Angelina-Jolie-inna-wetsuit related news on the science wires this morning, as boffins in America announce that the underwater volcano off the shore of the famous, beautiful Greek island of Santorini is showing signs of trouble coming.
“If the caldera erupts underwater, it could cause local tsunamis and affect boat traffic, including cruise ships, in the caldera," says geophysics prof Andrew Newman, of Georgia Tech. "Earthquakes could damage homes and produce landslides along the cliffs.”
Newman knows this because he visited Santorini in 2006 and emplaced 20 remote-monitoring precision survey devices, which use GPS sat-nav to measure the movement of the Earth's crust very precisely (in a similar fashion to those used to try and find out how much ice is actually melting off the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets). According to this Georgia Tech statement:
The Santorini caldera is awake again and rapidly deforming at levels never seen before ... More than 50,000 tourists a day flock to Santorini in the summer months (from May to October). It’s common to see as many as five cruise ships floating above the volcano.
Mediterranean cruise ship captains seem to be a more casual bunch than many might have previously thought, but they might be well advised to steer clear of the Santorini caldera nonetheless, it would seem. As many Register readers will know, the Santorini caldera erupted back around 1650 BC and buried the city of Akrotiri, a major port of the ancient Minoan civilisation based on Crete. The buried town appears to have been a major metropolis of the age, with ships trading all around the Mediterranean and such domestic refinements as piped hot water (the oldest such facilities known, probably drawing on hot volcanic springs).
This background was exploited by scriptwriters drafting the plot of Tomb Raider sequel The Cradle of Life, early sequences of which depict top-heavy gunslinging treasure-huntress Lara Croft wetsuited (and tooled up with an appropriate underwater shooter*) in a sunken Minoan temple which is - topically, today - destroyed by an earthquake. Sadly the film fails to keep up this level of quality as it proceeds.
Prof Newman doesn't think a Minoan-style catastrophe is on the cards, but he does think some serious tremors at the least are likely. His research is in press at Geophysical Research Letters. ®
*The Heckler & Koch P11, normally available only to special forces frogmen such as those of Special Boat Service (SBS). It apparently works pretty well for an underwater gun, but has certain defects - it can't be reloaded like a normal pistol, for instance, the entire 5-shot barrel cluster has to be replaced with a factory-sealed unit.