Welcome To September

Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Septembre
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

September is the ninth month on the Gregorian and Julian calendars. On the old Roman calendar, September was the seventh month since their calendar started in March. When the calendar was revised to add January and February, the name Septem (meaning seven) remained. In the Northern Hemisphere, September is when autumn begins but in the southern half it is the first month of spring.

September is traditionally the start of the academic year for most schools, though some do start in late August. The Eastern Orthodox Church starts its liturgical year in September. The Autumnal Equinox takes place between September 22-24 and marks astronomically the first day of autumn. The first full moon of September is often called a Harvest Moon since many farmers begin harvesting crops that are harvested in the fall.

Morning glory flower (Ipomoea nil)
Photo: Public Domain

While daytime temperatures can remain warm during September, generally the nights start getting cooler and the sun starts setting much earlier. And generally, the sun starts come up later in the morning resulting in people going to work when it is still dark. The birthstone for September is the sapphire (represents clear thinking) The September flowers are the forget-me-not, morning glory, and the aster.

 

Great Fire of London (2-6 Sept 1666)

The Great Fire of London in 1666 would decimate London, result in its rebuilding, and changes in how buildings and streets were laid out in the city. Let’s find out more about it.

The Great Fire of London by anonymous 1675
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

In 1666, London was a huge city and the capital of Britain. While many of the important homes and buildings were often made of stone, most homes and buildings were made of oak and often used tar to weatherproof them. Streets were also narrow with buildings close together making it hard for people and carts to move about on narrow streets. Sanitation was also poor since many people tossed their garbage-and chamber pots-into the street. The modern toilet had not been invented so most bodily waste went into these pots. Add to it horse manure on the streets, and most cities like London had some unpleasant odors especially in summertime.

Firefighting was also different back then. It comprised mainly of local bucket brigades and primitive water pumps on trucks. Since fire was considered a serious threat, people were told to be vigilant and make sure their homes were safe. However, as it turns out, people were not always so careful. On the evening of 1 September 1666 Thomas Farrinor, a baker employed by King Charles II on Pudding Lane, went to bed not making sure that the fire is his oven was properly extinguished. Sometime during the night sparks from the dying embers in the oven ignited firewood lying nearby. Not long after the house would soon become engulfed in flames. Farrinor and his family would flee and survive the fire. Sadly, a maid in the home did not survive as she did not want to jump out of the window.

Sparks from the fire would spread across the street to the Star Inn. It ignited the straw in the stables along with other combustibles and soon the inn was ablaze. The fire would spread from there to Thames Street. Warehouses on the riverfront would soon ignite as well. Full of candles, lamp oil, tallow and coal, the fire would grow larger and begin to spread. The local fire brigade was quickly overwhelmed and had to retreat. The primitive water fighting trucks of the time could barely navigate the streets. Panic ensued as people raced to the Thames with everything they owned. Attempts at using firebreaks by tearing down homes and buildings was tried but the fire overwhelmed them. The fire got so bright it could be seen 30 miles away. Finally on 5 September it started dying out and on the next day it was put out. There was one flare up in the Temple district but when a building containing gunpowder blew up with a powerful bang, the last remnants of the fire was over.

Four-fifths of London was destroyed and remarkably only 16 died. But 100,000 were homeless. The fire burned down the historic St. Paul’s Cathedral along with scores of other churches, buildings, and historic landmarks. King Charles II had a massive task to rebuild the city. He commissioned noted architect Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild St. Paul’s which still stands to this day. New homes and buildings had to be built with bricks and stones; wood was not allowed. And walls had to be thicker and buildings not so close together. Also, streets were widened and the old narrow streets and alleys banned. Access to the river was made easier as well by restricting housing that would block access. The homeless were suggested to go to other cities, towns, and villages outside of London to resettle. Economically it would take many years for London to recover. Most businesses had lost their premises and whatever goods were stored. The commercial district lost a lot of its businesses as they relocated elsewhere. London’s access to shipping routes and that it was the capital kept the city from completely losing its place in the world.

One of the more disturbing aftereffects was the strong anti-Catholic and anti-foreign sentiment that emerged. While most reasoned after studying how the fire began it was an accident, there were many who believed Catholics, Dutch, and French were involved. Opponents of pro- Catholic King Charles II made it an issue. That is why in the Monument that was put up in 1670’s had an inscription on it blaming the disaster on the “treachery and malice of the Popish faction.” This was removed in 1830 but at one time practicing Catholicism in England was forbidden and those who refused to recognize the sovereignty of the monarch over the Pope would be executed usually by the horrific method of being hung, drawn, and quartered.

