Everyone has heard of Pompeii, I think. (At least, you should have.) Wiped out by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, it’s one of the more famous natural-disaster tourist attractions. But did you know that Mount Vesuvius wasn’t content with that bit of ash-spewing? Over the years, it continued to wreak havoc in the region, and is today a national park, plus one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world (because 3 million people live nearby and it’s a pretty volatile formation).
Why am I writing about this? Well, volcanoes are cool. And because it erupted on this day in 1872, right around the time the wheels were being set in motion for the action in my book, Justice and Vengeance. (You can preorder from the link over there on the right.)
The volcano had belched a bunch of times between when it buried Pompeii and 1872, but that year’s eruption was doozy. The lava blocked an escape route and killed some spectators. The flow forked at one point — one path destroyed a couple villages, the other surrounded an observatory and stranded workers there for days. (Luigi Palmieri, the director of the volcano observatory wrote a memoir about it the next year.) On the 28th, when the lava flow stopped, there were massive eruptions at the summit, which at that point was about 4,400 feet in elevation.
The next really exciting eruption was in 1944, in the midst of World War II. The 340th Bombardment Group was stationed there and lost upward of 70 of planes when they “were covered with hot ash that burned the fabric control surfaces, glazed, melted, or cracked the Plexiglass, and even tipped some B-25s onto their tails from the weight of the ash.” That was also the last time Vesuvius erupted, to date.
It’s been 70 years since then, but that doesn’t mean lava won’t flow again. I don’t really understand why you’d want to live in the shadow of a volatile and unpredictable volcano. It kind of reminds me of those people who build and rebuild their houses in flood zones thinking things will be different THIS TIME. Would you take that risk?