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Vesuvius and Naples


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Naples and vicinity

 

James A. Mallonee

 

There is a major fault zone that runs along the Italian Peninsula. One of the places it is most felt is near the major city of Naples or Napoli. This area has been settled since ancient times, and has been devastated since ancient times as well. The town of Naples is litterally built on ring after ring of craters and caldera left from "extinct" volcano. The former city of Herculanium is "inside" the modern city of Naples, and Pompei is a few minutes drive up the mountain from the city. The primary volcanic rock in this area is rhyolite.

Chemically the same as granite, rhyolite is the erupted form of the material. Rhyolite volcanos, according to the various works I have consulted, often erupt very violently. When St. Helens blew up, it was a rhyolite explosion. These explosions are often accompanied by clouds of volcanic ash.

My acquaintance with this area comes from being stationed 5 hours away. A group of us got together and went to a camp ground kept in Naples for US and NATO troops. This campground is in the caldera of one of those "extinct" volcanos. The floor of the caldera is relatively flat, however the sides are in places quite steep, with masses of rhyolite and pumice in places. On the rim of the caldera there is a church built exclusively from volcanic rock, there are also the ruins of several other buildings in the area dating from about the 12th Century. I of course wandered up and down the length of the place and climbed the sides more than once. Since I am a native of the State of Washington, and watched Mount St. Helens dump volcanic ash over most of the Western States as well as blow a couple thousand feet off the top, I did not sleep well the first night there. The next morning when I smelled the sulfur in the air, was also not at all quieting. After I reached the rim of the caldera and viewed the rest of Naples, the wonderful ring bay, the little volcanic islands off the coast a mile or so, the interesting ROUND lakes and holes dotting the landscape, I was ready to leave.

Naples is an interesting place, it is all right to visit, even to vacation there, but thank God I don't live there. Vesuvius is definitely not an extinct volcano, and considering its past history, it should not be ignored.

James Mallonee