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Santorini ….where Volcanoes do matter

Santorini is perhaps one of the best known volcanoes in the Mediterranean Sea and has been the site of numerous large scale explosive eruptions during the last 360,000 years. The Minoan eruption of Santorini (Thera) volcano in the late Bronze Age, ca. 1600 BC, is one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the history of humanity. This provoked the interest of geologists, historians and archaeologists, mainly due to the impact of the region, precipitated the flourishing Bronze Age civilization of Akrotiri and forced the Minoan civilization in a rapid decline.

 

The legend of Atlantis

There are many similarities between Santorini and Plato's description of Atlantis  (Kritias and Timaeus, 427-347 BC). However there are also many differences and the story of Atlantis still remains as the oldest legend of the mankind’s lost paradise.

 

The geodynamic regime

The Santorini caldera's volcanism is part of a larger tectonic/volcanic complex that trends generally from the southwest to northeast over a distance of 45 km, including the islands of Christiana,  and the submarine volcanic domes east of them and numerous submarine volcanoes in the NE of Santorini in Anhydros basin. (map)

 

Undersea Volcanoes & Scientific Data

Subsea explorations of the Santorini caldera have provided important insights into its eruptive processes and hazards. These studies complement the extensive land-based research and provide a more integrated view of this complicated geodynamic environment. A survey transect near the town of Fira (Thira’s capital) discovered a minor crater with shimmering water 25o C above temperature ambient. The exact source of the venting could not, however, be precisely located. Recent surveys at Santorini vent field conducted by scientists using subsequent human occupied submersible dives (ΤΗETIS-HCMR) and ROV dives at the northern part of the caldera, discovered evidence of hydrothermal activity extending along the steep caldera wall. These volcanic features expand the previously known areas of active venting and are chemically similar to other new discoveries within the Kolumbo volcano.

 

Kolumbo is an elongated submarine volcano situated 7 km northeast of Santorini, part of the whole tectonic/volcanic complex. Its 1.7 km diameter crater rises to within 18 meters of the surface and is the largest of the submarine volcanic cones that extend into the Anhydros basin. In 1650 AD Kolumbo erupted explosively; its toxic gases caused numerous instances of permanent blindness and approximately 70 fatalities on Santorini. Destructive tsunamis were also produced during the eruption carrying away livestock, destroying buildings, and eroding over 2 kmοf the eastern Santorini coastline.

 

Nowadays ROV explorations of the crater wall revealed layers composed of stratified pumice deposits created during the 1650 AD eruption. Ex-situ geochemical analysis of pumice samples by XRF and electron microprobe indicate that the event produced relatively uniform gas-rich rhyolite magma that was erupted at a temperature of ~750o C. Several massive sulfide chimneys, up to four meters high, discharge both fluids up to 220o C and gases (99% CO2) on the northern part of Kolumbo’s crater floor. Mineralogical and chemical analyses of vent samples showed high enrichment in the epithermal suite of elements (Gold, Silver) compared to average crust. Preliminary studies of microbial diversity on hydrothermal vents have revealed a large number of bacterial and archaeal sequences.

 

Past and Present

Santorini is an active volcano itself. This volcano is the genesis, the past and the present of the island and the life on it.

The unique beauty of Santorini is based on its geological history.

The flora and the local products are unique because of its special volcanic soil.

The life on Santorini is a travel in time.