Brasshopper in Pompeii, Italy 2002
Pompeii is an ancient town situated near to Mount Vesuvius, an unpredictable
volcano that erupted without warning in AD 79 burying the town in
volcanic ash. The inhabitants of Pompeii perished but many of their
remains were preserved in the ash for centuries. The town has been
excavated and is now a major tourist attraction. This picture of Brasshopper
in Pompeii shows the proximity of Pompeii to Vesuvius. Brasshopper
went to Pompeii with Irv and Karen in the autumn of 2002 to see for
himself what happened when Vesuvius erupted.
The AD 79 eruption was the first volcanic eruption to be described by an eye witness. A young man, Pliny the Younger, witnessed the event from the coastal town of Misenumonly 30 km away. He only narrowly escaped death himself and later described the event to a Roman historian. Here is an extract from a description of the destruction of Pompeii from www.pompeii.co.uk...
On the morning of 24th August, 79 AD, fine grained ash began settle around Vesuvius. Then at 1pm the volcano began to erupt violently. Pliny describes a massive cloud above Vesuvius. It had a lower column which broadened upwards to the famous 'pine-tree shaped' cloud, about 27km tall. The cloud released from Vesuvius contained ash, pumice and poisonous gases hurled out of the volcano with great force and heat. Pompeii was directly in the path of this cloud, as it was blown in a southerly direction by strong winds high up. As pumice and ash fell from the cloud it would have settled, building up at about 15cm per hour. After a few hours, roofs would have begun to collapse, injuring and killing people sheltering inside. Stones, called lapilli, up to 5cm in size would have fallen onto the town, injuring many people. but his was not the Pompeiians biggest problem. The dense eruption plume caused complete darkness. Pliny describes it as 'not like a moonless night, but the darkness of a sealed room'. Understandably the residents, who did not know what was happening, considered their homes the safest place to be, hoping events would end sooner or later. After 7 hours of continuous eruption, about 1.3 metres of ash and pumice would have settled. At this point the eruption became more violent, with the plume rising to 33 km and depositing pumice for a further 5 hours, to a thickness of to 2.5 metres around Pompeii.