Ignorance is Not Bliss: What Doomed Pompeii and Saved Akrotiri

Throughout our study here on Santorini, our geologic knowledge was built up to one main event: the Minoan eruption. As an anthropology major, all I was concerned about was the settlement of Akrotiri, which was preserved beneath the ash. As I wandered through the excavation site of Akrotiri, I began to draw comparisons between this city and the city of Pompeii.
The main point of difference between these two very similar cases is the death toll. Akrotiri excavations have turned up no human remains, or any sign of human activity during the eruption at all. This indicates that the Minoans evacuated before the eruption even began, most likely during the preliminary earthquakes. Conversely, Pompeii is closely linked in memory to the bodies found preserved in casts of ash. While all of Pompeii has not be excavated, the number of bodies found represents a tenth of the overall population, putting the death toll in the thousands.
I began to wonder: why did Akrotiri evacuate and not Pompeii? There are several possible factors that could have led to the Minoans abandoning their city before the real danger even began.

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My Geologic Adventure to Oια

 

June 6, 2018

Dear Diary,

Today we went on an amazing hike from the base of Peresteria volcano to the city of Οια (ee-Yah) in Santorini, Greece to broaden our knowledge on volcanic formations. 

We arrived on the outskirts of Οια approximately at 11:03 a.m., which was early enough to experience a light breeze from the north. Personally, I was super tired from hike down to Cape Plaka yesterday. The hike was intense, the sun beat hard, and I got beat up by the ocean pretty bad. Sweat burned in the cuts and scratches on my leg and hand. Additionally, had I known that the hike would be so strenuous would have definitely worked out before flying over to Santorini. Honestly, someone should have warned a big girl like me. Despite all the stress of hiking the class came across some interesting formations along the way.  Keep Reading!

A Brief History of Bad Decisions

The island of Santorini has an extensive history of volatile seismic and volcanic activity. Aside from the four caldera eruptions that have decimated the entire island over the past 200 thousand years, Santorini seems to be a hot spot for smaller eruptions and large earthquakes. Despite this reputation, civilizations have been settling the land since the third millennium BCE (before common era), ignoring the obvious hazards that would later plague each of them. What do these messy histories entail and what did these peoples of the past see in this dangerous land to warrant them staying for generations?

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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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For Science or For Recreation, Volcanoes Come Through Again

Volcanic gases are widely understood to be one of the more dangerous aspects of active volcanoes.  Where they can certainly be hazardous to your health or even deadly, the volcanic gases also have a more positive side that never seems to get enough light.  Hot springs pop up all around the world near active volcanoes, and gases emitted by volcanic vents provide useful scientific opportunities.  Such opportunities should be taken, though cautiously, because these gases don’t have a bad reputation for no reason.

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Fire Burn, and Cauldron Bubble

Going to Santorini and staying near the cliffside of the caldera rim results in a special experience of the volcano. Each time I look out at the ocean, the new volcano in the center of the caldera is the central point to the most spectacular view I have ever seen. As a budding young geologist, I am in awe of how close I am to an active resurgent shield amidst a volcanic complex with such a rich history. I am excited to not only learn about the history but to track the emergence and construction of Santorini’s new volcanic field.

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