Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The treasures of Megali Limni

(A volcanic landscape on Lesvos with the village of Agra)

While Western Europe is enjoying one of the hottest springs ever (during Easter lots of heat records were broken); Greece has to make do with a pretty cold and sometimes turbulent end of spring. It is so cold that a fine warm summer seems to be very far away.

In Holland the people will be thinking that the scientists are right in predicting that the world is warming up. However, here in Greece where showers in May still can chase you off the streets and where an ice cold wind that seems to come from the North Pole blows right through your clothes, you will think the opposite.

Scientists cite natural disasters to prove that the world is warming up, but it is the geologists who have proved that in very early times natural disasters were bigger and more disastrous. Digging into the earth, they have found evidence of previous volcanic eruptions and huge tsunamis that flooded the world.

We all know these stories from old writings like the bible and mythology. It was God as well as Zeus who sent floods to the earth to punish the people. In the book Genesis you find the story of Noah who saved himself from the floods by building an ark. There is a Greek myth that tells how Deucalion did the same when Zeus sent floods to the earth. Forewarned by his father Prometheus, Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha built an ark and escaped the water.

You could ask yourself if such a huge flood did really happen. As seashells have been found on top of high mountains — how high could the waves have reached? Thanks to progress in science, more and more proof is offered to suggest that the disasters written about in the bible could have really taken place. Just think about when the Jews fled Egypt and the Red Sea parted, leaving a way to escape. Was this not just the moment before a tsunami came and the sea drew back in order to gather strength and to relaunch its lethal waves later in order to destroy the soldiers chasing the Jews?

Scientists now think that Atlantis existed and was destroyed by a tsunami. Was Atlantis, in fact, the Minoan Empire (27th to 15th century BC) on Crete that — and here the scientist are sure — got destroyed by huge waves following the volcano eruption at Santorini?

Megali Limni (Big Lake) is somewhere near Agiasos and, just like its name suggests, used to be a big water basin that delivered water to Mytilini through the famous aqueducts build by the Romans (parts of which still exist at Moria and Lambou Mili). When in 1823 an uprising against the Turks was put down, the Turkish ruler confiscated the Megali Limni and drained a big part of it to plant wheat and had the inhabitants of Agiasos do forced labour as a punishment. Over a century later, when the Ottomans were thrown off the island, the rest of the lake was drained and it is now still agricultural land, where wheat and fruit trees grow.

Geologists have discovered interesting things in the earth at Megali Limni: the bottom there is easy ‘to read’ and they have seen tracks that go back tens of thousands years (22 to 62 thousands years to be exact). During the investigation of different layers they discovered tephra (fragmented material produced by a volcano eruption) that came from volcanos far away from Lesvos (the Cape Riva on Santorini, the Yali on Nisyros, as well as volcanos on the island of Pantelleria and in the region of Campania in Italy). Imagine what big eruptions those must have been! The disruption caused to flights in Europe last year by the ash clouds from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull was nothing compared to what happened so many thousand years ago.

And we had the volcano eruptions right here on the island that killed and burned powerful sequoia’s and other trees (and who knows what else), after which heavy rains petrified the trees. But that happened millions of years ago.

The fact is that the earth never has been a save place to live. Ice ages finished tropical woods on Antarctica and after that the earth turned green again. The bottom in Megali Limni shows also that Lesvos was once covered in woods, at other times however there were steppes with barely any vegetation.

Scientists predict that Greece will warm up several degrees and will become more arid, especially in southern parts. Well, here on the island I see nothing warming up. Unless you consider that paddling in the sea wearing your wintercoat in May is a sign that the earth is getting warmer each year. I personally think we are slowly moving to a new Ice Age.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

@ Smitaki 2011

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