Sadly, the rebuilding scheme did not reshape London as it was originally hoped. They kept pretty much the old layout. Had some of the plans suggested, such as Wren’s, London would have rivaled Paris. Insurance companies were born out of this disaster to help aid those who lost homes or buildings to fire. They began to hire private firemen and to promote safety measures with their clients. This did lead to conflicts with local fire brigades and the private firemen hired by these insurance companies. Ultimately it led a combined fire unit called the London Fire Brigade in 1832, which began the process of permanent fire departments being established to put out fires.

As for the man who started the fire, Thomas Farriner, he would rebuild his shop on Pudding Lane and continue baking until he passed away in 1670. Members of the Worshipful Company of Bakers in 1986 apologized for the fire and put up a plaque on Pudding Lane that one of their own had caused the Great Fire of 1666.

Sources:

Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day Postage Stamp (1956)
United States Post Office
Public Domain

Labor Day is a U.S. federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September. It became a federal holiday in 1894 to celebrate workers and their achievements. It has also become the unofficial end of summer as schools have reopened and summer vacations have ended. As a federal holiday, all federal offices are closed as are banks and the stock market. All states celebrate it as well so state, county, and city offices are closed as well. Nearly all professional offices are closed and most construction workers have the day off as well. Retail and fast food employees do not get the day off except in areas where due to the holiday they get virtually no business.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Have a nice Labor Day everyone!

Remembering History: Hitler Invades Poland (1939); Japan Surrenders Ending World War II (1945)

Hitler attends a Wehrmacht victory parade in Warsaw on 5 October 1939
Public Domain

On 1 September 1939, German forces using the pretext they were acting in self-defense against Poland, invaded. The German infantry was not fully mechanized but had Panzers and fast-moving artillery that included truck mounted artillery. The German strategy was to quickly concentrate forces and encircle an enemy quickly. Thanks to the relatively flat terrain of Poland, it made it easy to move mobile infantry about. The invasion came one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact on 23 August. This non-aggression pact meant neither side could assist the enemy of the other. A secret protocol to the agreement defined German and Soviet spheres in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. This protocol would not be proved until the Nuremberg Trials. So, when Germany invaded, Poland was already split with defined borders between the two countries. With this pact, Poland signed defense agreements with Britain and France. Talks between those powers and Germany did take place and the invasion was held up until they were concluded. Hitler did not believe they would declare war, and if they did would be willing to compromise after the invasion of Poland. Germany wanted the restoration of Danzig (in Polish Gdansk) as a free city (it had a large German population), the Polish Corridor, and the safeguarding of Germans in Poland. Germany demanded that a Polish representative with the power to sign such an agreement be present. The British, remembering what happened before when Czechoslovakia was forced to capitulate to the Germans, did not like that demand. When the Polish representative met with Ribbentrop on 31 Aug, he was dismissed when he had no power to sign. The Germans then claimed that Poland had rejected their demands and Hitler ordered the invasion for 1 September. The Germans were better prepared for war than the Polish. They had higher numbers of troops and had air superiority. Poland had older fighters while the bombers were more modern. They waited too late to upgrade so newer fighters and bombers would not be there when the Germany invaded. Poland had two armor brigades and its 7TP light tank was better armed than the German Panzer. But they only had 140 of those and 88 tanks they imported from Britain and France. The Polish Navy was a small fleet with destroyers, submarines and support vessels. Most of the surface vessels escaped and joined the British Royal Navy. Submarines did engage German shipping in the Baltic Sea but it was not successful. Polish merchant ships that did escape or elsewhere would join the allies and take part in wartime convoys. By 3 October both German and Soviet forces had secured their spheres ending the Second Polish Republic. Both German and Soviet governments quickly took control of their territories, organizing and annexing, and setting up regional controls. Government and military leaders who did escape would form a military force in support of the Polish government-in-exile. In response to the invasion of Poland, Britain and France formally declared war on Germany on 3 September but little else (France did invade the Saar but quickly withdrew). ==

Japan Surrenders

Surrender of Japan, Tokyo Bay, 2 September 1945: Representatives of the Empire of Japan on board USS Missouri (BB-63) during the surrender ceremonies.
Army Signal Corps, Public Domain

