Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day 97 – Santorini

The following morning, at the break of dawn, we arrived to Santorini. It is one of the geologic wonders of the world, and I could hardly wait to go exploring the island. For those of you geologists, note the caldera wall, the light cream ignimbrite in the top (whose eruption caused the collapse of the current caldera and the demise of the Minoan civilization somewhere around 1500 BC), and older ignimbrite about mid height (there was an older caldera), and intervening sequences of basaltic lava flows. The third picture is a close-up of the most recent ignimbrite; note the abundance of black basalt fragments about 2/3 of the way up, which I interpret as the consequence of the collapse of the caldera as the eruption was underway.

After landing I looked at rocks for a couple of hours, and then headed for Akrotiri, the Minoan capital that was buried under the air-fall tuff and the ignimbrite. Unfortunately I could only see the site from the outside, because the Department of Antiquities chose to make major site improvements just as the tourist crowd is getting to come in! Ah, Greece, Greece.
Sorely disappointed I went to look at the other famous archeologic site of the island, the city of Thera. To get there I had to climb to the top of this mountain, which as your geologic eye will tell you is a folded sequence of limestones and shales (in some instances metamorphosed to calcareous schists and phyllites). So Santorini was a tectonic block, on top of which the volcano developed (note in the middle of the photograph the airf-fall tuff and ignimbrite of 1500 BC).

Huffing and puffing I made it to the top. The views are spectacular, but as classic Greek sites go Thera does not have much to offer. The city was founded centuries after the eruption, and then saw occupation by the classic Greeks, the Romans, and the Byzantines. Cute, but no real compensation for missing Akrotiri.

I spent the afternoon in the north end of the island, hiking around Santorini second largest village, Oia. It is an extremely cute Greek village, which spills like foam over the rim of the caldera down into a little fishermen port. Alas, the folks here have embraced tourism with open arms, and keep their cities sparkling white and baby blue, in every respect living up to the mystic of the Aegean Sea.

Unfortunately I was alone, and there are only so many window shops you can look at, so I decided to start on a walk of the rim of the caldera (foolish me: it was hot and sunny and I had forgotten to bring a hat). The views and the lateral changes in the stratigraphy of the volcanic sequence kept me going for a long time, under the famous “I’ll just see what is over that next hill”, so I walked a good fifth of the rim before snapping out of my folly. Hot and sweaty I got back to the famous black sand beaches of Parissa, dipped my toes in the Agean, and had a thoroughly enjoyable camping night. I had a bit of company, because a dog came to lay by my side, as if welcoming me to his island.

1 comment:

erin said...

What a beautiful day. :o)