22 September 2014

Sea arch in pyroclastic deposits, Santorini, Greece

Posted by Callan Bentley

Last week, I did something unusual. I took a mid-semester vacation. My wife and I were in the rather extraordinary position of being gifted with a free trip to Greece, and though the timing was far from ideal for a pair of educators, we could hardly say no.

My wife’s mother became friends with a group of people back in the 1970s, when they were all young and backpacking around Europe. They met one afternoon in Athens near the American Express office, and went on to have a series of rollicking adventures together that bonded them for life. They called themselves the “Fugawies.”

Years later, some of the Fugawies have gone on to achieve considerable financial success, and when two of them were celebrating their wedding anniversary last winter, they decided that the treat they really wanted to enjoy was a reunion with their old friends, in the old places (plus some new ones). They decided to invite everyone for a ten-day trip to Greece, with airfare lodging, ground transport, and meals all on their nickel. Of course, the various Fugawies have grown older and had children, and in two cases, grandchildren. These descendants were considered to be part of the Fugawie fold, and were included in the extraordinarily generous offer.

So thanks to my wife’s mother’s friendship with these benefactors, my wife and son and I found ourselves in Santorini (Thera) and then Athens last week. I was able to see some pretty cool geology while I was there, and I intend to explore it over the course of the next week or two, as blog-composing time permits.

Let’s begin with this:


That’s a sea arch (~3 m tall) composed of pyroclastics from the eruption of Santorini, a massive affair that turned the once-conical island into a shattered hole in the crust. We’ll talk about the details of the eruption later, but for now, it’s probably enough to realize two things about this arch: (1) that the rock it’s made from formed through volcanic violence, piling up during a cataclysmic eruption, and (2) gradual erosion by the limpid waters of the Aegean Sea have carved it into this lovely shape.