The Titan of Naples: Contemplating Vesuvius

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It’s a bit like taking a picture with a superstar. Except astronomically older.

Mighty Vesuvius and me, about a year ago. Set small upon the great flanks of this Decade Volcano, I felt deeply humbled: silenced in contemplation at the sheer scale and history of this ancient, ancient and immense Titan.

1500 years ago this volcano erupted, drenching and forever fossilizing the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum in their places. Today it still ranks as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world: three million people live on its sloping flanks.

I sipped a plastic cup of tart, mulled wine at the souvenir shop near the top, and chatted for a bit with a volcanologist on duty there. Three hours from Rome, and overlooking the Bay of Naples, this was a surreal place to be humbled by the sheer majesty and terrible, dispassionate power of Mother Nature.

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