Mt.Vesuvius and its 79 AD Eruption Essay

This essay has a total of 1751 words and 9 pages.

Mt.Vesuvius and its 79 AD Eruption




Volcano: A hill or mountain formed around and above a vent by accumulations of erupted
materials, such as ash, pumice, cinders or lava-flow. The term refers both to the vent
itself and to the often cone-shaped accumulation above it. (Scarth, 1994.) This definition
can do Mt. Vesuvius no justice. Instead, I would describe it as one of the most hellish
and population decimating volcanoes. Vesuvius lives…or lived! In its prime, Vesuvius
covered and demolished two of Italy's biggest cultural and artistic cities of its time. In
this paper, I will be discussing volcanoes in general. In addition, Mt. Vesuvius, in
particular, will be thoroughly looked at, as well as its 79 AD eruption.

Volcanoes have long been depicted as nature's killer. In movies, Volcanoes are seen as
mountains of fire and spitting lava; their only purpose seems to be to kill and destroy
everything in their path. Never is the background of volcanoes discussed. How are
volcanoes formed? Are there different types of volcanoes? What happens during an eruption?
The basic questions to aid understanding of volcanoes might change the public's opinion.

First, I will begin with the creation of volcanoes. Volcanoes are formed in different
ways. In a short version: the earth's plates shift and move. After the plates collide into
each other, one plate is pushed down into the mantel below the crust and melts. Hot magma
from the mantle breaks through a weak spot in the crust. As the

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magma shoots out of the crust, the cooling magma called lava becomes hard. After
significant time, the hard lava forms a volcanic mountain. Volcanoes can form in many
different sizes and shapes. They can look like a cone, have steep looking flanks, or look
as if they were long cracks in the earth's crust. (Plummer et al., 2000). If the mountain
is very tall, then there is a greater chance that it was formed from past eruptions. When
the lava cools, it makes the mountain bigger and higher. Depending on the type of volcano,
layers can differ in lava/ash content. (Plummer et al., 2000) For example, some strato and
composite volcanoes have alternating ash and lava flow layers. Others have more lava than
ash, or more ash than lava; some may consist of 50% ash and 50% lava flow layers. There is
a reservoir inside the earth filled with melted rock called magma. (Scarth, 1994) At the
top of the reservoir is a tunnel that the magma climbs through to the top. Shapes of
volcanoes' cone are described in the next paragraph. The magma and other volcanic material
come out of the cone when the volcano erupts. (Scarth, 1994) An eruption will actually
occur when the magma is subjected to pressure. (Rittman, 1976) The magma begins to rise
and may overflow in the form of lava. It may also begin to move downwards along the sides
of the mountain. Several shapes of volcanoes are found throughout the world.

There are several different types of volcanoes. After reviewing many of them, I decided to
write on three major ones. These consist of the shield volcanoes, strato (composite)
volcanoes, and caldera complex volcanoes. Like the ones you may see in Hawaii, shield
volcanoes are in the shape of wide plateau mounds. The eruption frequency tends to be very
high. These volcanoes have low-explosivity. The lava from

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shield volcanoes is liquid and flows from the crater and the sides of the volcano.
(http://www.volcano.und.nodak.edu) Strato volcanoes, also known as composite volcanoes,
tend to have violent eruptions and have an intermediate eruption style. These flanks
usually are fairly steep and they have layered lava/pyroclastic material.
(http://www.volcano.und.nodak.edu). Caldera complexes are usually the most explosive of
the Earth's volcanoes. They may not look like a volcano, but their eruption style is so
intense that they can end up collapsing on themselves. Yellowstone is probably the most
popular of these in the United States. After giving a basic overview of volcanoes, I feel
ready to speak on Mt. Vesuvius.

Being known as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in history, Mt. Vesuvius has always
been a densely populated and vegetated mountain. It is classified as a complex volcano, so
it is an explosive and very steep strato volcano. Its history begins long before the
famous 79AD eruption. Located on opposite sides on the volcano are the cities of Pompeii
and Herculaneum. Not much is known of Herculaneum; the eruption left the city covered in a
thick sheet of lava. Pompeii, on the other hand, which was smothered in ashes, was not as
difficult to uncover.

Through the uncovering of the ancient city, we find that Pompeii was a thriving tourist
spot. Living rich and lavishly, Pompeiian's enjoyed art and living comfortably. (Morris,
1902) Glorious fountains and statues of gods stood throughout the city. (Morris, 1902)
Pompeii seemed to be a city that may possibly have been blind to its surroundings. It was
said that the area was plagued with earthquakes. Even so, the city was heavily populated.
They must not have known what was in their backyard, or even what was

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lurking around the corner. On August 4, 79 AD Mt. Vesuvius erupted threw up a rush of
smoke, steam, and fire from the volcano's mouth. (Morris,1902) One side of the valley was
blown off, and its rocks, with vast quantities of ashes, burning stones, and sand, were
ejected far into the sky. (Morris, 1902) For the next eight days and nights this went on;
sulfurous vapors filled the air and violent tremors of the earth were constant. In the
end,

about ten feet of tephra, rock fragments produced by volcanic explosion, fell on Pompeii.
(Plummer et al., 2000) The city was abandoned and as tephra fell, became a forgotten
location.

During this chaotic and abrupt explosion a Roman soldier, by the name Pliny, sailed into a
nearby port to try and help some of the people fleeting the volcano. His nephew, Pliny the
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