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Gallery of historical Vesuvio Images

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1631 eruption

1631 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 141K) This is one of the drawings that inspire the idea of lava emitted during Vesuvio's 1631 eruption. Some light-colored matter is seen flowing down the slopes of the erupting volcano to surround and devour homes and land on its base. This illustration by Giovanni Battista Mascolo is from the "Storia del Vesuvio".

1631 pyroclastic flows Pyroclastic flows of the 1631 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 143K) Another view of the 1631 eruption, showing distinct trails of "smoke" on the flanks of Vesuvio, evidence for the occurrence of pyroclastic flows. This is how Giovan Batista Passaro saw the eruption on 16 December 1631 from Napoli. Note that fallout from the eruption column is indicated on its left side, showering tephra on Monte Somma and the villages lying on its NE and E sides. This is the typical main direction of tephra fallout during eruptions of Vesuvio. Some strange pattern on the slope of Monte Somma may indicate slides of abundantly fallen tephra.

1690 image

Regrowth of Vesuvio after the 1631 eruption
(Full picture GIF: 68K) Vesuvio in 1690, showing the active cone which is still significantly lower than Monte Somma, and intracrateral cone. The illustration further shows sparse vegetation and few buildings on the near flank of the volcano, almost 60 years after the 1631 eruption.

Trail to crater
The 1694 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 138K) Vesuvio is seen here during its major eruption in April 1694, the first well-documented event after 1631. The new cone formed within the vast 1631 crater is growing vigorously but still significantly lower than Monte Somma (to the left of the active cone). For the first time, lava overflows the rim of the 1631 crater and spills down a narrov ravine on the W flank of the volcano without reaching inhabited areas. This illustration is from Bulifon and shows small and sketchy views of the 1631 eruption as well as of the mountain after that event.

1775 image

Crater of Vesuvio with intracrateral cone, 1775
(Full picture GIF: 52K) Crater of Vesuvio viewed from the south on 5 December 1775, with a large intracrateral cone in slight activity.

Lava flow channel

Lava flowing within channel, 1776
(Full picture GIF: 74K) Spectacular lava channel formed during January 1776 on the upper NW flank of the volcano.

1775 eruption

Lava fountain at climax of the 1779 eruption
(Full picture JPG: 123K) Vesuvio in eruption, August 1779. This eruption was a typical subcycle-closing event, characterized by the ejection of spectacular lava fountains rising several km above the summit, and devastating tephra falls in the northeast sector of the volcano. Image was taken from Alfano and Friedlaender 1928.

1794 lava flow The 1794 eruption and destruction of Torre del Greco
(Full picture JPEG: 147K) One of the most devastating eruptions after 1631, that of 1794 destroyed the town of Torre del Greco almost completely. The lava flow that did the destruction extended out into the Gulf of Napoli forming a new headland that is well represented in this woodcut. Vesuvion is shown in the culminating explosive phase in the background when lava emission had already ceased. Taken from Alfano and Friedlaender (1928).

1779 ash emission

Late stage of the 1794 eruption
(Full picture GIF: 82K) Later stage of the 1794 eruption, characterized by voluminous but less explosive ash emission. This image by D'Anna shows the summit of the volcano significantly lowered and small steam columns rising from the W flank fissure vents. A particular scene is visible in the foreground: citizens of Napoli are carrying the statue of San Gennaro in a procession hoping to stop the eruption.

1822 eruption

Eruption column of the 1822 eruption
(Full picture GIF: 177K) The largest eruption since 1794 occurred during October 1822 and was well observed and described by Scrope who drew this nice image. Based on this view, the 1822 eruption is often considered a type example of a Plinian-type eruption (although it was of a significantly lesser scale).

1822 eruption

Ash emission and lava flows of the 1822 eruption
(Full picture GIF: 350K) Another view of the 1822 eruption. A whitish plume is rising from lava flows descending the W and SW flanks of the volcano.

1861 eruption
Summit and flank eruption in 1861
(Full picture JPEG: 115K) The most recent eccentric flank eruption from Vesuvio occurred in 1861. This image shows dark ash emission from the summit crater and a much smaller light-colored plume rising from a newly opened eruptive fissure on the lower SW flank. This eruption, although occurring in a densely populated area, did not cause major destruction to nearby villages. Image was taken from Alfano and Friedlaender 1928.

