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  • Mount Vesuvius

    by Anthony Parente

    Latitude: 40.821° N
    Longitude: 14.426° E

    Mount Vesuvius, which is probably the most famous volcano in the world, is situated just above the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. Vesuvius also happens to be the only active volcano located on the mainland of Europe. It rises approximately 4,200 ft (1,280 m) giving those who venture to the top an excellent view of the area below. It can best be described as a volcano within a volcano. Vesuvius actually sits inside a huge caldera, which was formed when Mount Somma collapsed. The area between Mount Somma and Mount Vesuvius is called the Valle del Gigante (Giant's Valley). Volcanic activity from this area goes as far back as over 400,000 years, but it wasn't until August 24, 79 AD that Vesuvius made its mark in history.

    On August 24, 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted and in the process it buried the cities of Pompeii, Stabiae, and Herculaneum. The accounts of this great destruction were witnessed by Pliny the Younger, who was staying in Cape Misenum about 12 miles from the volcano at the time of the eruption. Pliny the Younger was a writer and he recorded what he saw in his letters to the historian Tacitus. He descriptive account of the eruption has helped scientist piece together what exactly happened on that dark day in history.

    The eruption of 79 wasn't the only one in Vesuvius history. Throughout time there have been numerous eruptions varying in intensity and length. Researchers believe the eruption of 472 AD was one of the most destructive eruptions in the past 2000 years. In fact historical documents state that the ash from Vesuvius reached as far away as Constantinople. The 1631 eruption killed about 3,500 to 4,000 people and destroyed the villages/towns located on the slopes of Vesuvius. The last time Vesuvius erupted was in 1944 during World War II. During this period soldiers of the Allied armies helped the people evacuate the area.

    In 1841 on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius construction for the Osservatorio Vesuviano began. The Observatory officially opened in 1845 making it the oldest scientific institution devoted to studying volcanoes.

    Today Vesuvius still emits smoke into the air. In my travels to Italy in the mid 1980's my cousin from Italy and I walked to the top of Vesuvius. It was at the top that I was able to see the smoke rising into the air. The volcano seemed so harmless, but we know how dangerous it can be. We can only hope that this volcano will not erupt again and destroy more lives. It was beautiful to be able to see such a great volcano, but I hope that it can stay harmless and peaceful for centuries and centuries to come.

    Related Sites

    • Mount Vesuvius Eruption of March 1944
    • Osservatorio Vesuviano
    • Vesuvius Itineraries
    • Vesuvius Webcam

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