On the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese formally surrendered ending World War II. By this time Japan was no longer the military power it once was. The Battle of Midway in June 1942 had been the turning point when four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk. Since then Japanese control over its captured territories were pushed back under massive effort of U.S. and Allied forces. By the summer of 1945, and with the capture of Okinawa, Japan was being blockaded and being bombed often. Plans for the invasion of Japan had been drawn up. After the bloody experience of capturing territory such as on Iwa Jima, it was expected to be a difficult invasion that would cost a lot of allied lives. However, the dropping of two atomic weapons on Japan in August on Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed things dramatically. Members of the Japanese War Council and Emperor Hirohito favored accepting the peace terms; some objected and acted to stop a surrender. On 15 Aug a coup was attempted against Prime Minister Suzuki, but it was crushed. At noon that day, and for the first time in Japanese history, Emperor Hirohito addressed the nation by radio. “We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable.” The US and the allies accepted the surrender.

 

 

Titanic Wreck Found (1 Sept 1985)

Titanic Leaving Queenstown 11 April 1912. Believed to be the last photograph of ship before it sank.
Public Domain

On the early morning of 1 Sept 1985, the wreck of the RMS Titanic was found 400 miles east of Newfoundland in North Atlantic by a joint U.S.-French expedition. The liner lay 13,000 feet below the surface of the ocean and its finding would excite the world that continues to this day.

Ever since Titanic sank in 1912, there have been many attempts in locating the wreck. However the depth of the ocean, the vastness of the search area, and technological limitations made that impossible. Robert Ballard, a former Naval officer and oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts had tried in 1977 without success. In 1985, Ballard along with French oceanographer Jean-Louis Michel, decided to set out in search of the wreck using more sophisticated technology to help locate the wreck.

This time they were equipped with more sophisticated technology to aid them in seeing what was on the ocean floor. The Argo, an unmanned and experimental submersible sent photographs up to the research vessel Knorr.  And on the morning of 1 September, while investigating debris on the ocean floor, it passed over a massive boiler that came from Titanic. The following day the wreck of the ship was found and that it had split in two with a debris field between the stern and forward sections, The ship and much of the debris was in good shape despite being down there since 1912. The discovery electrified the world and confirmed (but was discounted in the British enquiry) that Titanic had split in two. Unmanned submersibles were sent down to look at the wreck giving us the first look at the ship in its watery grave. The images are just as haunting today as they were back then.

The use of the submersibles for this type of deep diving to wrecks opened up a new world of exploring shipwrecks outside of the normal diving depth humans could endure. Ultimately manned submersibles would be developed to allow researchers to slowly descend to those great depths and study the wreck of Titanic and other ships as well. While genuine controversy exists over the later salvage of Titanic (Ballard was not part of that and opposed it), the discovery of the wreck and the technology used to find it has opened up new worlds in seeing the fascinating world in our oceans.

Sources


Remembering Canada’s Titanic, Cruise Ships Sunk Harland & Wolff Financial Troubles

RMS Empress of Ireland 1908
Photo:Public Domain (Library and Archives Canada / PA-116389)

Remembering Canada’s Own Titanic-Like Maritime Disaster (TVO today, 15 Aug 2022)

I’m also willing to bet that almost none of you knows that two years later, on May 29, 1914, a similar passenger ship called the Empress of Ireland suffered a similar fate in the St. Lawrence River, in Canada, causing the deaths of nearly 1,000 souls.  Why are we so familiar with one tale, while we know next to nothing about the other? Maybe because Titanic was on its maiden voyage, and the Empress had nearly 200 missions to its credit. But I can spend the next several paragraphs trying to rectify the situation.

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Costa Concordia, 12 Feb 2012
Horacio Arevalo via Wikimedia Commons
The Costa Concordia was righted, re-floated, and sent to Genoa where it was scrapped. All that remains are the surviving lifeboats now on other vessels. The area it sank had to cleaned up to prevent environmental damage.

How Many Cruise Ships Have Sunk? (Cruise Mummy, 15 Aug 2022)

Within the last 100 years, only 10 cruise ships have sunk, if you include river cruises. Almost 900 people have died in these incidents but around half of those can be attributed to one river cruise ship sinking. Many of the incidents involved no loss of life at all. Arguably the most famous cruise ship sinking in the last 100 years is that of the Costa Concordia. She sank in 2012 and is the only modern major ocean cruise ship serving passengers from around the world to have sunk during a cruise.

