As a little girl, I was told horror stories by my grandma about our ancestors and the monstrous wave that hit our little island of Santorini Greece, devouring everything in its path. I listened, eyes wide with terror as she detailed how at first the people living on the island were in awe and thought they had been blessed because the retreating ocean had left fish all over the beach that people went out to collect. They soon realized that this was not a blessing at all when a blue monster rose from the ocean and swallowed the men collecting fish whole. It was then that every living thing ran for their lives, desperately trying to out-climb the wave.
I remember sobbing at the end of the story. I was terrified at this horrendous event and my heart was sad for my ancestors. My grandma picked me up in her arms and assured me that the monster had went away and would never return to our little island. In her arms I knew I was safe and had nothing to worry about, they were just stories.
Now, 20 years later, as I stand in the exact same spot my grandma had calmed me down at, a massive sheet of dark blue glass rises from the ocean. I realize my grandma was in fact just saying this to calm me down. For the monster had returned, and with great fury it grew and grew to the point where I thought it would block out the sun and swallow me whole. Rushing forward with great power, it sought to finish what it had started so many years ago.
As the wave approaches I am frozen in place, mesmerized by the enormity of this beautiful blue beast. Suddenly, I am ripped from my stupor by a stampede of my neighbors desperately running to get away. I turn my back to the beast and stumble, trying to find my footing in the midst of this chaos. Once my feet are under me, I turn and run in the only sensible direction, up.
The monster follows behind us, running up onto the land and nipping at our heels. As I run I try to block out the screams of the less fortunate who are unable to escape and are swallowed into the blue; there is nothing I can do for them now. Buildings and streets are engulfed, their foundations are ripped from the ground and shoved into the blue monsters mouth, wedging themselves like teeth in between the encroaching swells.
My lungs burn and my legs ache as I push as fast as I can through the crowd up to higher ground. It feels like I have been running forever. Suddenly, I reach a drop off; I can run no further. I look around in panic thinking to myself this is the end. I turn to face the beast and realize I have made it to the top. The monster can no longer reach me. I stop and look down at the destruction that has been left in its wake.
As I look around, I see confusion and sadness among the survivors faces. What do we do from here? Where will we go? These questions tumble around in my head for only a minute before the tremors under my feet begin. A growing rumble has begun from within the island, shaking the entire thing from its core. People begin to look around in panic searching for a source, what could this be? How do we escape this?
Suddenly, a cracking sound is projected across the island. I look over just in time to see a large chunk of land that the town of Oia sits on top of peel off and slide with enormous force into the ocean. Debris of rock, peoples houses, roads, shops, plants animals and people all fall into the sea. I find myself once again watching in awe as the dark blue glass rises from the ocean and creates the blue monster I have come to know so well.
The monster starts to make its way from Oia to Therassia, then to Nea Kameni. As the monster hits land it seems to multiply. More and more monsters form, bouncing between the islands of my home. The monster jumps up the cliff walls desperately trying to reach where we stand. I watch in horror as the Athinios Port is clawed at from the bottom up and chomped to bits. The only way to get foods and goods onto the island has been destroyed in one blow. As I see this, I realize that without the port, our rate of survival is plummeting.
We watch from hours atop our perch as the blue monsters run back and fourth inside the circular shape of the islands, destroying everything in its path. Eventually the monster tires, it slows as it runs out of energy and the destruction stops. What will we do now? We have no way on or off the island. The port is destroyed and the air strip is under water. We have no source of goods, no homes to go back to. After what seems like days all the survivors are gathered together into the square at Fira. We are told that there is a scientist who had been living on the island, studying the volcano. The scientist has come to tell us exactly what had caused the blue monster to once again rise from the depths of the ocean.
The scientists explains there is an under water volcano called Kolumbo located about 8km North East of the island.
The volcano had last erupted in 1650 and had very similarly affected the island. He said the big blue monster was called a tsunami. This ‘tsunami’, as he called it, was caused by the under water volcano moving a large amount of water and forcing it in our direction.
He explained to us that the rumbling from within the island was called volcanic trembles. These trembles came from the magma under the volcano moving through the earth towards the surface at a very fast and forceful pace, and this is why the ground kept shaking. He said that unlike in the older eruption, the trembles in this eruption caused the ground that Oia sat on to break free and slide off into the ocean. This landslide was so large that it forced the water to form another tsunami. Since the islands of Santorini are so close together, the waves bounced between the islands and formed more and more tsunamis as it bounced off each piece of land.
As the scientist explains the cause of this catastrophic event, I can’t help but to think to myself that my grandmas blue monster story made more sense; because, how could a government let so many people live and visit here if our lives were in danger? Whether it was a tsunami or a blue monster, either way the destruction was done. Just like in the story my grandma told me, the people on the little island were forced to gather up the shattered pieces of their lives, and rebuild. I hope that my children never experience this catastrophe; however, I will make sure that they know the scientific facts behind it and that they are prepared no matter what.
DISCLAIMER: This blog does not depict any actual person or event. It is based off of very real geologic threats and hazards and has the potential to happen but has not actually occurred. The Kolumbo volcano is a real and active volcano that has the potential to erupt and cause events similar to those depicted in this blog.