This might come across as silly, but before tonight I never really understood just how bad the destruction of the city of Pompeii was in AD 79. I mean, I've been to its ruins in Italy, and I understood in an abstract term the details. But never had I seen the volcanic apocalypse laid out quite like this.
(Also, you'll forgive me if I post this here on Oppo, but it's something I wanted to share with people and it's not really standard Jalop-faire. So who better than all you guys? What can I say, the bloggin's in the blood.
It's not like I'm completely ignorant when it comes to volcanoes. From building the vinegar-and-baking-soda models in the early years of elementary school, to ravenously devouring any encyclopedia, to studying geology and physical geography in both high school and college, I'd learned quite a bit about them. I could tell you about magma chambers, pyroclastic flows, ash plumes, wild volcanic lightning, I could tell you about the difference between shield volcanoes and cone volcanoes.
Okay, so I didn't earn an A+ in all those classes I'd took, so I could be off on some things. I'd known that the biggest one ever recorded, at Krakatoa, killed a lot of people, but I couldn't rattle off the top of my head just how many. I knew that it was noxious poisonous gasses that killed a lot of the people, in addition to the searing heat and ash, but I couldn't tell you which was more deadly.
I knew about Pompeii, too, from a lot of the same reading and a few history classes. I knew it was destroyed in AD 79, and I knew that it was the only Roman city destroyed, but so was another town, called Herculaneum. I knew that the aforementioned pyroclastic flows killed a lot of people, but I didn't know how many. I knew that when people died, choked and smothered by the ashes, their bodies often turned to dust in the ensuing years, leaving empty cavities in the positions they'd occupied.
I'd been there, too, when I was 13, and I saw the tacky art the Pompeiians left behind.
But all of those ideas remained mostly abstract concepts, as I'd never actually seen what the complete ruin of a city could look like in just one rotation of the Earth.
So this short video from the Melbourne Museum really puts the wrath of Mount Vesuvius in perspective. It shows just how quickly a beautiful summer's day turned into a scene from Dante's Inferno, and with just how much speed the volcano laid waste to the lives of over 15,000 people.
As the video concludes:
Pompeii had been completely buried. Within a few years, no one could remember where the city had once stood.