The following summary of  an article entitled "The Volcanic Fall of the City of Pompei" by F. Lin Sutherland in Jean-Paul Descoeudres' Pompeii Revisted (Meditarch) was summarized by Chad McBane, a student enrolled in Prof. Tom Sienkewicz' Ancient Societies class at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, in 1997. If you have any questions or comments, you may contact him at

"The Volcanic Fall of the City of Pompei"

Around one o'clock on August 24, 79 A.D., a thunderous volcanic eruption rocked the city of Pompeii. Mount Vesuvius began erupting and persisted to bury the city in four meters of ash and rock. The eruption had four stages. The first was pumice being discharged at a rate of five to eighty tons per second. This equals about fifteen centimeters per hour. The second stage was grey phonolite reigning down at a rate of 150 thousand tons per second. This seems unimaginable. During the third and fourth stages the town was actually reached and began to get covered. The third stage consisted of rock and lava floating down the volcanoes banks at 100 km per hour. This created all of the bodies they have found throughout history. The fourth and final stage of the eruption created a widespread seal of pyroclastic flows and wet surge deposits when the groundwater interacted with the volcanic material.

The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius lasted thirty hours and covered the rays of the sun. During the peak of the eruption the city was covered in total darkness due to the clouds being twenty meters high. Today scientists monitor Mt. Vesuvius attempting to predict the next eruption. This would likely prevent the trajedy of Pompeii from happening all over again.

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