- Mount Vesuvius
In ancient times, one of the most devastating eruptions in history completely annihilated the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. At 4,190 feet tall with a circumference of 30 miles, Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano on the mainland of Europe, towers over the plain of Campania in Italy.
On August 24, 79 A.D., Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger were commanding the Roman fleet at Misenum when they noticed the area around Mount Vesuvius began to shake violently. The mountain's top split open as an enormous cloud of smoke emerged from Vesuvius. Pliny the Elder decided to get a closer look, noticing thick showers of hot cinders, falling lumps of pumice, and burning pieces of black, molten rock. Vast fragments rolled down the mountain and gathered in heaps upon the shore, while flames violently sparked from several parts of the mountain. A river of mud was beginning to bury the city of Herculaneum. The accumulation of stone and ash engulfed both cities. The noxious vapor suffocated any remaining survivors. Today, the ruins of both Herculaneum and Pompeii are preserved in the hardened lava from the volcano.
Herculaneum, several centuries later.
- Mount St. Helens
Mount St. Helen is one of the most infamous modern day composite volcanoes. On May 18th, 1980, days after volcanologists noticed an unusual swelling on the side of the mountain, an immense eruption occurred, removing 1300 feet of its summit and triggering a massive landslide. A second great explosion ejected 500 million tons of ash, reaching 16 miles into the Earth's atmosphere. This amazing eruption caused temperatures exceeding 800 degrees Fahrenheit, annihilating wildlife and completely obliterating homes and roadways.
Mount St. Helens' explosion, emersing nearby regions with its ash.