Excursion to Vesuvius
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Visit of Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius is a stratovolcano on the Bay of Naples, about 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years, although it is not currently erupting.
Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. They were never rebuilt, although surviving townspeople and probably looters did undertake extensive salvage work after the destructions. The towns' locations were eventually forgotten until their accidental rediscovery in the 18th century.
Vesuvius was formed as a result of the collision of two tectonic plates, the African and the Eurasian. The former was pushed beneath the latter, deeper into the earth. The crust material became heated until it melted, forming magma, a type of liquid rock. Because magma is less dense than the solid rock around it, it was pushed upward. Finding a weak place at the Earth's surface it broke through, producing the volcano.
The volcano is one of several which form the Campanian volcanic arc. Others include Campi Flegrei, a large caldera a few kilometres to the north west, Mount Epomeo, 20 kilometres (12 mi) to the west on the island of Ischia, and several undersea volcanoes to the south. The arc forms the southern end of a larger chain of volcanoes produced by the subduction process described above, which extends northwest along the length of Italy as far as Monte Amiata in Southern Tuscany. Vesuvius is the only one to have erupted within recent history, although some of the others have erupted within the last few hundred years. Many are either extinct or have not erupted for tens of thousands of years.
Vesuvius tourist informations
Mount Vesuvius is a stratovolcano east of Naples, Italy. It is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years, although it is not currently erupting. The two other volcanoes in Italy, (Etna and Stromboli) are located on islands.
Mount Vesuvius is on the coast of the Bay of Naples, about nine kilometres (six miles) east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is conspicuous in the beautiful landscape presented by that bay, when seen from the sea, with Naples in the foreground.
Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the death of 10,000 to 25,000 people. It has erupted many times since and is today regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living close to it and its tendency towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions. It is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world. Mount Vesuvius was regarded by the Greeks and Romans as being sacred to the hero and demigod Heracles/Hercules and the town of Herculaneum, built at its base, was named after him.
Vesuvius is a distinctive "humpbacked" mountain, consisting of a large cone (Gran Cono) partially encircled by the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier and originally much higher structure called Monte Somma. The Gran Cono was produced during the eruption of AD 79. For this reason, the volcano is also called Somma-Vesuvius or Somma-Vesuvio.
The caldera started forming during an eruption around 17,000 (or 18,300) years ago and was enlarged by later paroxysmal eruptions ending in the one of AD 79. This structure has given its name to the term "somma volcano", which describes any volcano with a summit caldera surrounding a newer cone.
The height of the main cone has been constantly changed by eruptions but presently is 1,281 m (4,202 ft). Monte Somma is 1,149 m (3,770 ft) high, separated from the main cone by the valley of Atrio di Cavallo, which is some 3 miles (5 km) long. The slopes of the mountain are scarred by lava flows but are heavily vegetated, with scrub at higher altitudes and vineyards lower down. Vesuvius is still regarded as an active volcano, although its current activity produces little more than steam from vents at the bottom of the crater. Vesuvius is a stratovolcano at the convergent boundary where the African Plate is being subducted beneath the Eurasian Plate. Its lava is composed of viscous andesite. Layers of lava, scoria, volcanic ash, and pumice make up the mountain.
Mount Vesuvius has erupted many times. The famous eruption in 79 AD was preceded by numerous others in prehistory, including at least three significantly larger ones, the best known being the Avellino eruption around 1800 BC which engulfed several Bronze Age settlements. Since 79 AD, the volcano has also erupted repeatedly, in 172, 203, 222, possibly 303, 379, 472, 512, 536, 685, 787, around 860, around 900, 968, 991, 999, 1006, 1037, 1049, around 1073, 1139, 1150, and there may have been eruptions in 1270, 1347, and 1500. The volcano erupted again in 1631, six times in the 18th century, eight times in the 19th century (notably in 1872), and in 1906, 1929, and 1944. There has been no eruption since 1944, and none of the post-79 eruptions were as large or destructive.
The eruptions vary greatly in severity but are characterized by explosive outbursts of the kind dubbed Plinian after Pliny the Younger, a Roman writer who published a detailed description of the AD 79 eruption, including his uncle's death. On occasion, eruptions from Vesuvius have been so large that the whole of southern Europe has been blanketed by ash; in 472 and 1631, Vesuvian ash fell on Constantinople (Istanbul), over 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) away. A few times since 1944, landslides in the crater have raised clouds of ash dust, raising false alarms of an eruption.
