Once Upon a Geologic Hazard

There lived a mighty kingdom ruled by a beloved king and queen. Hundreds of years before them, their ancestors settled on the Isle of Santorini on a high mountain with layers of black rock believing it to be a strong foundation for a strong kingdom. As the years passed on, the kingdom grew larger and more prosperous. In the year 1950, the Dragon Wars of Nea Kameni had finally ended and the kingdom rejoiced. The dragons living on the Isle of Nea Kameni had been spewing fire and blowing smoke, wreaking havoc on the subjects of the kingdom for 380 years (Druitt and Davies, 1994-95). The king led his army to island and together they defeated the dragons once and for all, sending them back into their home under Nea Kameni. Although the wars were over, the kingdom was still struggling to maintain its structure on the mountain of Skaros for the ogres under the mountain were growing restless. They would rumble and tumble into each other, shaking he ground around them. On the date July 9 of 1956, the ogres had rocked the entire island of Santorini, crumbling structures to the ground, killing 53 subjects and injuring 100’s more (Korakakis and Zorzos, 2017). The kingdom on top of Skaros had finally been rattled to the ground and the destruction was too great. The subjects that remained were devastated and the grief became unbearable. To put their minds at ease, the king and queen decided to have the wizard, Wilfred, erase all memories of the event and forbade anyone from going to the northern part of the island where evidence of the destruction still lay. A spell was cast over the island of Santorini and everyone was relocated temporarily to Cape Mavros and Athinios, for the king and queen had a son, Adrian who would one day rebuild their kingdom.

Map of the Isle of Santorini. Modified from Gagarych, 2017.

As the years passed, the elements washed away most of the remains of the destroyed kingdom. Prince Adrian was learning from his parents to be humble and good, but he still needed some work. The time was coming for Adrian to take the throne, and his father, King Darius, told Adrian he must build himself a castle because a king cannot live in his parents basement forever. The prince knew exactly where he wanted to build his castle and kingdom for he had loved playing at the beaches as a child. He was going to build on the cliff side of Cape Mavrochidi.

The prince rode his donkey, Giles, over the cape. He dismounted Giles to admire the beautiful red rocks along the beach when he lost his footing on the cinders and plummeted into the sea. Lucky for him, a beautiful mermaid named Callia was swimming by and saw his limp body. She swooped him into her arms and swam him on shore. She stayed with him until he finally woke.

“What happened? Who are you? Where am I?” asked the prince clearly very confused.

“My name is Callia, I found you sinking in the sea. You must have fallen from the cliff,” she replies as she points up the 50 foot cliff face.

Sure enough, there was Giles looking over the side.

“What were you doing up there? Don’t you know how dangerous this area is?” Callia asked.

“I was looking for the perfect spot to build my castle and develop my kingdom. When I was a boy, my parents would bring me to the Cape and we would play at the Red Beach,” replied Adrian.

“Well you most definitely do not want to build your castle here,” Callia said.

“Why not? This is my favorite place and I am the prince after all. I can build anywhere I want,” Adrian exclaimed.

“Well of course you can your highness, but if you want to live a long life and actually rule a kingdom, I suggest you do not build your castle on an unstable cliff.”

“How do you know this cliff is unstable?”

“Well just look at it! The red rocks you like so much are layered like a cake, but the layers aren’t even. Some of the layers have rocks that are large, and some layers have rocks that are small. Also, the rocks aren’t packed together, they are loose. If you were to build on that slope, your castle would slip off into the sea just like you did.”

“Wow, I’m very impressed. And grateful. If it weren’t for you, not only would I be sinking to bottom of the sea but so would my castle. How do you know all this?”

“All mermaids have knowledge of the earth, whether that’s rocks or the sea. They all work hand in hand.”

At that moment, Giles appeared. He was distressed after seeing his beloved owner almost die, and he was also hungry. The two said their goodbyes and Adrian watched Callia elegantly swim off into the blue sea.

A few days later, Adrian was walking along the beach and couldn’t help but think about the beautiful mermaid he had met the other day. He wanted to see her again. And just like that, there she was, as if she were reading his thoughts.

“Hello your highness!”she said as she swam closer to the shore.

“Please, call me Adrian,” he replied in a smooth tone.

As she swam closer, her tail transformed into legs and she walked up to the prince in a beautiful purple skirt.

“How did you do that?” he asked surprised.

“I have this bracelet that is made of rocks to represent the earth that allows me to walk on land,” Callia replied as she reached out her arm to show Adrian the bracelet.

“Well that’s perfect! I want to show you something,” Adrian and Callia got on Giles and they rode north toward the ruins of Skaros.

“My father says no one is allowed to come here. He never told me why, he just said that it’s forbidden, but the location is beautiful and I think I want to build my castle here,” Adrian said as he helped Callia off the donkey.

