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Eruption of Mount Vesuvius
Transcript of Eruption of Mount Vesuvius
Maggie Hill http://museumvictoria.com.au/pdf/eruption-of-mount-vesuvius-timeline.pdf
http://www.italianlegacy.com/pompeii.html Sources The ruins of Pompeii were first discovered by workmen in 1599, but it wasn't until 1874 that the Bourbon rulers of southern Italy instigated a serious campaign to uncover the site. Following increased activity in 1806-1815, excavation was sporadic until the unification of Italy in 1861, at which point it once again became a methodical operation.In 1863, an important development occurred on the site. When his workers informed the director that they'd discovered bones inside several cavities, he ordered them to stop work and arranged for a mixture of plaster and water to be poured into the holes. When the plaster dried and was removed, it revealed the clearly defined forms of four dead bodies, even capturing the expressions on their faces. From that point on, a large number of plaster casts were made of the Pompeii victims. Excavation At 1 p.m. Vesuvius suddenly erupts with great force. A cloud of volcanic materials soars high above the
mountain, spreading out in the shape of a flat topped pine tree. Within 30 minutes, the surging dark cloud
rises some 14 km above Vesuvius. Ash drifts over Pompeii. Pliny the Younger wrote "… a cloud of unusual size and appearance…being like an umbrella pine, for it rose to a great height on a sort of trunk and then split off into branches …" Vesuvius Erupts Simultaneously destroying the city and preserving it, the eruption killed anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 people in Pompeii and the neighboring towns of Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata. Residents fled toward the coast in an attempt to escape the volcano's lava, and approximately ten feet of ash and rock buried the city in its entirety. As well as preserving wall paintings, jars and other artifacts, the lava captured people sitting at tables or frozen in their final act as living beings. The Aftermath Days before Mount Vesuvius erupted (on the morning of August 24, A.D 79) the people of Pompeii could feel tremors. Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (known as Pliny the Younger) wrote in his eyewitness accounts that "earthquakes are frequent to Campania", so the people of the area were most likely not alarmed. Before the Eruption Vesuvius 5 – 6 p.m. Chunks of pumice plummet from the cloud. Streets and roads are buried deep under the accumulated pumice, lapilli and ash, and the roofs of Pompeii buildings begin to collapse under the weight. A dense cloud now rises about 25km above Vesuvius, obliterating the sun. Darkness, broken only by flashes of lightning, adds to the terror of fleeing inhabitants. At 3 p.m. Vesuvius is still spewing its contents higher and higher. As it rises, the volcanic material — mostly fragments of hardened lava (lapilli) — cools and then hails down on Pompeii. Most residents flee, although some seek shelter or stay behind to guard their property. Volcanic debris begins to clog the River Sarno and the port, making them impassable to ships. Seismic shock waves shake the area. Pliny wrote, "… there was a danger from falling pumice stones … as a protection against falling objects they put pillows on their heads tied down with cloths … We also saw the sea sucked away … so that quantities of sea creatures were left stranded on dry sand." 1 – 2 a.m. Scalding mudflows of volcanic debris mixed with steam spill from the volcano and down the slopes, choking the town of Herculaneum. Ash, lapilli and pumice continue to rain down on Pompeii; the debris now rising as high as the upper storeys of buildings. It bursts through windows, doors and roofs, trapping and suffocating those hiding within. 4 a.m. The volcanic plume above Vesuvius, now 30 km high, grows too heavy and begins to collapse. The column cascades to earth, sending superheated ash and gases roaring in turbulent waves, called pyroclastic flows, down the volcano’s slopes. The first flow reaches Herculaneum, killing any inhabitants who still remained. 5 a.m. Strong earthquakes continue to shake the whole area. A second, even hotter surge further buries Herculaneum. At Pompeii, the rain of pumice eases, but darkness prevails as the massive ash cloud hides the rising sun. Some survivors try to flee their hiding places and escape the town. But it is hard to breathe in the ash-clogged air, or to walk – or even crawl – over the deep layer of volcanic fallout. Pliny wrote, "We were followed by a panic-stricken mob of people wanting to act on someone else’s decision." 6:30 a.m. The third pyroclastic surge, the strongest yet, reaches Pompeii from the north but is held back by the town’s wall.
6.30 – 7:30 a.m. A series of powerful surges overcome the walls and sweep over the town in massive waves of toxic gas and burning, smothering ash. Pompeii’s remaining inhabitants are killed instantly and the city is buried. Most who die at Pompeii perish in this phase of the eruption. 8 a.m. The most destructive surge hits Pompeii, preceded by a storm of fire and lightning. The town’s tallest structures are burned, toppled and buried. The same surge reaches Stabiae and even as far as Naples. Luckily for Pliny the Younger, the surge loses momentum before it reaches Misenum, though the town is engulfed in a dense cloud of ash. Volcanic activity, electrical storms and mudslides continue for several days. By the time the eruption ends, Vesuvius’s summit has collapsed, leaving a crater 200 m lower. The entire region is annihilated — towns, vegetation, livestock, people. Only the tops of the highest walls remain unburied to show where Pompeii stood. "Finally, the cloud lifted and vanished in a sort of smoke or fog … the sun even reappeared, but pale, as when there is an eclipse … the landscape looked changed and covered by a thick blanket of ash, as if it had snowed."