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This Day in History: Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 1631

December 16, 2019
An artist rendering of Mt. Vesuvius erupting against a cloudy night sky

Although Mt. Vesuvius's most famous eruption that destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum occurred in the year 79 AD, the mountain has had a long history of eruptions both before and after this date.

On this day in 1631, Mt. Vesuvius had another major eruption that buried many villages under lava flows. On the second day, an even larger eruption occurred that continued through the next few days, though with declining intensity.

What many don’t know is that this eruption triggered a tsunami, in which waves crashed ashore three times, damaging and destroying many boats along the coastline. It is not clear what generated this tsunami (e.g. pyroclastic flows, volcanic earthquake, etc.) However, it is certain the volcanic activity was responsible for the deaths of approximately 4,000 people.


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