Growing up in the mountains of Colorado I appreciate fresh, clean air. As I inhale, I greatly enjoy the crisp aromic air of Santorini. In general we take for granted the air we breathe in, we know that it’s oxygen, nitrogen with a little too much carbon dioxide sometimes, and some places are more humid than others. Otherwise most places we go we don’t have to worry about blocks of hot volcanic rock the size of small cars zooming through the air or breathing in high amounts of methane, carbon dioxide, liquid glass, and hot ash. During the cataclysmic Minoan eruption in 1613±13 BC the air here resembled the latter. Almost instantaneously the air went from out typical Santorini weather to being suffused with acidic gases, ash, pumice, and various rocks filling the sky above. As we went to various outcrops on the island we saw evidence of the massive amount of material that filled the sky’s that day 3600 years ago.
As I walk the streets of Fira, Santorini and swim through the waves of tourists I see that most of them look out towards the center of the caldera. To them this island has always looked this way. Many know that around 1613 BC there was a cataclysmic eruption that forms the present day caldera and was a leading factor to the end of the Minoan civilization. Although they understand this, they do not realize that three cataclysmic caldera forming eruptions preceded the Minoan eruption and that even in the thousands of years in between each eruption the geography was constantly changing and morphing through volcanism and erosion into new shapes. As our class hiked around Thera, I saw before my eyes the different parts of this complex past that make it the paradise that it is today.