Saturday, October 10, 2009

The national geological park of Nea Kameni

The islet of Nea Kameni - the Volcanio - you are visiting is an unparalleled testament to beauty, a site of major scientific interest and a protected natural monument. The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has declared it and the rest of the Santorini island group a "historical site of exceptional natural beauty". The Palea and Nea Kameni islets and the caldera area have also been nominated for a place on the World Heritage list of geological monuments. The Municipality of Thera is now responsible for protecting and managing this site.

The unique nature and significance of this area lies in the fact that it is the youngest volcanic platform in the eastern Mediteranean. It is an active volcanic centre, its oldest rock formations dating back 430 years and its most recent a mere 50 years. The landscape's uneartly natural beauty is not the only remarkable thing - the site is also unique from a scientific perspective: The fact that the islet was born and gradually formed through volcanic eruptions spanning 430 years, in six different volcanic events, makes it possible to study a number of extraordinary geological, volcanic and biological phenomena and process in a balanced geo - ecosystem undisturbed by human activity.

The creation of the Palea and Nea Kameni islets.
The island group of Santorini - Thira, Thirasia and Aspronisi - is what was left from the last major eruption 3.600 years ago. The volcuno erupted at a time when the island was inhabited by a prosperous civilisation similar to that on Minoan Crete. The island inhabited during the late Bronze Age (and named Strongyli - meaning "rounded" - by geologists) formed a solid mass from Faros and Aspronisi, the sea flowed into the inner caldera at whose center the peak of an underwater volcano similar to that of taday's Palea and Nea Kameni jutted out ...

From time to time, the viscous magma that remained in the bowels of the earth after the destructive eruption of 1630 BC welled up at the centre of the huge caldera formed during the eruption. It poured out sluggishly at regular intervals, adding layer upon layer to form the Palea and Nea Kameni. Between 1600 BC and 197 BC a series of periodic submarine effusions led to the creation of a large ubderwater volcsno whose peaks are the Palea and Nea Kameni islets. The first emergence of an island frm the sea was documented in 197 BC by the great Greek geographer Strabo.

Eight more eruptions have been documented from then till today (46 - 47 AD. 726 AD, 1570 - 1573, 1707 - 1711, 1866 - 1870, 1925 - 1928, 1939 - 1941, 1950), which formed the Palea and Nea Kameni islets, the youngest landform in the eastern Mediterranean. All these eruptions were mild and did not cause serious problems for the island's inhabitants.

The volcano today
After the last eruption of Nea Kameni in 1950, the Santorini volcano remains dormant till today. The only witnesses to the existence of the magma at the depth of a few kilometres under the island are the hot springs that gush out at various parts of the shores and the hot gases (water vapour, carbon doxide and traces of other gases) tghat are emitted from the fumaroles of the central craters on the peak of Nea Kameni.

No long term predictions can be made as to when the next eruption will take place. To the contrary, a short term forecast as to the volcano's reactivation can be made in a period of a few months to a year prior to the eruption. The island's Volcano Observatory, which is part of the Institute for the Study and Monitoring of the Santorini Volcano, continuously monitors the volcano with a series of monotoring networks (seismic, ground deformation, geophysical, geochemical, etc)

All measurements recorded in the last years by the monitoring networks had no drastic changes, a fwct which implies that the Santorini volcano continues to be dormant.

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