I’m standing at the bottom of a 369 meter tall mountain, ready to walk up a 30% gradient trail (That’s approximately 1,210 feet for all you non-metric people). The trailhead (Figure A) looks inviting yet slightly menacing. The sun is beating down on me and its a long walk up. Mesa Vouno rises up like a god amongst kings in this island paradise. How did a (nonvolcanic) mountain end up as a part of this caldera island?
As I walk the streets of Fira, Santorini and swim through the waves of tourists I see that most of them look out towards the center of the caldera. To them this island has always looked this way. Many know that around 1613 BC there was a cataclysmic eruption that forms the present day caldera and was a leading factor to the end of the Minoan civilization. Although they understand this, they do not realize that three cataclysmic caldera forming eruptions preceded the Minoan eruption and that even in the thousands of years in between each eruption the geography was constantly changing and morphing through volcanism and erosion into new shapes. As our class hiked around Thera, I saw before my eyes the different parts of this complex past that make it the paradise that it is today.
Channeling my inner Spartan, I hiked up the steep slopes of the saddle between Mesa Vouno and Mon Profitas Ilias, leading to Ancient Thera. The 1.39 mile uphill trek took a while, with a copious amount of breaks to drink water and to rest. The sun beat down on me with a pressure only intensified by the humidity of the area. I felt extremely accomplished once I reached the top, I was able to look down on a large expanse of land and ocean. This is what the Spartans did every day for water in 700 BC. I was not only amazed by the view, but by the geologic processes that brought this rock that I stood on, that the Spartans stood on, hundreds of feet above the sea.