Basement Rocks at the Ceiling: The Story of Mesa Vouno

I’m standing at the bottom of a 369 meter tall mountain, ready to walk up a 30% gradient trail (That’s approximately 1,210 feet for all you non-metric people). The trailhead (Figure A) looks inviting yet slightly menacing. The sun is beating down on me and its a long walk up. Mesa Vouno rises up like a god amongst kings in this island paradise. How did a (nonvolcanic) mountain end up as a part of this caldera island?

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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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The tragic events following the 1956 earthquake

The year was 1956 when a family of seven children and their two parents were sailing on a boat in the Aegean Sea. The boat capsized in the caldera under Oia, Santorini. The seven children some how survived, but the parents unfortunately did not. There is now a church in the spot where this tragedy happened (Figure 1). The capsizing is thought to be from a tsunami that was triggered after an earthquake.

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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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Rocky Heights: Sacred Land and Geology meet in Athens

I step off the marble curb of my hostel into the quiet streets of Plaka in Athens, Greece, and I am alone for a just a moment. The same grey and black cobblestone streets that were alive with the energy of tourists and vendors only hours before are now quiet. Once bright pastel buildings have been dulled by the sun’s rays. Their shutters hang askew, and clothes lines overhang the narrow streets like banners stretched between buildings. Next door, an old man sweeps the streets outside the Taverna with its red and white checkered table cloths. Continue reading “Rocky Heights: Sacred Land and Geology meet in Athens”

Field Notes for the First Time

Most people in college sit in a lecture hall and take notes from a powerpoint with their notebook on a desk, and for me, gaze out the windows wishing to be outside. Taking notes here in Santorini is much different, we’re outside, in the heat, with a handy field pack on our back and our cherished field notebook in our hand. Field notebooks are a geologist’s most prized possession and contain loads of information within their pages. I came into the NAU in Greece program with only taking one geology class and I had no experience with field notes. I will show what it is like to take field notes for the first time, and how to make good descriptions without ever doing them before for the ultimate souvenir. Continue reading “Field Notes for the First Time”

Unsuspecting Tourists and the Hazards of Nea Kameni

There really is no place like this in the world. A place where the water shines a deep, mesmerizing blue to the point where you get lost in the oscillation of the waves. A place where buildings as white as snow, with roof tops a glimmering light blue fill the eye as far as it can see. Where the sheer cliffs that change color what looks like every few feet stretching down to the beginnings of the sea. This is not just a place of beauty, but a place of destruction. A place where without warning, an unworldly power can be unleashed from the depths. The violent history is that of one’s nightmares. This is not a place of fiction, this is Santorini.

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Prepare for the Unknown

I went around Santorini asking locals and tourists how much they really know about the geologic dangers on the island. A young local boy told me “The old people tell us [stories of the island] and we forget, so we make up our own stories.” He had a decent idea about the island but didn’t know a lot about the active volcano nor the active fault line on Santorini. His friend confessed to me that he knew nothing about the island and felt as if he didn’t need to know. He explained “I work and sleep here, nothing else.”

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