1872 eruption

Climactic phase of the 1872 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 54K) One of the earliest photos ever taken of a volcanic eruption, this spectacular image shows Vesuvio during the culminating phase of its 1872 eruption, on 26 April. A dense ash column rises about 6 km above the summit while steam trails mark the paths of lava flows on the NW flank. This photo is one of a series taken by A. Sommer.

1872 lava flow

Destruction of Massa during the 1872 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 123K) After the opeing of a large fracture on the N flank of the cone on 26 April 1872, a major lava flow rapidly advances across the Atrio del Cavallo and through Fosso della Vetrana. Only hours later, it overwhelms parts of the villages San Sebastiano and Massa. Image was taken from Mercalli (1907).

1872 ash emission

Late stage ash emission, 1872 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 139K) During the waning stage of its 1872 eruption, Vesuvio emitted jets of black ash every 10 seconds or so, as illustrated neatly in this drawing by Heim (1873) of 29 April 1872. Still later, the emitted ash assumed a whitish color which was taken by the local population as evidence that the eruption had ended.

1872 comparison views

Vesuvio before and after the 1872 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 94K) Heim (1873) drew these comparison views of Vesuvio, showing the volcano before (top) and after the 1872 eruption (bottom). Note the newly emplaced lava flows and morphological changes in the summit region.

Summit conelet

Conelet growing in the summit crater of Vesuvio, late 19th century
(Full picture JPEG: 192K) During the 1875-1906 eruptive subcycle, small terminal conelets repeatedly grew and fell, growth occurring mostly when activity was restricted to the summit crater while collapse occurred during activity from subterminal and flank vents. This photo was taken around 1890. In 1895, the crater was again a large pit, due to the retreat of the magma column when effusive actrivity occurred at the Colle Umberto lava shield.

1906 eruption

Heavy ash emission during the 1906 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 73K) Shortly after the climax of the violent 1906 eruption, Vesuvio emits dense but weak plumes of grayish ash that are driven southwards. The destruction of the summit is already evident. Vesuvio lost more than 100 m in height during that eruption which was its largest since 1631. Photo by Perret (1924), taken on 10 April 1906, looking west.

Ash landscape

Vesuvio belching ash after the climax of the 1906 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 109K) Person wading through deep, uncompacted volcanic ash on the base of erupting Vesuvio, 9 or 10 April 1906, close to Colle Umberto. The ash had a thickness of about 0.3 m in this area (on the W side of the volcano) but much heavier tephra fallout occurred on the N and NE sides where several villages received up to 1.5 m of pyroclastics and almost all roofs caved in. Several hundred people died as a result of this disaster.

Devastated Ottaviano

The town of Ottaviano devastated, 1906
(Full picture JPEG: 120K) Destruction by tephra falls in the town of Ottaviano on the NE flank of Vesuvio. The town lies in the area of heaviest fallout of the night of 8 April 1906. Virtually all roofs caved in.

Buried railroad

Ash-covered railroad on Vesuvio, 1906
(Full picture JPEG: 70K) Going up to the Vesuvian observatory along the funicular railway during the April 1906 eruption. The landscape is deeply buried with light-colored ash.

Ash avalanche

Small avalanche on Vesuvio's cone during the 1906 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 117K) Seismically triggered hot ash avalanche during a late stage of the 1906 eruption, on 15 April 1906. There were numerous avalanches, both triggered by seismic activity and heavy tephra accumulation on the upper slopes of the cone, during the waning stages of the 1906 eruption. Lacroix (1908) who took this photo used the peculiar 1906 avalanches as evidence against the occurrence of significant pyroclastic flows during the AD 79 eruption.

Vesuvio decapitated Truncated cone of Vesuvio after the 1906 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 81K) Vesuvio decapitated after the 1906 eruption, May 1906. The mountain lost at least 115 m in height, having reached its maximum ever measured elevation of 1335 m in May 1905. During the years after the 1906 eruption, collapse of the crater walls led to further diminuition in the height of the active cone. The photo was taken from Monte Somma (a part of which is visible in the left foreground, by Perret (1924), looking south.

