Vesuvius Day

Vesuvius_from_planeVesuvius Day is celebrated on August 24th of each year. Mt. Vesuvius is an Italian volcano that erupted on August 24 A.D. 79 blanketing the towns and 1000s of residents of Pompeii, Stabiae, and Herculaneum. Pompeii was buried 10′ deep, while Herculaneum was buried under 75′ of ash. This volcanic eruption is the first to be described in detail. The letter-writing Pliny the Younger was stationed about 18 mi. away in Misenum from which vantage point he could see the eruption and feel the preceding earthquakes. His uncle, the naturalist Pliny the Elder, was in charge of area warships, but he turned his fleet to rescuing residents and died.

Mt. Vesuvius had erupted before and continued to erupt about once a century until about A.D. 1037, at which point the volcano grew quiet for about 600 years. During this time, the area grew, and when the volcano erupted in 1631, it killed about 4000 people. During the rebuilding efforts, the ancient ruins of Pompeii were discovered on March 23, 1748. Today’s population around Mt. Vesuvius is about 3 million, which is potentially catastrophic in the area of such a dangerous “Plinian” volcano.

Prior to the eruption, there were earthquakes, including a substantial one in A.D. 62 that Pompeii was still recovering from in 79. There was another earthquake in 64, while Nero was performing in Naples. Earthquakes were seen as facts of life. However, in 79, springs and wells dried up, and in August, the earth cracked, the sea became turbulent, and the animals showed signs that something was coming. When the eruption of the 24th of August began, it looked like a pine tree in the sky, according to Pliny, spewing noxious fumes, ash, smoke, mud, stones, and flames.