First Sign at 8 A.MA series of small emissions from Mount Vesuvius.
For several days past there had been earth tremors which were not particularly alarming because
they are frequent in Campania; but that night the shocks were so violent that everything felt as if
were not only shaken but overturned.
Second Sign at 1 P.MVesuvius erupts suddenly and with great force. A cloud of volcanic materials soars high above the
mountain, spreading out in the shape of a flat topped pine tree. Within 30 minutes, the surging dark cloud
rises some 14 km above Vesuvius. Ash drifts over Pompeii.
… a cloud of unusual size and appearance…being like an umbrella pine, for it rose to a great height
on a sort of trunk and then split off into branches …
Third Sign at 3 P.MVesuvius spews its contents higher and higher. As it rises, the volcanic material — mostly fragments
of hardened lava (lapilli) — cools and then hails down on Pompeii. Most residents flee, although some seek
shelter or stay behind to guard their property. Volcanic debris begins to clog the River Sarno and the port,
making them impassable to ships. Seismic shockwaves shake the area.
… there was a danger from falling pumice stones … as a protection against falling objects they put
pillows on their
Fourth Sign at 5-6 P.MChunks of pumice, as big as 50cm, plummet from the cloud. Streets and roads are buried deep
under the accumulated pumice, lapilli and ash, and the roofs of Pompeii buildings begin to collapse under the
weight. The dense cloud now rises about 25km above Vesuvius, obliterating the sun. Darkness, broken only
by flashes of lightning, adds to the terror of fleeing inhabitants.
Fifth Sign 1-2 A.MScalding mudflows of volcanic debris mixed with steam spill from the volcano and down the
slopes, choking the town of Herculaneum. Ash, lapilli and pumice continue to rain down on Pompeii; the
debris now rising as high as the upper storeys of buildings. It bursts through windows, doors and roofs,
trapping and suffocating those hiding within.
Soon great flames and vast fires shone from many points on Mount Vesuvius, the gleam and light
made more vivid by the night time shadows.
Sixth Sign at 4 A.MThe volcanic plume above Vesuvius, now 30 km high, grows too heavy and begins to collapse. The
column cascades to earth, sending superheated ash and gases roaring in turbulent waves, called pyroclastic
flows, down the volcano’s slopes. The first flow reaches Herculaneum, killing any inhabitants who still
Seventh Sign at 5 A.MStrong earthquakes continue to shake the whole area. A second, even hotter surge further buries
Herculaneum. At Pompeii, the rain of pumice eases, but darkness prevails as the massive ash cloud hides
the rising sun. Some survivors try to flee their hiding places and escape the town. But it is hard to breathe in
the ash-clogged air, or to walk – or even crawl – over the deep layer of volcanic fallout.
We were followed by a panic-stricken mob of people wanting to act on someone else’s decision.
Eighth Sign at 6:30m A.MThe third pyroclastic surge, the strongest yet, reaches Pompeii from the north but is held back by
the town’s wall.
Ninth Sign at 6:30-7:30 A.MA series of powerful surges overcome the walls and sweep over the town in massive waves
of toxic gas and burning, smothering ash. Pompeii’s remaining inhabitants are killed instantly and the city is
buried. Most who die at Pompeii perish in this phase of the eruption.
… my mother implored … me to escape … I refused to save myself without her, and grasping her
hand forced her to quicken her pace.
Tenth and Final Sign+ End at 8 A.MThe most destructive surge hits Pompeii, preceded by a storm of fire and lightning. The town’s tallest
structures are burned, toppled and buried. The same surge reaches Stabiae and even as far as Naples.
Luckily for Pliny the Younger, the surge loses momentum before it reaches Misenum, though the town is
engulfed in a dense cloud of ash.
Volcanic activity, electrical storms and mudslides continue for several days. By the time the eruption ends,
Vesuvius’s summit has collapsed, leaving a crater 2
Entire Eruption of Mt. Vesuvuis including Herculanium and Pompeii