Crater in 1942

Intracrateral cone in 1942
(Full picture JPEG: 47K) Towards the end of the 1913-1944 subcyle, the 1906 crater was completely filled with lava and a minor amount of pyroclastics. This and the following two images are rare color shots of the typical intracrateral activity during that period, taken in 1941 or 1942. In this photo, incandescent pahoehoe lava tongues are seen at the base of the snow-covered, steaming central intracrateral cone ("Piccolo") in the background. This cone eventually had become the highest summit of the volcano.

Pahoehoe lava

Pahoehoe lava flows in the crater, 1942
(Full picture JPEG: 52K) Pahoehoe lava slowly spreading across the floor of the crater in 1941 or 1942. The source of this persistent, low-level activity is the "Piccolo" cone in the center of the 1906 crater of which parts are visible in the background.

Pahoehoe lava

Another view of pahoehoe lava in 1942
(Full picture JPEG: 42K) Another close up view of pahoehoe lava moving over slightly older lava in the crater of Vesuvio in 1941 or 1942. The main flow channel is visible in the background.

1944 lava fountains

Night view of lava fountains, 1944 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 29K) Night view of Vesuvio during the increasing phase of its March 1944 eruption. Fire fountains rise from the crater and a tremendous display of lightning illuminates the eruption column. The photo was taken by Giuseppe Imbò, then director of the Osservatorio Vesuviano. Note the large incandescent boulders at the base of the active cone. Photo was taken on the evening of 22 March 1944, published in Imbó (1949).

1944 lava flow

The 1944 lava flow eats through villages
(Full picture JPEG: 79K) During the first stage of its 1944 eruption, Vesvio produced major volumes of lava at a greatly increased effusion rate. In this aerial view taken from N on 23 March 1944, two lava lobes are seen moving towards the villages of Massa (at left) and San Sebastiano (at right). A small branch of lava has just started moving towards Cercola which is visible in the center foreground. The Somma-Vesuvio complex is visible in the background with the Somma ridge covered with snow and the active cone in the stage of vigorous lava fountain ejection. The photo was published in Imbó (1949).

1944 from Pompei View of the 1944 eruption from Pompei
(Full picture JPEG: 52K) This view is from the modern town of Pompei (adjacent to the excavations of the Ancient Roman city) towards Vesuvio on 24 March 1944. The dense ash plume is being thrown up in pulses and then driven towards W. The main fallout during the 1944 eruption, however, affected areas on the E side of the volcano around Terzigno where the ash cover is still visible. Photo is from Imbó (1949). The church tower is of the Santuario of Pompei. The irregular black lines in the center are artefacts or damage of the original photo.

1944 pyroclastic flow
Small pyroclastic flows of the 1944 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 120K) Sequence of aerial views of hot avalanches descending the erupting cone of Vesuvio during the 1944 eruption. The avalanches were described by Imbó (1949) as "glowing clouds". They reached only the base of the active cone and left conspicuous tongue-shaped lobes (see the photo at the bottom of this page). View is from the W on 24 March 1944.

1944 color photo

Color photo of Vesuvio in eruption, 1944
(Full picture JPEG: 144K) Vesuvio in eruption, March 1944, seen from Napoli. Taken during the culminating explosive stage of the most recent eruption to date when thousands of residents had to be moved away temporarily. Allied troops had to cope with tephra fallout severely hampering use of aircraft during this decisive stage of WW-II in Italy. This rare color photo was taken from the Time Life book "Volcano".

Post-1944 cone Cone and crater of Vesuvio after the 1944 eruption
(Full picture JPEG: 66K) Aerial view of the Somma-Vesuvio complex from the SW, taken no more than 10 years after the 1944 eruption. The 1944 crater gapes at the top of the historically active "Gran Cono" while the major lava flow of the 1944 eruption is visible in the upper left corner, at the base of the steep caldera wall of Monte Somma. Note the numerous tongue-shaped features on the left base of the cone, these are lobes of pyroclastic avalanches that came down during the 1944 eruption. They have been interpreted as seismically triggered by Hazlett et al. (1991).

Page set up on 18 June 1996, last modified on 18 July 1996