Countdown to Disaster, but When?

The 1613 +/-13 BC Minoan eruption is known worldwide for its colossal eruption that was nearly equal to the eruptions of Tambora and Krakatau in Indonesia. We are studying this specific eruption because while it greatly effected the morphology of Santorini, the population of the island was effected as well (1). This eruption is crucial in our understanding of future caldera eruptions and expands our knowledge of the likelihood of another eruption.

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An English Major’s Guide to Stratigraphic Columns

I’m at the base of the Fira Quarry, staring up at 20+ meters of pumice and ash from the Minoan eruption. All I see is the grey and tan hue of the outcrop towering over me. It is a sight to behold, but it means nothing to me. I don’t see patterns, or clues, or any indication of how the rocks got there. I may be staring, but I’m certainly not seeing anything.
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A Geologic Lesson for the Little Ones

Sharing one’s knowledge with others is one of the greatest gifts that anyone can give. Being a young, aspiring teacher, I especially advocate this idea. The whole reason why my group and I are on this incredible journey in Santorini is to come back to the United States and share our geologic knowledge of what we have all learned and discovered about the Minoan eruption of Santorini that occurred thousands of years ago.
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Akrotiri: a City Frozen in Time

Buried beneath meters of thick solidified volcanic material, is an ancient city named Akrotiri. Hidden for approximately 3600 years, the ruins of an ancient Minoan civilization were found on the southern region of Thera, Santorini’s largest island. Excavation began in 1967 by a professor named Spyridon Marinatos who believed that the eruption of the volcanic complex that makes up Santorini, was the reason behind the fall of Minoan civilization.

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Living in the Walls of the Past

Why not create something beautiful out of a catastrophe? In Santorini, it is easy to find many structures built out of the destruction from the Minoan eruption. I have personally witnessed some of the techniques employed to create these domiciles. Through the build up of pumice and ash as results of the volcanic eruption, inhabitants of the island have taken advantage of what they have been given.
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Akroteri’s Destruction was its Salvation

The destruction and corruption of ancient wonders have always felt like an arrow through my heart. The fabled wonder of the Library at Alexandra, dedicated to the Muses and center to the scholars of the world, was ransacked and burned in one of the most symbolic destructions of cultural knowledge. The historic tombs, crypts, and pyramids of the Ancient Egyptians, with artistic renderings and loving gifts to the dead, were raided by grave robbers who gave no regard to the cultural location’s sanctity. I hold grudges against people’s wanton carnage of anything historical, yet standing at the doorway to the excavation of Ancient Akroteri exposed me to a new perspective of ruins created by Mother Nature. Continue reading “Akroteri’s Destruction was its Salvation”

A Glimpse of the Past

Humans have learned to use rocks for many different purposes in life, such as for tools, jewelry, and even counter tops, but what intrigues me is the observation and inference of rocks that tell a story of the past. Even after taking multiple geology classes at NAU, I have only recently learned about one important characteristic of volcanic deposits that provides information on how an eruption occurred thousands of years ago; a block sag.  The geologic definition of a “block” is defined as an angular piece of lava (larger than 64mm) that was ballistically ejected from a volcanic vent. On the other hand, a block sag is a depressed or indented section of rock strata that was created by a ballistically ejected angular fragment of a volcano during an explosive eruption. The blocks that we’ve seen here on Santorini have had a wide variety of sizes, ranging up to two meters. We found an impressive two meter block on the edge of Cape Akrotiri, which is on the southwest tip of the island. (Observation Point 9 on the map below)

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Akrotiri: Abandoned and Preserved

Throughout human history, volcanoes have played a critical role in both the creation and the destruction of civilizations. While the fertile soil created by volcanic activity attracts the development of nearby settlements, an eruption has the power to annihilate a flourishing culture. In some cases, such as those of Italy’s Pompeii and Santorini’s Akrotiri, the eruption style pairs destruction with preservation resulting in a snapshot … Continue reading Akrotiri: Abandoned and Preserved

The Pioneers of NAU in Greece

I thought my travel journal would be filled with pages and pages of my thoughts and experiences by now but I’ve had few minutes to spare.  We’ve been going all day everyday.  Planning, doing, more planning, class, answering questions, reading, editing.  It’s the most fun I’ve had teaching a class and the most rewarding of any teaching experiences I’ve had. My expectations before we arrived … Continue reading The Pioneers of NAU in Greece

Wine on Santorini — Meant to Be

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Evidence of wine production in Santorini dates back to 3500 B.C., but it was not until after the Caldera-forming Minoan eruption 20 centuries later that gave the island it’s unique environmental and geological characteristics that make the wine cultivation so unique. The rich soil that fuels over 10% of the island’s economy is known as “Aspa”, which is mainly composed of the porous volcanic rock called pumice, along with the volcanic ash from this explosive eruption.(1) The lack of clay in the soil make Santorini one of the few areas in the world not affected by the devastating Phylloxera pest, who depends on a high clay content to survive. Without the volcanic/tectonic influence on Santorini’s soil, wine cultivation on this Mediterranean island would have never made it through the 19th century. (3)

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