Into the Air: a Sky Filled with Ash, Gas, and Glass

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.

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Up Close & Personal: Rock Edition

For the last week, I’ve been outside under the Santorini sun drawing and describing the post Minoan eruption stratigraphy of the island from different localities. I’ve been attempting to find answers to the history of the island’s geography through the rocks. And these rocks are so easily taken for granted, sitting while hundreds of tourists walk by unfazed by the stories they could tell. But that’s why I’m here. My purpose in coming to Santorini was to study the geology and write about what I learn. It’s my goal to share my knowledge and translate the more advanced topics of geology to layman’s terms so those reading can understand the work I’ve completed.

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The Minoan Tsunami: Two Theories, Past and Present

When I was thirteen I visited the coastal Alaskan town of Yakutat for a photography trip with my dad. On the beach there were signs to look out for wash up items on the beach from the 2011 Japan tsunami, some of the items included dolls, soccer balls and a lot of trash. I was shocked to see these items on a beach in Alaska when the tsunami occurred over 4000 miles away. This was my first and only experience with a tsunami. Six years later I came here to Greece and learned about the tsunami from the Minoan eruption and my curiosity was piqued again. 

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Beautifully Colored for Dangerous Reasons

The things that I witness and record from working on the volcanic island of Santorini never cease to take my breath away. My curiosity took control of me one day while I was conducting field work. While working on stratigraphic columns at such places as Cape Plaka and Vlychada, small discolored rocks kept appearing in the preserved Minoan eruption deposits. The rocks easily grabbed the attention of my eye for the colors that the rock held on its surface were nothing less than mesmerizing.

The red is that of the surface of Mars that is coated with iron-rich rock. The yellow is dusted over the surface as if someone sprinkled little flakes of the sun all over it. The orange can only be compared to that of a setting sun, a sun that sets over the horizon of an endless sea glistening over the waves. Finally the purple, it is as if flames of scorching temperature kissed the surface and stained the rock in misshaped ways.

Questions raced through my mind. Questions of where could this rock have come from? What caused the rock to have such bewildering colors? Are the rocks volcanic or did they arise from some other source? I yearned to know more about this tantalizing creation and the secrets it holds.

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Moving Megatons: The Excavational Eruptions of Calderas

I’ve just learned the full story of the Minoan eruption. In my mind, I’m imagining 60 cubic kilometers of earth. This is about the size of a block of the Los Angeles basin, by volume; a massive amount of land. I can see all this land being ejected by the volcano miles into the sky, over a span of 24 hours. Such is the case of Santorini’s last caldera forming eruption.  Continue reading “Moving Megatons: The Excavational Eruptions of Calderas”

To be or not to be a caveman…

Imagine for a brief moment how it would be to live or work in a cave type setting, do you think you would like it? You may think caves were mainly used by our prehistoric ansectors, but cave houses were the main source of shelter in Santorini after the 1956 earthquake hit the island. (For more information on the 1956  earthquake reference my 2nd blog The tragic events following the 1956 earthquake). Today, there are still a good amount of structures built into caves, and they are all around the island.

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Minoans Know Best

In the late Bronze Age the Minoans did not have the technology to monitor the caldera but evidence shows they left before the Minoan eruption of 1613 BC. As a class we visited the ancient Minoan city Akrotiri which is sometimes called the Greek Pompeii. The city has been preserved by the ash fall from the Minoan eruption there is clear evidence the Minoans left before the eruption. I want to know what caused them to leave and did they know that a major eruption was going to occur? Today scientists can monitor the volcanic activity of Nea Kameni but they can’t predict when a volcano will erupt or know if they should call for an evacuation.

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The Treasure Under the Ash

When you first step foot into the excavation of the ancient Minoan town of Akrotiri the world seems to get just a little smaller. To stand in a spot where 4,000 years ago people walked those very streets going about their daily lives is one of the most amazing experiences a person can really have. The town sits now as a ruin covered in pumice and ash left over by the eruption that brought one of the most technologically advanced ancient civilizations to its knees.

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Architects Who Built Their Own Death Traps

Before going to a foreign country many people research the areas they are interested in and then decide where they are going to stay and what they are going to do while they are there. Some people may look at the weather or go during a certain season so that it is the most enjoyable to them. Even fewer people will research and learn about the government of the country they will be staying in and its relationship with their home country. Continue reading “Architects Who Built Their Own Death Traps”