(I suspect they will get lots of email on this-MT)

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Harland & Wolff David and Goliath crane in Belfast, 2006
Plastic Jesus (Dave) via Wikimedia Commons

Harland & Wolff Reports £25.5m Loss As Expenses From Growth Swell (MSN, 16 Aug 2022)

Shipbuilder Harland and Wolff has reported a widened pre-tax loss of £25.5m as expenses swelled during its Covid-19 recovery. It added that it had £20m in future contracted revenue. More recently, outside of the reported period, Harland and Wolff has struck two deals – worth £8.5m and £10m – with waste management company Cory Group and its subsidiary Riverside Energy Park to build barges for transporting waste on the River Thames. Bosses said the company had made an operating loss of £22.3m (up from £9.1m in July 2020). Chief executive John Wood said the company had gone from a “one-project non-revenue generating” company to having “one of the largest” fabrication footprints in the UK.

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Treasures That Survived From Titanic, And Today Are Worth A Fortune (MSN, 16 Aug 2022)

Slideshow of many Titanic items that survived the sinking and their astronomical value.

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Poster Advertising Vinolia Otto Soap for Titanic
Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Reality of Bathroom Accommodations on the ‘Titanic’ Show How Much Times Have Changed (MSN, 18 Aug 2022)

For example, did you know that there were only two bathtubs on the ship for first class passengers to use, one for men and one for women? And that this was considered a big deal, since most ships didn’t have any bathtubs on board at all?  Most of the first-class passengers didn’t even get to have their own private bathrooms, since those were reserved for the wealthiest people on the ship.

[The article does not quite explain that first and second class, they did have their own sinks to wash up . There were showers available but, to conserve water, the use of bathtubs was limited so you had to reserve them in advance. It was considered a luxury to have two bathtubs. Even today cruise ships use showers rather than bathtubs to conserve water. Pity the poor stewards that had to clean the bathtubs after every use or make sure the water tanks were filled in the first- and second-class suites so that people had hot and cold running water in their basins. MT]

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Image: Duncan Harris via Wikimedia Commons

New Theory Argues That It Wasn’t The Iceberg That Caused The Titanic’s Demise (25 Entertainment.ie, 16Aug 2022)

The theory of a fire on board had been suggested in the past, but new analysis of rarely seen photographs has prompted researchers to attribute the fire to being the primary cause of the ship’s demise. Irish journalist Senan Molony, who has spent more than 30 years researching the sinking of the Titanic, studied photographs taken by the ship’s chief electrical engineers before it left Belfast shipyard. He identified 30-foot-long black marks along the front right-hand side of the hull which suggest this area was damaged before the iceberg struck the ship’s lining.

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Public Domain

The True Story Behind Titanic’s Priest (He’s A Real Life Hero) (Screen Rant, 20 Aug 2022)

Thomas Byles was played by James Lancaster in Titanic, and he only appears in one scene, and it’s a very brief appearance. In it, Byles is seen reciting the Rosary and Revelations 21:4, while many passengers prayed with him and held his hand. Unfortunately, Titanic failed to show Byles’ heroic acts in helping save the lives of many third-class passengers and instead left that to Jack, Tommy, and Fabrizio, who broke their fellow third-class passengers free when they were locked by the ship’s security guards.

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‘Minnesota’s Titanic’: The Sea Wing disaster killed 98, yet the tragedy remains little known (Inforum, 23 Aug 2022)

On July 13, 1890, the steamer Sea Wing was returning from a carnival-like day at a military encampment when it capsized from a sudden and violent storm. Many of the excursionists made the understandable but fateful decision to retreat to the ship’s passenger cabin for protection. When the ship flipped over, they were trapped inside the upside-down boat and drowned. Ninety eight passengers – nearly half of the people on board – died as they were tossed into or submerged in the churning waters. The sense of tragedy was accentuated by the fact that the day had begun so promisingly: a pleasure cruise down the Mississippi River from Diamond Bluff to a National Guard encampment at Camp Lakeview near Lake City.

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American Dunkirk (29-30 August 1776)

 

U.S. Army-Artillery retreat from Long Island-1776
Creator: Werner Company, 1899 (Akron, Ohio)
U.S. Library of Congress, digital id#cph 3g03362 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3g03362

 

New York had a pivotal role in the American colonies and the American Revolution. Its central position made it vital to commerce and communication with the north and south colonies. This made it a key strategic location for both the British and American forces. General George Washington knew the British would target New York City, so he transferred the Continental Army to the city to turn back or slow down the British forces that would come. Fortifications were established in stages. Many of Washington’s troops were green, never been far from home, nor served in the military before. Washington split his forces between Brooklyn and Manhattan. This made reinforcement difficult and left a hole open at the Jamaica Pass the British would exploit.

