This is a drawing of the 1631 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of: Dr. Boris Behncke. Artist: Giovan Batista Passaro This account of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was modified from the Vesuvio website.

1631 Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

On 16 December 1631 between 6:00 and 7:00 am an unexpected eruption began. Darkness fell over the entire area around the volcano, and there were continuous earthquakes. During the night of 16-17 December, earthquakes occurred every 1-15 minutes.

At about 2:00 am on 17 December, a heavy rainfall began which mobilized fallen ash to form lahars.

At about 11:00 am on the 17th, after a strong and continuous series of earthquakes, a large mass of ash, gas and stones shot out of the crater and spilled down on all sides of the erupting cone, covering it almost completely. Reports at the time speak of the apparent disintegration, or liquefaction, of the mountain. The swift movement of the material resembled the flow of water. The flowing ash sped downward along the main valleys, destroying all vegetation and buildings in it's path and killing all living beings it's way. Some 10 minutes later, a tsunami with runup heights of 2-5 yards hit the shores.

After 6:00 pm on17 December, there was a marked decrease in the strength of the activity. Further activity continued, but with declining intensity for the next several days.

When the main phase of the eruption was over, at least 3000 and maybe up to 6000 people were dead. In a daring manoeuvre, rescue teams saved thousands of survivors on 19 December who had been lucky to stay in areas spared by the flowing ash.


Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Volcanic Ash

Ash is made of millions of tiny fragments of rock and glass formed during a volcanic eruption. Volcanic ash particles are less than 2 mm in size and can be much smaller. Volcanic ash forms in several ways...more

Cinder Cones

Cinder cones are simple volcanoes which have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit and only grow to about a thousand feet, the size of a hill. They usually are created of eruptions from a single opening,...more

Flowing Lava

Lava can move in broad flat lava flows, or it can move through tight channels or tubes. Lava flows tend to cool quickly and flow slowly. The fastest lava outside of channels moves at about 6 mi/hr an easy...more

How Do Plates Move?

Plates at our planetís surface move because of the intense heat in the Earthís core that causes molten rock in the mantle layer to move. It moves in a pattern called a convection cell that forms when...more

Clues to Plate Movements

Many kinds of surface features are clues that our lithosphere is sliding. Two types of features can form when plates move apart. At mid ocean ridges, the bottom of the sea splits apart and new crust is...more

Magma Chamber

Magma consists of remelted material from Earth's crust and fresh material from other regions near the Earth's surface. When magma is erupted onto the surface in the form of lava, it becomes silicate rock....more

Mid-Ocean Spreading Ridge

As the Earth cools, hot material from the deep interior rises to the surface. Hot material is depicted in red in this drawing, under an ocean shown in blue green. The hotter material elevates the nearby...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA