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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Vesuvius and Solfatara

I'm fascinated by volcanoes and vulcanicity and have always wanted to go to Iceland or Etna to see red hot lava activity so I was really thrilled on our  trip to Italy when we were taken to visit Solfatara. This was on our first day and it is an active site. Steam and gases escape continuously through holes in the ground inside the crater. These fumaroles can be seen all over the area but are concentrated in more active sites.

An ancient Italian called Signor Bruno took us exploring. He showed how you could make new holes for the hot gases to escape.
And then volunteers cooked their fingers by putting them in the hole to test the temperature. This made Signor Bruno chuckle. He didn't volunteer to put his fingers in the holes so I followed his example and kept mine in my pocket. Quite sensible people will volunteer even after the last person has shouted "Ow!".
He also threw a large boulder onto the ground and it made a hollow booming sound. This was because below us was an enormous chamber covered with a thin solidified lava and ash layer on which we were standing. It boomed when we all jumped up and down as well!
Luckily there were no volunteers to put their fingers into the boiling mud.
Gases bubble away at 90 degrees or more!
Then on the last day was one of the real adventures. A climb to the top of Mount Vesuvius to look into the crater.
The bus takes you two thirds of the way up so you are left with only 360 metres to climb and a couple of kilometres to trek. There is a wide, steepish track but you can rest while you stop to admire the view. Sadly the cloud cover was a bit low that day (it seemed to be so most days) so that Naples gradually disappeared as we climbed.
This is the crater from the 1944 eruption. The 79AD eruption blew most of the top off the mountain and left a new cone here. Until 1944 it was full to the top but it's now a big hole.
There are small fumaroles puffing away and adding to the sulphur smell and the mistiness.
Right at the top is a souvenir shop and the remains of the funicular railway built to take tourists to the top a hundred years ago. Again we had a guide to tell us all about it. An enthusiastic alpine guide with charisma and grand gesticulations made the the story of the volcano come to life. In fact it is theoretically still alive and The whole of Naples and its surroundings live in fear of another eruption. A cataclysm is awaited by the scientists but the people rely on the blood of St Gennaro.
He is the patron saint of Naples and his blood is kept in a phial in the cathedral and it turns into liquid for one day each year. This means that Vesuvius will not erupt that year. To make sure, a grotto with a statue of him exists at the top of the mountain so you can all be glad he's doing his job.
Cheers for now 

1 comment:

trish said...

Super blog post and beautifully illustrated and explained. Love it!