When the British fleet arrived in June, it brought 20,000 British infantry that disembarked on Staten Island. The warships also could dominate the waterways that cut through New York City. The British sent 10,000 soldiers to Long Island, but Washington did not recombine his forces to counter it. Using a distraction, British General William Howe marched into position and on 27 August launch the attack on the Americans. Fighting raged on Guan Heights in the south and at Brooklyn Heights in the north, with the bloodiest fighting at Battle Pass where hand to hand fighting between Americans and Hessian mercenaries took place. The Americans are forced to withdraw to Brooklyn Heights. A countercharge led by 400 Marylanders would allow their comrades to escape. They would later be remembered as the Maryland 400 for their bravery. When the sun went down, the British had defeated the Americans but held off further attacks until the next day.

General Washington’s options were to surrender or evacuate at this point. While the battle had been lost, the spirit of the revolution was not dimmed. He ordered an evacuation of the troops at night, with British forces not that far away. By all accounts he was calm, authoritative, and in control of the situation. And he was aided in this task by a unique group of individuals called the Marbleheaders. They had worked together as a team fishing in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. So, they understood the weather, tides and time when sailing. Under the leadership of Colonel John Glover, this group using any sailing or rowing vessel they could find, worked to move Washington’s army across the East River to safety. It was no mean feat with British forces all around them. Oars were covered in cloth to prevent making noise in the water, everyone was told to stay quiet and not cough. They used minimal lighting and did not tell the soldiers what was going on until the last minute (this was to prevent the British from finding out).

They moved all the horses, ammunition, and cannon first. Then all the injured and wounded were transported. And then the evacuation began at 10 pm of the troops. Both the tide and winds were in their favor and the water was calm. When the tide changed, it became more difficult to keep the boats from going off-course on the return trips. The Marbleheaders had to really work hard to not loose control of their vessels. Around midnight, the winds shifted making the use of sloops (which used sails rather than oars) possible. Some chaos began to erupt at the embarkation point as soldiers started to rush to the boats. Washington seeing men trying to fight for a place on the boats, threatened to sink the ship unless the men who had pushed others aside got out. This restored the calm and shows how the proper use of leadership in such exacting times can work. The evacuation took all night and was still not done by the morning on 30 August. They had accomplished an impossible task of transporting thousands of men in just nine hours. Dawn though saw Americans still manning the trenches and it spelled doom for them when the British attacked.

Then quite suddenly a thick fog appeared and cloaked the escape. Those escaping in the early morning commented on how smooth the water was. The fog came at exactly the right time and place to remove the remaining American troops to safety across the East River. Washington oversaw the retreat and encouraged his men staying ashore until the last boat was being loaded. At that point he boarded and headed across the river. Thanks to the fog, and the lack of any alarm received by the British, Washington was able to evacuate his entire army leaving the British to find them gone.

While the British defeated Americans at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights (and would hold New York till 1783), the remarkable escape of Washington’s troops would be well regarded both for the incredible evacuation and the leadership of Washington himself.  Far from dispiriting the troops or the cause, it became a source of great inspiration, and many believe the hand of God was involved as well. The fame of the Marbleheaders in being able to make the crossing possible would spread. More importantly confidence in George Washington as a capable military leader would result. He made a mistake in dividing his forces, but his remarkable leadership to save his troops would show he was a military leader both the people and his troops could rely on.

Sources

The Battle of Long Island Brooklyn Heights(TheAmericanRevolution.org)

Brooklyn, New York  |  Aug 27, 1776 (Battlefieds.org)

The Battle of Brooklyn, August 27, 1776 (Old Stone House)

Happy Sunday

Summer in the Mountains
Larisa Koshkina
publicdomainpictures.net

 

 

[Historical note: The ending to the musical is stirring with them marching over the mountains. This did not happen and going over the mountains from Salzburg would take them into Germany! What really happened is that since Captain von Trapp had dual citizenship (Austrian & Italian) he had his family fled with day packs by taking the train to Italy. From there they made their way ultimately to England and eventually the United States. They were already a well known singing group before the Germain takeover of Austria, so they had contacts in Europe and America. They gave up everything to be free. After the war, they learned their home had been taken over by Heinrich Himmler. The house  was donated to the Catholic Church and Captain Trapp helped his fellow Austrians with a relief fund, for which he is fondly remembered for.]

