Friday, June 1, 2012

Author Rebecca Lochlann Talks About Ancient Volcanic Eruptions

(I've long had a fascination for geologic events, particularly volcanic eruptions. The powerful forces behind these cataclysmic events often have far-reaching and long-lasting effects. They alter the earth, destroy life and even entire civilizations. Today, even though we still can't predict them, at least we understand what is going on beneath the earth's surface. Imagine living in an age when volcanoes were not only unpredictable, but mysterious entities. My talented author-friend Rebecca Lochlann deals with this in her newly released book, The Thinara King, which I highly recommend. I asked her to tell us some more about it. So, welcome, Rebecca!)


The island in the Mediterranean nowadays called Santorini has had many names throughout the centuries. One of the oldest known names, and the one I use, is Callisti. In ancient Greek, it means “The Most Beautiful,” and is alternately spelled Kalliste.

Strongyle, another of Santorini’s ancient names, meant, “The Round One.”

Thera, yet another name long used for this volcanic island, can be translated as “Fear,” which, as it turns out, was rather prophetic, as is the name of the central mountain, rumored by some to be Alcmene, meaning “Wrath of the Moon.”

Book number two of my series, The Thinara King, jumps right in the middle of this famed volcanic eruption on Callisti.

For many years, until “super” volcanoes were more clearly understood, this eruption was considered the worst in human history. It was so enormous, so destructive, (categorized as a Plinian type event) that it made the eruption of Tambora look like a tiny belch in the earth. It would have made the Mt. Saint Helen’s eruption seem like nothing more than a brief, sleeping baby’s gasp.

As scientists become more adept at studying the effects of volcanoes, (and it’s impressive how much they’ve learned about the Santorini volcano, even though it happened so very long ago), they have conjectured that the repercussions of this event went clear round the world, and probably affected the earth’s climate for many years. From the depth of the ash on the sea floor, they have determined that the worst damage done to Crete, a mere seventy miles away, was on the east side. With improved methods and the study of more recent eruptions, there are now conjectures that the pyroclastic flow (the most dangerous, murderous part of an eruption) could very well have traveled on top of the water clear to Crete. The idea that such a thing could happen is amazing, and is merely theory, not proven. But that’s how huge this eruption was. Tsunamis of course came along after, and devastated the entire coast; there are theories that the tsunami which struck the northern coast managed to flow clear into the city of Knossos. Charles Pellegrino, in his book Unearthing Atlantis, says: “Within hours of the Theran upheaval of 1628 BC., death rolled into southern Turkey on the tongue of a tsunami. Two peninsulas jutting into the Aegean Sea confined the wave as if between the prongs of a mighty tuning fork, building it higher and higher and ultimately funneling it thirty miles inland. To penetrate so far, it had to be eight hundred feet tall when it hit the shore.” (Pellegrino, C. Unearthing Atlantis. New York: Avon, 1991)

One small bit of positive news: recent theories state that most of the populace on Santorini actually managed to escape the island before it blew into the heavens, leaving nothing but a sliver (part of which is again beginning to send out ominous messages). The volcano gave them warning, and they apparently heeded this warning. Since Callisti is considered by many to be an outpost of Crete, it’s no leap of logic to assume most of the refugees would go there, and that’s what happens in my book.

As awful as this eruption was, it did not end Cretan society. I have no doubt many died of the aftereffects, like starvation, ash suffocation, etc. But the Cretan civilization did eventually recover. Yes, these intrepid, hardy people managed to survive and even thrive again after this indescribable event. But at some point, later, the wondrous Bronze Age society of Crete (or Kaphtor) did disappear. This segment of my series, (a trilogy) offers one possible reason why, sets the starting point for the later books, and initiates a more familiar history—one that might never have occurred had Crete survived, retaining its original power and influence.

From everything Plato said about Atlantis, there is no doubt in my mind Thera is that fabled place.

Here is an excerpt from deep within The Thinara King.

