Friday, 23 August 2013

Cruise of the Caldera

Yesterday afternoon, we took a cruise by traditional boat of the Caldera.  The Caldera is all of the water area to the western side of the island of Santorini, including the volcano, and the islands of Aspronisi and Thirasia.  Basically, it's the crater caused by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in 1644 BC.  All of the above was once a single, circular island.  Look at a map, and imagine it.  I'm told that that volcanic eruption had 10 times the force of the 1883 event at Krakatoa.  Volcanic ash went as far as California.  Krakatoa's subsequent tsunami was 30 metres high.  The tsunami generated here was 200 metres high, and it reached the island of Crete in 20 minutes.

When that event occurred here, the Mediterranean flooded in, creating the crescent-shaped Santorini that we know today.  But the sea drowned the volcano.  Then, in 1570 AD, another massive eruption brought the volcano above the sea surface.  While further eruptions are always expected, it is not known whether an event of biblical proportions could occur again.

The first stop on our cruise was the volcano.  With good walking shoes on, we trudged up the volcanic rocky path to the furthest point, which took some time.  At intervals, the young multi-lingual 'escort' ('guides' have to be registered with the government) spoke of eruptions here over the years.  One little crater was caused by an eruption in 1926.  Another in 1939.  In fact, two craters are now inactive, while one remains active.  Imagine, a few small craters within one massive one (the Caldera).  The escort's commentary was welcome too, an opportunity to rest.  At one point, the escort dug a hole, allowing steam to emerge.  She asked us to put our hand in there.  It was amazingly hot, and, therefore, a bit unnerving.  Regarding the legendary lost city of Atlantis, the escort believed it was located near the island's town of Akrotiri, based on the writings of Plato.

All around us was quite a spectacle.  I think the escort said that differences in colour of the volcano's landscape reflect time passed between eruptions.  Rocks, huge boulders, created by volcanoes are fascinatingly black, looking like they've been dipped in crude oil or something similar, and now dry.  The rocky deposits laid down in various parts of Santorini are also intriguing.  Yesterday morning, we had visited the town of Oia, and noticed, along the way, that the rocky landscape was intermittently red, white, and black, mirroring this island's volcanic history.

Afterwards, we went for a quick swim in the hot springs, which weren't too hot, near Asporini.  I loved the swim, but Jean wasn't such a fan.  Back on deck, we dried off and had dinner, consisting of Greek salad, pork served in orange sauce, tzatziki, and rice.  It was washed down with local Santorini white wine.  The boat sailed to beyond the town of Oia, perched high above us on the cliff top, and resembling, as so many Santorini towns do, snow atop a mountain.  We had sailed to a spot where we could watch the sunset over the sea, and you could see, high above, the many people in Oia gathered together by the cliff edge to do the same.

After the sun sank into the Mediterranean, we sailed back to the Old Port of Fira.  We had descended the steep cliff face earlier by cable car, but now chose an ascent by donkey.  It was quite an experience, and you can read about it in another blog post.

The Old Port of Fira
On the volcano, trudging the rocky path
A scene on the volcano
Our escort digs a hole so we can experience the heat levels beneath the surface
One of the craters on the volcano
The active crater with Santorini behind
Rocks on the right are jet-black
The town of Oia, seen from the Caldera
Our boat
Another traditional boat like ours witnesses the sunset, a ritual on Santorini.

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