Krakatoa Eruption Kills Thousands and Heard 3,000 Miles Away (27 Aug 1883)

The eruption of Krakatoa, and subsequent phenomena. Report of the Krakatoa Committee of the Royal Society (London, Trubner & Co., 1888) Public Domain
The eruption of Krakatoa, and subsequent phenomena. Report of the Krakatoa Committee of the Royal Society (London, Trubner & Co., 1888)
Public Domain

On 20 May 1883, Krakatau(Krakatoa)–a small volcanic island west of Sumatra in Indonesia–came alive with an eruption noticed by a passing German warship. Other eruptions would be noticed by commercial liners and those living on nearby islands for the next two months. Then on 26 Aug an enormous blast took place that destroyed nearly two-thirds of the island. Pyroclastic flows and huge tsunamis would sweep over nearby islands and coastlines. But the worst came the following morning, 27 Aug, at 05:30. Four eruptions would took place with the resulting sound heard over 3,000 miles away. Ash was propelled fifty miles into the air and would circulate around the globe creating colorful sunsets but also lowering temperatures worldwide by several degrees.

36,000 deaths resulted from the eruption and 31,000 were from the tsunamis created when much of the island fell into the water. The highest waves were 120 feet high when they washed over neighboring islands stripping them of people and vegetation. Pyroclastic flows that stretched as far as 40 miles claimed about 4,500.

The Krakatau eruption of 1883 is considered one of the most violent volcanic activities in modern times and even recorded history. However volcanic activity continues in that area. In 1927, a submarine lava dome was detected in the area that had been destroyed by the eruption in 1883. A new island volcano began to emerge spewing ash. Other islands also started appearing as well but eroded away by the sea. Ultimately a fourth one appeared in August 1930 and was able to last. It was named Anak Krakatau and continues to grow taller each year. It is an active volcano and seemed similar to Stromboli in its eruptions. However more recent eruptions have resulted in volcanologists to warning people to keep a safe distance away. And more ominous is that a large lava dome is growing in its crater. Signs point to one day a very explosive event occurring at this volcano.


REMEMBERING HISTORY: Vesuvius Erupts And Buries Pompeii (24 Aug 79 AD)

 

Vesuvius from Portici by Joseph Wright of Derby(1734–1797)
Image:Public Domain

 

It was just around noon on 24 August 79 AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted with a massive 10-mile mushroom cloud sent into the stratosphere. Ash and pumice would rain down on the area for over twelve hours. People who did not flee would face something much worse when a pyroclastic flow would sweep down killing everyone in its path. The choking cloud suffocated everyone even rescuers.

The Bay of Naples where Mt. Vesuvius is located was known for trade and luxury. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were near the mountain and had a high standard of living. There was even a small resort town named Stabiae. The mountain was not seen as a problem as no major eruption had occurred in Roman history. Tremors had already been felt before that terrible day as excavations indicate they were repairing streets and underground plumbing. However, they had no idea the tremors related to the nearby mountain.   Pliny The Younger, staying west across the Bay of Naples, recorded what he saw in two letters he sent to Tacitus. Sadly, his uncle, Pliny the Elder, would perish when he went over in his boats to Stabiae. Pliny wrote the eruption lasted eighteen hours with Pompeii buried under 14-17 feet of ash and pumice. Herculaneum was buried under 60 feet of mud and volcanic material. Except for some who returned to reclaim what they had lost; the entire area was left buried and abandoned.

Significant excavations beginning in 1927 on have revealed much of what life must have been like before the destruction. More somber were the finding of some 2,000 bodies. Volcanic ash hardened and preserved the outlines of their bodies. Once the flesh had gone, the outline remained but filled in with plaster revealed those final moments of their lives. And it was not pleasant at all.

Vesuvius is still an active volcano. Its last major eruption was in March 1944  and destroyed several small villages with lava. The eruption was seen from Naples and damaged (thanks to hot ash and other things) or destroyed up to 88 B-25 medium bombers based in Terzigno, Italy. The volcano is kept under constant watch to prevent anything on the scale of the eruption of 79 AD to the people who live under its shadow.

Bay of Naples today with Mt. Vesuvius in the background. The densely populated city of Naples lies nearby.
Public Domain

 


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