It used to be thought that, around 3,600 years ago, the flourishing Bronze Age (Minoan) civilisation and culture of the eastern Mediterranean was wiped out by the volcanic eruption of the island of Santorini. The eruption also became linked with the Old Testament story of the darkness that beset Egypt as one of the seven plagues and with Plato's description of the fabled island of Atlantis.
Walter Friedrich, the author of Fire in the Sea, is a German professor and geologist, now based in Denmark, who has researched and published many details of the Santorini eruption. In this superbly illustrated account for the general reader, he tells how around 1600 B.C., the Minoan inhabitants of Santorini witnessed their paradisal island home of Thera blow up in their faces.
Like a vigorously shaken giant champagne bottle, the Santorini volcano suddenly erupted, producing one of the largest explosions ever witnessed by humans. So much volcanic ash and pulverised rock was thrown into the atmosphere that it circulated the Earth for several years and changed global climates.
Amazingly, the Minoan civilisation was not wiped out. Detailed dating has shown that the eruption happened well before the Minoan civilisation declined. Friedrich sets the detailed story in the wider geological evolution of the whole region. As the continental plate of Africa pushes north, the whole of the eastern Mediterranean has become dangerously active. Today, tourists blithely sail into the bay of Thera, the 5km wide crater left by the eruption, before wandering around the still gently active volcano. It is anyone's guess when Santorini will next explode, but one thing is sure--it will. Fascinating reading, especially for those taking holidays in the Aegean!
Fire in the Sea, has a large format (A4), which helps do justice to the photos and diagrams. Appendices give a translation of Plato's dialogue concerning Atlantis, lists of fossils, references to research and other writings about Santorini and an index. --Douglas Palmer
'This book, with its clear text and superb illustrations, is a suitable geological complement to the lavishly illustrated publications of Santorini's archaeological remains. Those wishing to place those remains in a physical context will find it most rewarding.' John Bennet, Times Higher Education Supplement
'Where the book really excels is that all facets seem to have been treated with comparable, if not equal, authority. The geology is dealt with thoroughly … Historical and archaeological evidence is thoroughlt integrated and the whole forms a coherent story … excellent photographs and clear diagrams … The science is clear and thorough but not condescending and the author conveys thorough knowledge and enthusiasm for the region … an excellent read for anyone contemplating a visit to any volcanic island and would be essential preparation for a visit to Santorini. It is the sort of book one would return to … excellent value.' Bulletin of the British Ecological Society
' … Santorini exploded in 1600 BC producing one of the largest explosions ever witnessed by humans. The story of why it blew - and the consequences - is superbly detailed and illustrated in Friedrich's book.' Douglas Palmer, Focus Magazine
'Fire in the Seas gives an excellent account of the archaeological and geological history of Santorini … [it] could be used in an introductory course of geology, but it is written for a far wider audience. Its lavish color photographs, drawings and computer graphics will have broad appeal. Anyone who is interested in earth science, history or archaeology will find an abundance of information about Santorini and about modern methods of geological and archaeological research.' Svend Erik Rasmussen, Geologisk Institut, Aarhus
'… a lavishly illustrated book about the volcanic explosion of the Greek island of Santorini … a painstaking account … The photographs and diagrams are truly enlightening … a genuine education in the enormous power of the Earth to shake up the landscape.' National Geographic 'Adventure'
'… a handsome book that tells a fascinating story.' Dr Richard A. F. Grieve, Episodes
'Fire in the Sea deals with all major aspects of the history of Santorini from the perspective of science and scholarship. … However, this is much more than a geology book … The book is beautifully produced and illustrated with outstanding colour diagrams and photographs, and is also well written, making it a very pleasing book to read and own. … Walter Friedrich's book is the broadest and most accessible contribution. It is beautifully illustrated, clearly written and I can strongly recommend it to both professional geologists and the wider world.' R. S. J. Sparks, Geological Magazine
'… a fascinating account of geological and historical aspects of this jewel of the Aegean, the island of Santorini.' Sigurour Steinpórsson, Jökull
'If you are looking for a book to add distinction to your coffee table, this one is a good choice … handsomely produced, beautifully laid out, lavishly illustrated with carefully chosen photographs … and crammed with information boxes, diagrams and tables.' History Now
'… arguably the best general scientific introduction to one of the most significant volcanic eruptions known, and would make an excellent companion for any geologist or archaeologist (amateur or professional) travelling to the beautiful Cycladic island itself.' Clive Oppenheimer, Earth-Science Reviews
' … a popular book that makes science accessible, and proves that true accounts can be better than fiction.' Journal of Hellenic Studies