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21 sept.

we depart Herculaneum in good order and despite excellent signs everywhere as well as the enormous bulk of vesuvius looming to our front, we decide to bushwhack our way up vesuvius on our own. unfortunately we climb the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier, and originally much higher structure called monte somma. gee...wrong volcano....who woulda thought.

we end up climbing the 'other' mount vesuvius, 1,281 m or 4,202 ft high. the road up is the typical one-laner, very, very curvaceous, narrow with some harrowing sections...of course this is the best time to pass the endless tour buses. The slopes of the mountain are scarred by lava flows but are heavily vegetated, with scrub at higher altitudes and vineyards lower down.

we hit the parking lot at 1500hrs, dodge the tour guide racket, and summit in 30 minutes, passing everyone on the way up as well as on the way down. we are gods. we are also very smelly.

vesuvius is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years, although it is not currently erupting. 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. The only other two such volcanoes in Italy (Etna and Stromboli) are located on islands, and we intend to climb each of them...that is, if they are still there and there are no signs to lead us astray again.

vesuvius has erupted repeatedly around three dozen times in recorded history, most famously in 79 but there has been no eruption since 1944. The eruptions vary greatly in severity but are characterized by explosive outbursts of the kind dubbed Plinian after Pliny the Younger, the Roman naturalist who observed the 79 eruption, and whose uncle Pliny the Elder possibly fell victim to it. On occasion, the eruptions have been so large that the whole of southern Europe has been blanketed by ashes; in 472 and 1631, Vesuvian ashes fell on Constantinople over 1,200 km away.

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 neighbouring communities, most famously Herculaneum, also suffered damage or destruction during the 79 eruption, which is thought to have lasted about 19 hours, in which time the volcano 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 79 eruption was preceded by a powerful earthquake seventeen years beforehand which caused widespread destruction around the Bay of Naples, and particularly to Pompeii. 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 August 24, a catastrophic eruption of the volcano started. The eruption devastated the region, burying Pompeii and other settlements.

Its last major eruption as of 2006 came in March 1944, destroying the villages of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Massa di Somma and part of San Giorgio a Cremano, as well as all 88 planes in a U.S. B-25 bomber group in World War II. sucks to be them.

The volcano has been quiescent ever since. Over the past few centuries, the quiet stages have varied from 18 months to 7 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 the light of the volcano's tendency towards sudden extremely violent explosions and the very dense human population on and around the mountain. oh well, evolution continues its merry work.

click on a picture to see a larger image. hit arrows at either end of the slideshow for more pictures.


maps?....who needs steeeeeeeenkin maps. we go up the wrong volcano as a result


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