Vulcanology 101

As the ancient ruins of Pompeii are right across the street from Hotel Forum where we’re staying, we had a relatively easy start to the day:  we did not have to be on the bus for an early departure and, since the ruins opened at 9 a.m., we could saunter over at a leisurely 8:45. HOWEVER, on the first Sunday of every month, Italy sponsors a free day at Pompeii for local citizens, so we were certainly not the first or the only folks at the gate — there were many, many others. Not surprisingly, our experience was impacted by these crowds, but we had a wonderful local guide in Luciano who carefully led us through the site, making sure we heard the true stories of Pompeii and saw the most memorable exhibits.

2. Pompeii's amphitheater

A section of Pompeii’s well-preserved amphitheater, with a 20,000-seat capacity.

4a. Versuvius overshadows the Forum

The Roman Forum at Pompeii’s city center perhaps bustled in the First Century A.D. as it did today. Note Vesuvius dominating the background.

The sobering reason Pompeii exists, of course, is the cataclysmic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D., which covered the city and its 17,000+ inhabitants with volcanic ash, particulated pumice, and deadly gasses. Life came to a screeching halt as folks suffocated on the gas, then were covered with massive amounts of ash contained in the pyroclastic flow. The plaster casts that have been made from the remarkable remains of some Pompeii citizens depict the harsh and overwhelming conditions that caused their deaths.

5a. Cast of person sitting in defensive position

This person pressed himself into a corner, covering his face as he tried to breathe in the midst of deadly circumstances.

Since 79 A.D., there have been some 40+ eruptions of Vesuvius, the most recent occurring in 1945. None have been as devastating as this one that left such a historic record.

When our tour director Monique learned Gerry is a geologist, she asked him to do the “bus talk” as we traveled from Pompeii to Vesuvius. What a treat for him to be able to talk about all those things that he’s been noticing about rock types, local topography and volcanic impact! — and he had a fresh captive audience. What more could a retired professor ask?7d. Vesuvius from the bus 3.jpg

This was a perfect set-up for the group hike to Vesuvius’ crater. Many of our tour-mates asked Gerry questions and he enjoyed trying to answer them. The hike was not strenuous, but with the warm temps and sunny conditions, it was thirsty work. Everyone made the trip up and back successfully.


For any geo-folk reading this, here is a shot Gerry took of a contact between an older crater edge and a newer lava flow. Cool, no? 🙂

Our Sunday ended with worship. We sang together without accompaniment and were led in a helpful consideration of Colossians 1:9-14 by Dr. Weima. His call to observe and follow Paul’s model of both intercessory prayer and thankfulness was winsome and spot-on.

Tomorrow, we leave the Naples area and head to, according to Monique, “the eternal city of Rome”.

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1 Response to Vulcanology 101

  1. Renee coad says:

    Thank you for such delightful, insightful descriptions

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