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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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”

The Birth of an Island

Thousands of people mill around on the beautiful volcanic island of Santorini every day having little knowledge of the amazing geologic history that passes under their feet. The island is ever changing and is constantly forged then reforged by the liquified rocks churning beneath the sea. There are still those that know about the volcanism that has created the island you see today but fewer know of the true volcanic origins for this paradise.

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Field Trips Through Time: A Geographical History of Santorini

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.

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Food from Ash

Food has always been a source of happiness and comfort for me and it’s a main component of why I want to travel. Since arriving at the port of Athinos in Santorini I have had so much delicious food. I’ve eaten everything from street food gyros, to tomato basil seafood risotto, to traditional moussaka. After experiencing all the amazing food Santorini has to offer, I asked myself why the does the food here taste so much better than back home? Then I remembered I was standing on a volcano.

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The Evolution of the Magma Chamber

The day that our class went to the lighthouse at the southern tip of the island was one of the few days that it rained on us. It was only sprinkling, but I frantically kneeled down trying to use my upper body to cover my notebook as I wrote down everything being said by our professor Lisa. As the rain stopped and the wind blew the clouds on their way all of us noticed a giant darker grey block of rock in the middle of a bunch of white pumice. This block had many crystals of minerals with brilliant colors in it. We all wondered, how it got there and what made this rock so different from the rest?

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Shake what Mama Earth Gave You

This week, the class took a 6 hour trip around the archipelago to hike the still active Nea Kameni volcano and observe the caldera rim up close. Also known as “Boat Day”, it was the climax of our 3 week visit to Santorini. I had never been on a small boat before, therefore I had no idea of how to move around the very turbulent vessel, nor whether I’m prone to sea sickness or not. Thankfully I gained my sea legs and enjoyed the excursion like it was an amusement park ride. The way the boat swayed under my feet and the balance I had to struggle to find reminded me of being in an earthquake. Continue reading “Shake what Mama Earth Gave You”

Walking up Cinder Cones

Growing up, I never payed much attention to cinder cones, a type of volcano that surrounded my hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona. They always seemed like an uninteresting buildup of red, rocky material. Even though I learned a little bit about them in my introductory geology classes, they seemed simple and uninteresting. Little did I know that a single hike up the side of a cinder cone built 76 thousand years ago would change my perspective on them.

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