Even though she became fatally ill from working with radium, Marie Curie was never
Mount Vesuvius, a volcano located between the ancient Italian cities of Pompeii andHerculaneum, has received much attention because of its frequent and destructiveeruptions. The most famous of these eruptions occurred in A. D. 79.The volcano had been inactive for centuries. There was little warning of the comingeruption, although one account unearthed by archaeologists says that a hard rain and astrong wind had disturbed the celestial calm during the preceding night. Early the nextmorning, the volcano poured a huge river of molten rock down upon Herculaneum,completely burying the city and filling in the harbor with coagulated lava.Meanwhile, onthe other side of the mountain, cinders, stone and ash rained down on Pompeii. Sparksfrom the burning ash ignited the combustible rooftops quickly. Large portions of the citywere destroyed in the conflagration. Fire, however, was not the only cause of destruction.Poisonous sulphuric gases saturated the air. These heavy gases were not buoyant in theatmosphere and therefore sank toward the earth and suffocated people.Over the years, excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum have revealed a great deal aboutthe behavior of the volcano. By analyzing data, much as a zoologist dissects a specimenanimal, scientist have concluded that the eruption changed large portions of the area'sgeography. For instance, it turned the Sarno River from its course and raised the level ofthe beach along the Bay of Naples. Meteorologists studying these events have alsoconcluded that Vesuvius caused a huge tidal wave that affected the world's climate. Inaddition to making these investigations, archaeologists have been able to study theskeletons of victims by using distilled water to wash away the volcanic ash. Bystrengthening the brittle bones with acrylic paint, scientists have been able to examine theskeletons and draw conclusions about the diet and habits of the residents. Finally, theexcavations at both Pompeii and Herculaneum have yielded many examples of classicalart, such as jewelry made of bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin.The eruption of Mount Vesuvius and its tragic consequences have provided us with awealth of data about the effects that volcanoes can have on the surrounding area. Todayvolcanologists can locate and predict eruptions, saving lives and preventing the destructionof cities and cultures.