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Photographer's Note

SLOPES OF VESUVIUS

Scientists have long known the earth to be a dynamic system with magnetic fields, an extremely dense core of molten metals with a temperature of 6000°C; onion-like layers of strata with different densities; and continents that are rafted on continental plates that collide, separate, and just jostle each other. Some of these collisions can take place over millions of years, creating mountain ranges (and indeed the mighty Himalayan Range, crowned by Mt. Everest, is precisely this type of formation). The Alps are a similar creation of continental collision, as are the Andes of South America. The interfaces between continental plates represent fault lines, area of frequent seismic activity. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions take place along these lines.

Italy, has an unrivaled reputation for its artistic and architectural legacy, but it also has the dubious reputation of having the highest density of volcanoes in the world, and Mount Vesuvius on the outskirts of Naples is the most famous volcano in the world. It rises 1280 meters (4200 ft) above sea level, which in this case is the Bay of Naples, an inlet of the Mediterranean. A very much larger volcanic mountain is known to have existed at this site, and its catastrophic eruption between 300,000-400,000 years ago is known to have created the horseshoe shaped caldera, the bay.

Mt. Vesuvius is the active remnant of that prehistoric mountain. It was the August 24, 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius that gained it eternal notoriety: It buried the cities of Pompeii, Stabiae, and Herculaneum, chronicled by the naturalist Pliny the Elder, whose account was reported by his nephew, the historian Pliny the Younger. But evidence exists of approximately fifty eruptions since the defining eruption of 79 AD, which had been. During the first millennium AD, serious eruptions were reported to have averaged once per century. Then in the mid 11th century, the volcano is known to have become dormant for about six centuries, waking up and becoming beligerent again in the 17th century. Major eruptions of Vesuvius are known to have taken place in 472 AD, when volcanic ash was recorded as having fallen on Constantinople (modern Istanbul) hundreds of kilometers away. The 1631 eruption killed close to 4,000 people and destroyed the villages/towns located on the slopes of Vesuvius. The last time Vesuvius erupted was during WW II (1944). In 1841 on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius construction for the Osservatorio Vesuviano began. The Observatory officially opened in 1845 making it the oldest scientific institution devoted to studying volcanoes.

On August 3, 2005 the cruise ship, Crystal Serenity, on which I had been giving lectures, anchored off the coast of Sorrento in the Bay of Naples. I had seen Pompeii several times in the past, and Herculaneum just once before. This time, together with close friends, I took a train to Naples and walked the 1-km distance from the train station to see the ruins of Herculaneum. (Just two months ago I posted a photograph at TE, entitled, House of the Gem.

After returning to the train station from Herculaneum, we hired a taxi to take us to the parking area near the summit of Mt. Vesuvius. A 30-minute hike by foot is required to reach the summit and walk around the crescent-shaped footpath around the rim. The yawning crater, is the source of noxious vapors (when it is peaceful) and explosive lava, when it is not. The views from the summit, comparable to those from the top of 400-story high building, are nothing short of spectacular, especially on a clear day.

The present photo is a hand-held shot with a 4.4 MegaPixel Fuji 4700. The view reveals the slope of the mountain very near the peak, as well as the suburbs of Naples and the Bay of Naples.

In submitting it to TrekEarth, I cropped the image (excluding the frame) into an aspect ratio of 1.618-to-1.0 (800 x 494 pixels). It has long been known in art that this ratio defines the “golden rectangle,” that appeals to our aesthetic sensibilities more than any other shape. It is the shape of the west façade of the Parthenon and many other gems of world art and architecture. Artists appear to pick it up as subliminal messages from nature — from branches of trees, spirals in flowers, horns of rams, and myriad other creations.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5933 W: 454 N: 10199] (34109)
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