The Roman city of Pompeii, 1st century AD.
An affluent, vibrant, and progressive hub near Naples – with Mount Vesuvius towering over the city.
Inactive for centuries, the people of Pompeii had no fear of the great volcano.
But deep inside Vesuvius, molten rock had been leaking from the Earth's crust.
A thick plug of rock in the volcano blocked its exit and explosive pressure slowly grew inside.
On the morning of August 24, Pompeii was about to meet its fate.
24th August 79 AD
The volcano finally erupted, sending molten rock 15 kilometres into the sky.
The day turned black as the hot rock mixed with the air over Pompeii – blocking the Sun, cooling, and falling on the city as pumice rock, ash and rain.
Pumice – solidified lava
Four billion tonnes of material would fall on Pompeii, within 24 hours.
Ash and magma collided in the air, triggering volcanic lightning.
As the eruption continued, the magma chamber eventually emptied and collapsed.
The first pyroclastic surge towards Pompeii begins.
These are ground-hugging avalanches of hot ash, pumice, and volcanic gas that rushed towards Pompeii at 700km/h.
The first surge falls just short of the city, but asphyxiation, from toxic gas and ash, killed many.
Sixteen hours after the first eruption, the volcano column completely gave way.
Pyroclastic waves smashed through houses – leaving victims instantaneously encased in blankets of ash and pumice.
The Last Day of Pompeii
The city and its people were frozen in time.
Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii in five metres of volcanic rock and ash.
Pompeii was rediscovered by accident over 1500 years later, in 1594, the buildings and its people having been encased in ash and preserved in time.