Destroying the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the infamous volcano Mount Vesuvius still poses as a threat to Italian cities nearby. When this unpredictable volcano erupted in 79 CE, thousands were killed and many were left in the ash that captured the area. We know so much about this eruption because of an eyewitness named Pliny the Younger. He wrote letters after the eruption that told about the type of eruption and the destruction it caused, all from his view of the two day catastrophe many miles away (Ball, 2014).
Currently, this large volcano stands at 4,203 feet (Wikipedia, 2014), but it has not always been that way. The composite, otherwise known as stratovolcano, was constantly added to by the running over of lava from the cone, while rock and other pyroclastic debris were ejected as well. Initially formed by the subduction of the African under the Eurasian plate, the water from the oceanic African plate caused the melting point of the mantle to lower, creating the magma that led to the volcano (Wikipedia, 2014). Then, seventeen thousand years ago a caldera was formed from an explosion and then within it grew the cone of Mount Vesuvius (Wikipedia, 2014).
In 62 CE, there was an earthquake that is thought to be the start to the volcanic activity that caused the explosion of 79. It caused much damage around the Bay of Naples, and especially to Pompeii (Wikipedia, 2014). Researchers believe that the tectonic activity caused new activity in the volcano, with tremors becoming more frequent within days of the eruption (Wikipedia, 2014). The morning the most destructive eruption occurred, Pliny described it as “an umbrella pine, for it rose to a great height on a sort of trunk and then split off into branches…. Sometimes it looked white, sometimes blotched and dirty, according to the amount of soil and ashes it carried with it.”
The rocks that have erupted from Mount Vesuvius are primarily andesite, making sense of the especially volatile eruptions. The 53-63% silica content, categorized as an intermediate rock (Ball, 2014), of andesite causes a higher viscosity and a greater gas content. This very explosive Plinian style, named for the previously mentioned eyewitness, results in large clouds of gas, ash, and rock shooting many kilometers into the sky and falling in the surrounding areas (Ball, 2014).
After the great eruption of 79 CE, there have been numerous eruptions, but none of such large scale. Each eruption has been of different severity, ranging from small explosions to being large enough to cover all of southern Europe in ash (Wikipedia, 2014). Because of the composition of the volcano and the contents inside, each eruption is still classified as Plinian, sending explosive outbursts of debris (Wikipedia, 2014). The volcano has not erupted since 1944, but the minor seismic activity in the area and movement of magma below suggest it could blow again in the future (Ball, 2014).
Over the centuries that Mount Vesuvius has been...