Eruption of AD 79
By the 1st century, Pompeii was only one of a number of towns located around the base of Mount Vesuvius. The area had a substantial population which grew prosperous from the region's renowned agricultural fertility. Many of Pompeii's neighboring communities, most famously Herculaneum, also suffered damage or destruction during the AD 79 eruption. The 79 eruption, which is thought to have lasted about 19 hours, released about 1 cubic mile (4 cubic kilometres) of ash and rock over a wide area to the south and south-east of the crater, with about 3 m (10 ft) of tephra falling on Pompeii. The white ash produced by this eruption is mainly of leucite and phonolite.
The AD 79 eruption was preceded by a powerful earthquake seventeen years beforehand on 5 February, 62, which caused widespread destruction around the Bay of Naples, and particularly to Pompeii. Some of the damage had still not been repaired when the volcano erupted. However, this may have been a tectonic event rather than one associated with the re-awakening of the volcano.
Another smaller earthquake took place in 64 AD; it was recorded by Suetonius in his biography of Nero, in De Vita Caesarum, and by Tacitus in Book XV of Annale because it took place whilst Nero was in Naples performing for the first time in a public theatre. Suetonius recorded that the emperor continued singing through the earthquake until he had finished his song, whilst Tacitus wrote that the theatre collapsed shortly after being evacuated.
The Romans grew accustomed to minor earth tremors in the region; the writer Pliny the Younger even wrote that they "were not particularly alarming because they are frequent in Campania". In early August of AD 79, springs and wells dried up. Small earthquakes started taking place on 20 August, 79 becoming more frequent over the next four days, but the warnings were not recognised (it is worth noting the Romans had no word for volcano, and only a hazy concept of other similar mountains like Mount Etna, home of Vulcan), and on the afternoon of 24 August, a catastrophic eruption of the volcano started. The eruption devastated the region, burying Pompeii and other settlements. By coincidence it was the day after Vulcanalia, the festival of the Roman god of fire.
Since the eruption of 79 AD, Vesuvius has erupted around three dozen times. It erupted again in 203, during the lifetime of the historian Cassius Dio. In 472, it ejected such a volume of ash that ashfalls were reported as far away as Constantinople. The eruptions of 512 were so severe that those inhabiting the slopes of Vesuvius were granted exemption from taxes by Theodoric the Great, the Gothic king of Italy. Further eruptions were recorded in 787, 968, 991, 999, 1007 and 1036 with the first recorded lava flows. The volcano became quiescent at the end of the 13th century and in the following years it again became covered with gardens and vineyards as of old. Even the inside of the crater was filled with shrubbery.
Vesuvius entered a new and particularly destructive phase in December 1631, when a major eruption buried many villages under lava flows, killing around 3,000 people. Torrents of boiling water were also ejected, adding to the devastation. Activity thereafter became almost continuous, with relatively severe eruptions occurring in 1660, 1682, 1694, 1698, 1707, 1737, 1760, 1767, 1779, 1794, 1822, 1834, 1839, 1850, 1855, 1861, 1868, 1872, 1906, 1926, 1929, and 1944.
The eruption of 1906 was particularly destructive, killing over 100 people and ejecting the most lava ever recorded from a Vesuvian eruption. Its last major eruption to date came in March 1944, destroying the villages of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Massa di Somma, Ottaviano, and part of San Giorgio a Cremano, as well as all 88 planes in a U.S. B-25 bomber group, as World War II continued to rage in Italy.
From 6 January to 23 February 1944, lava flows appeared within the rim and there were outflows. The activity paused on 23 February and resumed on 13 March. Small explosions then occurred until the major explosion took place on 18 March 1944. The eruption could be seen from Naples and several photos have been taken.
The volcano has been quiescent since then. Over the past few centuries, the quiet stages have varied from 18 months to 7½ years, making the current lull in activity the longest in nearly 500 years. While Vesuvius is not thought likely to erupt in the immediate future, the danger posed by future eruptions is seen as very high in light of the volcano's tendency towards sudden, extremely violent explosions, and the very dense human population on and around the mountain.
The area around Vesuvius was officially declared a national park on 5 June 1995. The summit of Vesuvius is open to visitors and there is a small network of paths around the mountain that are maintained by the park authorities on weekends.
There is access by road to within 200 metres (660 ft) of the summit (measured vertically), but thereafter access is on foot only. There is a spiral walkway around the mountain from the road to the crater.