The largest volcanic eruption in recorded history happened on the Greek island of Thera, known today as Santorini, approximately 3,600 years ago. The island, about 140 miles southeast of Athens, was home to the Minoans from nearby Crete. With little warning, the volcano on the island of Thera erupted. The immense explosion caused the center of the volcanic island to collapse into the sea and launched 15 cubic miles of magma and rock into the atmosphere. The surrounding area was buried under nearly 900 feet of ash and rock.
The explosive eruption and displacement of land created a 300-foot-tall tsunami that swept the Aegean Sea, flooding and destroying towns and settlements throughout the region. The effects were felt around the globe. When the tsunami hit Egypt to the south, it pushed water 200 miles up the Nile River. Unseasonably cold weather was documented in the Bamboo Annals, a chronicle of ancient China. Geologists have uncovered layers of ash from Thera in Greenland ice cores. Evidence of the event was discovered in tree rings of ancient bristlecone pines in California.
After the eruption, the island sat abandoned for more than 600 years. A water-filled caldera, forming a circular archipelago in the southern Aegean Sea, is all that remains of Thera. In its place, though, the bustling island of Santorini thrives.
Robert visited the island in June of 2019. “I shot this at sunrise. There’s no one around, and the light was really soft and nice, no shadows. The cliffs of Santorini are sheer, and it has the best views in the world. With the volcano history, it’s just so dramatic.”