september 1190: volcano sightings

In a previous post, I described the state of Richard’s fleet & rules & regs for the crews. It wasn’t common to sail the open sea in the 12th century. For the most part, the fleet paralleled the coasts and island-hopped. King Richard frequently went ashore and rode his horse as his fleet skirted the Italian coastline.

In the Itinerarium, the chronicler notes that the fleet saw volcanoes smoking:

“… we sailed between two mountains which are always burning, one of which is called Vulcano and the other Stombeli.”¹

In Battle Scars: Men of the Cross, Sir Henry wouldn’t put it past King Richard to explore the volcanoes ‘up close and personal’ but he can relax. The king is anxious to rendezvous with the rest of his fleet in Messina.

What surprised me is that there is no mention in the Itinerarium of Mt. Vesuvius spitting any smoke or fire. Richard spent more than a week in Naples, only a few miles from the volcano. It must have been one of those quiet periods though surely it was (and still is) an impressive sight from the coast.

Vesuvius from Naples, By Massimo Finizio – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 it,

Per wikipedia, the current elevation of the main cone is over 4,200 feet. And that pales when compared to Mt. Etna in Sicily at almost 11,000 feet.

On a side note, I plan to get my first glimpse of a live volcano when I go to Hawaii next year! Have you ever walked lava fields? Or seen a volcano at nighttime?

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¹ These are part of the Aeolian Islands, which are just north of Sicily.

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