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.

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