Definition, Types, and Processes,, Arizona, USA

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

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