Facts about Pompeii
Facts about Pompeii
* The inhabitants of Pompeii did not know that Vesuvius was a volcano, as it hadn’t erupted in 1,800 years. There isn’t even a Latin word for volcano.
* The longer a volcano sleeps the more deadly the eruption. There were signs that Vesuvius was beginning to stir – earthquakes, ground rising up and underground spring drying up – but the people didn’t know how to read these signs or understand what they meant.
* A reservoir of boiling magma some three kilometres wide formed within Vesuvius, trapped inside by a plug of old magma. Chemical reaction involving water and gases finally shattered the lava plug and Vesuvius roared back to life.
* The eruption of AD 79 was very unusual, without lava or other characteristics normally associated with volcanoes. It was a Plinian eruption – the most dangerous and feared kind of all – involving super-heated gas, magma and ash that form a giant towering column that builds up into the sky. The magma cools and falls to the earth as pumice. Vesuvius erupts in this way once in every 2,000 years.
* Mixed in with the pumice stones were lithic – cold dense rocks torn from inside the volcano and carried up into the atmosphere only to fall back to earth as deadly missiles traveling at speeds reaching 180 kilometres per hour. At the peak of the eruption, a staggering 100,000 tons of magma, ash and gas was released from the volcano every second, traveling upwards at the speed of a jet plane to reach 33 kilometres in height – that’s 3.5 times the height of Everest.
* From beginning to end, the eruption took just under 24 hours.
* Had the eruption taken place on any other day, the people of Pompeii might have stood a better chance of escape. Usually the wind blew in a south-westerly direction, which would have blown the column out over the Bay of Naples. But on that fateful day, the wind was blowing in a north-westerly direction – straight over Pompeii.