Twilight fell. Chrysaleon made a fire from dead olive branches. The last glow of sunlight transformed gray clouds to scarlet and lavender, with hints of green and yellow. Beneath this magnificence he constructed a pyramid of stones and shot an unwary hawk from the sky. He burned its thighs in offering and knelt beside his cairn, clenching the necklace in his fist.

“Poseidon,” he said. “Walk with me. Lead me to Aridela. Make our bond unbreakable. Help me slay Harpalycus and bring an end to the king-sacrifice.” He peered into the heavens. “Make me this great-year-king, Horse Tamer, and I will present you with the rich island of Crete. I will cover this land with temples and fill each one with your image.”

A sudden gust of wind shot a fan of sparks into the dimming indigo sky.

He took it for the answer he wanted. Chrysaleon wrapped himself in the cloak Neoma had given him. “Bring Aridela home,” she’d begged, clutching his arm. “I miss her. I don’t think she even knows I’m alive.” The stone that struck her during the worst of the Destruction had left a noticeable depression in her forehead, like a large, out-of-place dimple, and ongoing headaches forced her to spend time in darkened seclusion nearly every day.

He stared at his fire, sleepless, thinking of Aridela, longing for her. A memory crept before him, one he’d forgotten, from his time near death in the cell at Labyrinthos.

In his starved, thirsty mind, he’d experienced a vision of Menoetius transforming into a black bull, the enormous bad-tempered kind Cretans used in their ring. The beast gored him and as he lay gasping, his lifeblood seeping away, Aridela came to stand beside the bull, resting her hand on his neck in an intimate manner. She had looked down upon Chrysaleon without any emotion.

“No,” he’d whispered, and he did so again now, his teeth and hands clenching as he gazed into the cold night sky. “Menoetius won’t defeat me.”

He fell asleep at last, but during the night’s blackest point, he was awakened by the earth shuddering. Small creatures scurried; rocks scraped, rolled, and tumbled. His horse shied and nickered. Farther away, he heard ominous, eerie echoes as an avalanche of boulders crashed into one of Crete’s many precipitous gorges.

He stared into the night toward the mountains, aching to be among them.

I’m coming, Aridela. I will find you.


More excerpts can be found here and here.

The Year-god’s Daughter: Book One of The Child of the Erinyes
The Thinara King: Book Two of The Child of the Erinyes
In the Moon of Asterion: The conclusion of the Bronze Age trilogy (available by the end of 2012)

Amazon Rebecca Lochlann page:

Thanks for visiting with us, Rebecca!

Happy reading, 



Rebecca Lochlann said...

I'm sorry I forgot to add the photo credit for the image you see here at the top of the post. It was taken by the incredibly talented and generous Peter Vancoillie!

Shayne Parkinson said...

Thanks for the interesting article, Rebecca! I visited Crete many years ago, and found it a fascinating place.

I grew up within sight of a very active volcano, quite often visit the site of one of the supervolcanoes, and have a (much smaller) volcanic eruption play a part in one of my books, so it's a subject close to my heart

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Thanks for the info. on the photo, Reb!

Shayne, wow, I can't imagine living so close to a volcano. Reb captured the power of the one in her book in such detail it's one of the most vivid events in a book that I can recall.

Rebecca Lochlann said...

Tell us more, Shayne! What volcano did you grow up near, which supervolcano have you visited, and which eruption (if it has a name) is in your book? Inquiring minds!

Shayne Parkinson said...

It's amazing how one takes things for granted when they've always been there!

The one I grew up near is Whakaari/White Island, a very active island volcano. It's mentioned from time to time in my books, though the characters, too, tend to take it for granted.

The supervolcano site I've visited is the caldera that's now lovely Lake Taupo.

And the eruption that plays a role was that of Mount Tarawera in 1886.

Rebecca Lochlann said...

Thanks, Shayne! I'm going to go check all of these out. I'm so intrigued by these scary, yet mesmerizing earth events. Would love to see one, and yet, naturally, wouldn't love it much either!