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Volcano watch on Santorini island

- by Archimedes

Volcano watch on Santorini island.

The sunsets of Santorini are one of the island's biggest assets with holiday tourists flocking to see the splendid summer evening sights. Most visitors on a beach holiday and enjoying the Santorini attractions will know that the splendid sunsets are a direct result of the fact that Santorini is a recently active volcano.

Now more than €54,000 has been spent on instruments to monitor the volcanic activity on Santorini as part of a plan to turn islands into a long-term earthquake monitoring station.

Santorini is one of the best-known and most active volcanic centres in the south Aegean Sea. The island has a large, sea-flooded caldera created by several large eruptions.

The volcanic layers that form the island as visible as multi-coloured strata on the impressive steep inner cliff of the caldera, one of the most striking features for visitors on holiday in Santorini when they approach by boat or ferry.

Santorini's volcanic activity is typified by several very large explosive eruptions every few tens of thousands of years. The most recent major eruption occurred at around 1613 BC and is known as the Minoan eruption.

This late Bronze Age eruption, one of the biggest volcanic explosions in recent history, devastated not only Santorini but also much of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Santorini has been active several times in more recent times with many minor and medium-sized eruptions that created the islets of Nea and Palea Kameni inside the caldera.

There was significant Santorini volcanic activity recorded in 1925-28 and in 1939-42 with slightly explosive activity that included lava flows and vapour fountains on the islet of Nea Kameni.

The last eruption took place in 1950 on the islet of Nea Kameni, which sits in the middle of the caldera. Although considered dormant at present, Santorini volcanism manifests as considerable fumarole activity with several hot springs around the islands.

In the current project sea-floor sensors were sank to the bottom of the deep Santorini caldera to monitor any geological activity and sensors were placed at strategic points around the island.

An international team of scientists from Greece, France and Spain, is to monitor underwater volcanic activity in the region and to look for signs of deformation after earthquake activity last year.

The 24-member research team is also using two submersibles for deep-sea dives in order to gather detailed information on the structure of the Santorini caldera.