I'm kind of obsessed with Pompeii. Have been for, oh, 20 years or so. Ever since we moved to Washington when I was 10 years old and we were inundated with Mount St. Helens eruption stories. Fascinating stuff man! We left our airbnb apartment early in the AM and somehow found the random camping parking lot our friends told us about, filled with orange trees that smelled nice. Only 15 minutes away!
To quote the preface on page 210 of Pompeii by Robert Harris, which was taken from "Dynamics of Volcanism": The surface of the volcano ruptured shortly after noon allowing explosive decompression of the main magma body. The exit velocity of the magma was approximately 895 mph (Mach 1). Convection carried the incandescent gas and pumice to a height of 17 miles. The thermal energy released during the AD 79 eruption would have been roughly 100 times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
Can you believe that??? The magma flew out at 895 mph - 17 miles high! Snap! I bet people thought it was the end of the world. That's what I would have been thinking. Pompeii got the worst of it because the wind was blowing in that direction.
Volcanoes were such a foreign, unheard of phenomenon that there weren't words to describe what was happening. Luckily a man by the name of Pliny wrote down as best he could the events as they unfolded - he actually died doing so because he got too close. Here are some artists paintings of the "manifestation" as Pliny called it:
Here's what Mt. Vesuvius and the surrounding area looks like today from satellite:
It's like a big pimple just waiting to be popped!
Every once in awhile Mt. Vesuvius gives people a scare and threatens to erupt again. Scientists say volcanoes like Mt. Vesuvius erupt every 2000 years. That means it's set to go off again any time now. Do the 3.5 million people living around the disaster waiting to happen know that?
Until recently it was thought everyone in Pompeii died from suffocation. But now it's believed that everyone burned up instantly from 482 degrees surges from the volcano. Men, women, children, and animals alike remain in the exact placement as they were when they died, as we would soon see.
We passed by the the modern cafeteria - we ate lunch there later.
The kids posing as Chris ponders the wisdom of Rick Steves.
We were starving so we headed back to the cafe and I got some legit Neapolitan pizza: chewy crust, sauce, big chunks of fresh mozzarella, basil, tomato, and olive oil. D-lish.
You could spend days exploring this site. Three-quarters of Pompeii's 164 acres have been excavated and Rick's walk only took us through about a third of it. We loved what we saw!
Herculaneum it is!
Smaller, less crowded, and not as ruined as it's famous big sister, Herculaneum offers a closer, more intimate peek into ancient Roman life. While it may lack the grandeur of Pompeii, it is definitely worth a stop if you are in the area.
Caked and baked by the same A.D. 79 eruption that pummeled Pompeii, Herculaneum is a small community of intact buildings right in the heart of the modern city of Ercolano. The city was buried under nearly 60 feet of super-heated ash which hardened into tuff, perfectly preserving the city until excavations began in 1748. You can see just how much material piled up comparing the ruins to modern street level.
Original art and mosaics.
The inside of the Seat of the Augustali is decorated with frescoes of Hercules (for whom this city was named). It was a forum for freed slaves climbing their way up the ladder of Roman society.
Original wine racks.
Never seen a tree like this before!
While Chris waited up on street level, I booked it down to what was formerly Herculaneum's beach. Archaeologists used to wonder why so few victims were found in Herculaneum. But, during excavations in 1981, hundreds of skeletons were discovered here between the wall of volcanic stone and the city. Some of Herculaneum's 4,000 citizens tried to escape by sea, but were overtaken by the pyroclastic flows. So sad.
Pretty much an awesome day. LOVED finally seeing Pompeii in real life.