“This is Skaros,” she said with a somber look on her face. “I’ve heard the stories but I never thought I’d be able to see it person.”

“What stories?” he asked.

“The stories of the great earthquake that crumbled your island and sent an underwater landslide onto my home,” she said.

“What are you talking about? That never happened? It couldn’t have. My father would have told me,” Adrian said.

“No he wouldn’t have. He probably doesn’t even remember the event himself. Wilfred the Wizard had everyone’s memories erased after the earthquake.”

Callia proceeded to tell Adrian about the magnitude 7.5 earthquake that shook 20km south of the Isle of Amorgos. The earthquake was felt on Santorini and as people began evacuating their homes, another earthquake of 7.2 magnitude jolted the island even more (Bell, et al. 2013). The origin of the second earthquake was located closer to Santorini increasing the destruction. She also explained that it wasn’t ogres that were shaking the ground, but instead plates moving across the earth, sliding, diving and crashing into each other. She called to her shark friend Sheldon to get her the picture of the old kingdom of Skaros she kept in her underwater library. Sheldon brought the picture and she showed Adrian what his kingdom used to look like.

Photo of the Old Kingdom that Sheldon brought to Callia and Adrian (left) and what Adrian and Callia see today (right). Modified from Friedrich 2009.

“The kingdom was devastated and no one knew what to do, so naturally they pretended like it didn’t happen, which is dangerous because your subjects moved to towns that are at the same risk as Skaros but they have no idea. If you want your kingdom to be safe and strong, you have to move to a place that is protected from geologic hazards like tsunami and earthquakes,” Callia said.

“How do you remember this if Wilfred erased everyone’s memories?” Adrian asked.

“His spell only reached the people of the island, not the people of the sea,” she replied.

In that moment, Adrian knew he needed Callia to stay and help him. Together they set off on a quest to find the safest place for the new castle. She explained that they need to find a location that doesn’t have alternating layers of ash and lava flows because the rocks in those areas are loose, or unconsolidated, and the intensity of earthquakes are amplified in unconsolidated sediment. They needed to find a place that had sturdy rocks. It took about two weeks before they found the perfect place; Mt. Profitis Ilias.

Callia went back to the sea and Adrian went to his parents and told them where he wanted to build his new castle. He told them why he chose Profitis Ilias, because it was on sturdy basement rock that won’t shake nearly as much if another earthquake were to occur, and it was high on a mountain, safe from a tsunami wave. He also told them about his time spent with Callia and how much he had learned about the island. When he became king, he wanted to open a school specifically focused on the geology of the islands. He believed it was important for his subjects to know about the hazards in the place they lived. His parents were very proud of the work he had done to find the perfect location and the effort he put in to learn about his home.

A few months had passed and the castle was just days away from being opened. The king and queen had decided to hold Adrian’s Coronation and the grand opening of the castle and new kingdom on the same day. Although Adrian was excited about becoming king and having his new castle, he couldn’t help but feel sad that he hadn’t seen Callia since the day they parted. The queen noticed the discontent in her son and tried to comfort him. She soon realized, the only thing that would truly make her son happy was to see the mermaid again.

On Coronation Day, the whole island gathered to see the new castle and to show their support for their king. Adrian was still upset about Callia. Just before he was supposed to make his grand entrance, Giles walks in with Callia on his back wearing the most beautiful gown. Adrian’s face lit up.

“You came! I was worried I was never going to see you again,” he said.

“Of course I came. I didn’t go on a two week quest with you to not see the final result. Plus, I kind of missed you,” she smiled.

“Stay with me and help me rule the kingdom. I need a queen and who better than someone who knows what they are talking about to help me educate my subjects,” he said.

“I would want nothing more,” she said.

Together they walked into the square to greet their subjects. They decided to add a wedding onto the celebrations of the day. The kingdom celebrated their new king and queen, and they all lived happily ever after.


Bell, K., Carey, N., Nomikou, P., Sigurdsson, H., Sakellariou, D., 2013, Submarine evidence of a debris avalanche deposit on the eastern slope of Santorini volcano, Greece: Tectonophysics, v. 597-598, p. 148-149.

Druitt, T. H., and Davies, M. A., 1994-95, Geological Map of the Santorini Islands, Aegean Sea, Greece, scale 1:20,000.

Friedrich, W. L., 2009, Santorini- volcano, natural history, mythology: Denmark, Aarhus University Press, p. 238-239.

Gagarych, 2017, Santorini Old Treasure Map. Stock Vector – Illustration of mystery, historical: 103471858: Dreamstime, https://www.dreamstime.com/santorini-old-treasure-map-sepia-engraved-template-pirate-island-parchment-stylized-manuscript-vintage-paper-image103471858 (accessed June 2019).

Korakakis, N., and Zorzos, L., 2017, YouTube, https://m.youtube.com/watchv=hce8U7o1JHk (accessed June 2019).

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