Santorini Volcano – How a Volcanic Eruption on a Greek Island Changed the Course of Global History

Santorini, the famous Greek island on southern Aegean Sea, owes most of its fame to its still active Volcano. This is actually the Volcano that caused some world-changing eruptions in the past.

The Volcano of Santorini is today partly submerged and partly viewable on the islet of Nea Kameni, opposite the main island of Santorini. It is daily visited by many tourists, although extra attention is required because as scientists say, it is still active till present. This volcano has also given the island its special geological features that make it recognizable around the world: the wonderful caldera, on the edge of which picturesque villages have been built.

As it is reported, the first great eruption of Santorini Volcano, also known as Thera eruption, happened in about 1,450 B.C. and had destructive effects for the world. This eruption not only buried under tones of lava the Minoan site of Akrotiri that was situated on the southern side of the island, but it also raised 150m-tall tsunami waves that reached the north coast of Crete island, 70 miles away, and destroyed the Minoan Civilization that flourished there that time.

To have a view of how strong this eruption was, it should be mentioned that scientists estimate it up to four times bigger than the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia. The Thera eruption is also said to have changed the actual shape of Santorini, which was round till then, and to have given it its present semi-circular form.

This volcanic eruption though may have unconsciously passed through history and religion. Scholars believe that the Exodus of Moses from Egypt and the separation of the Red Sea could in fact be an effect of the eruption in Santorini Greece. Others believe that this volcanic eruption could be associated with one of the ten plagues of Pharaoh, the one when the sky got dark from smoke.

Thera eruption is also frequently associated with the legendary Atlantis, the rich and developed ancient town that was destroyed in a single day and night “due to the anger of gods”, as Plato had narrated. Many scientists think that lost Atlantis could actually be the buried-in-ash town of Akrotiri on Santorini Cyclades or another town on the island that was submerged when the volcano exploded.

Since the eruption in 1645 B.C, the volcano had been silent for almost 1400 years. However, it became active again in 198 B.C that led to the creation of Palea Kameni islet, which is today found opposite Fira town. The actual Volcano is found, though, on Nea Kameni islet, that was created in about 1570 A.D. and is the youngest island in the Mediterranean. In 1870 B.C, intense volcanic activity made this islet triple in size.

The last volcanic activity on Santorini was reported in 1950 A.D., when a new volcanic dome made its appearance. Many volcanic activities had preceded, which attracted locals and foreigners on Santorini, such as the French author Jules Verne who got inspired from this volcano to write his book The Mysterious Island, where his hero Captain Nemo and his crew are witnessing a volcanic eruption.

Today, this activity is studied and reported by the Institute for the Study and Monitoring of the Santorini Volcano. Scientists said in 2006 that if some volcanic activity started today on Santorini, it could last for more than two and a half years!!

Thus, it is not to query why the Volcano of Santorini is so famous around the world and why 6 millions of tourists come every year to visit it. It is certainly a natural wonder.

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