Wednesday, November 23, 2016

SearchResearch Challenge (11/23/16): The Greek islands: birth and graffiti?

It's Thanksgiving weekend in the US... 

... and one of the things I'm thankful for was the chance to travel to such interesting places this year.  It really was a great year of wandering-about.  

Although we've already had one Challenge about the Mediterranean, I can't resist giving you one more.  Here's why... 

The Greek island of Delos is a remarkable place.  It's a smallish island in the Cyclades chain, more-or-less dead center in the circle of the Aegean Sea.  As one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece, it has archaeological excavations that are gigantic, as befits the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.  It was also the center of the Delian League and the Delian Festivals (with their every-4-year athletic competition).

When I visited the island, it was on a perfect fall day--endless blue sky, deep blue Aegean sea.  

Approaching Delos on the ferry.  You can see LOTS of temples and ancient buildings as you come near.
It's really quite a place.  As you can see in the above picture, nearly the entire island is one giant archaeological site.  People have been coming this way for thousands of years, both for religious and commercial purposes.  

Central courtyard of a wealthy businessman.  Note the circular cistern access in the corner of the courtyard.
Beneath the courtyard mosaic is a large, rectangular cistern for collecting rainwater.  

Delos was a stopping off point for traders, priests, slavers, worshipers, and travelers of every kind.  

But the island was attacked in 88 BCE by the Persian troops of Mithridates VI, an enemy of Rome, who killed nearly all of the 20,000 Romans on the island. Another attack came from pirates in 69 BCE, which basically knocked Delos out of action as an active trading island. By the end of the 1st century BCE, trade routes had changed to bypass Delos.  Around this time it became uninhabited and left as a place that the curious (and the occasional pirate) would visit.  

So when I visited earlier this year, I toured the island with a guide, marvelling at the ancient buildings, theatres, and temples. 

This walk on Delos brings me to our first Challenge for this week.  

The tour guide took us all around, and then pointed to this graffitied statue base saying that it used to hold a very tall statue of Apollo, one was carried away by pirates sometime in the 16th century, leaving behind only the base.

But when I looked at the graffiti, I did a big double take.  There was something so obvious and remarkable on that statue base that I couldn't believe she didn't say anything about this. Does it capture your eye as much as it did mine?   

1.  What's remarkable about this graffiti?  Do you see what I see?  Can you prove it? 

A bit later on that same trip we went to Santorini--another beautiful island not far from Delos.  It's a razor-back ridge of a place, with lovely blue-roofed buildings and incredible views, with several smaller islands nearby in a rough circle.  

As you probably know, Santorini is a C-shaped island with a center that was blown apart by a large eruption as the center of the volcano blew upward, leaving a giant caldera.  

This pattern has repeated over time, with the most remarkable explosion creating what may have been one of the largest volcanic eruptions on Earth in the last few thousand years.  (This is the eruption that put the Minoan civilization on full-stop during the second millennium BCE, between 1627 and 1600 BCE.)  

That mega-explosion happened long enough ago that no written records survive (except, perhaps, for the story of the plagues in Exodus which many believe are side-effects of the Santorini eruption).  

But there was another large eruption at the beginning of the 18th century.  Our second Challenge for this week is this: 

2.  Can you find a written contemporaneous account of that early-18th century eruption on Santorini? 

As always, be SURE to tell us how you found your answer.  What resources did you check?  How did you know to do that particular kind of query?  

We're curious about the answers, but also in your methods.  

(And, if you've got the time over the weekend, can you figure out why the Delian Festival and Games were held every four years?  Does that sound familiar to you?)  

Search on!  (And avoid the rocks falling out of the sky!)  


  1. the wandering Google-er life, it's a sweet life - is there a ride like that @ Disney World ala Pirates of the Caribbean or It's a Small World… featuring SoS John Forbes Kerry?
    on election day
    TOTAL FLIGHT TIME: 2,846.91 HOURS - a typical 40 hour work year is 2080 hours… that's astronaut, off-planet surface type hourage…

    this guy…? graffito artist?
    …perhaps better known for his forays onto these islands? - The Ryukyu Islands
    "He (Matthew C. Perry) subsequently served as Executive Officer of the USS North Carolina, flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron under Commodore Rodgers, which was engaged in protecting American commerce from Greek pirates. "
    this guy? he got around, started early, 15
    USS North Carolina
    Robinson Library

    "During the time that Nea Kameni was growing, Micra Kameni subsided by as much as 2 m (Fouqué, 1879, p. 140)
    1810-30; von Humboldt (1863, p. 242, citing Virlet and Fiedler) reported that a new "island" that was 15 fathoms below sea level in 1810 had risen to within 3 or 4 fathoms of sea level by 1830. "It rises steeply like a giant cone, from the bottom of the sea, and the continuous activity of the submarine crater is obvious for the circumstance that sulphurous acid vapors are mixed with sea water, in the eastern bay of [Nea Kameni) ... [and] coppered ships lie at anchor in the bay in order to get their bottoms cleaned and polished by this natural process.""

    (how do you reorient page view? - I went to plain text, but there probably is a better way…?)
    the closest I could find on the 1707-11 eruption 'real-time' description…
    "God of Fire, God of Life" - Story of Santorini Volcano
    Santorini (Thera) Volcano
    Santorini - The Thera Cataclysm
    Santorini The Doomsday Volcano

    Banksy may not outlast Perry
    some examples…

    1. Hello Remmij great finding on the book and the gravestones.

      I tried searching for the book using [ Santorini eruption 1800..1900] and other similar. Also on books with tools searching 18th Century. Still not good results. Need to check your other links and try new angle to second part of Challenge

  2. Good day, Dr. Russell and everyone.

    [Define BCE] Before Current Era. This is the first time I see this. Only knew BC/AD

    1. What's remarkable about this graffiti? Do you see what I see? Can you prove it?

    In the photo, noticed two things but not sure if those are the rights you see: First one is Lego and second is Cap. M.C. Perry. After that also noticed U.S.N 1826 but I haven't found something useful.

    [Define U.S.N] United States Navy

    [M C Perry]

    considered The Father of the Steam Navy in the United States.

    ["m c perry" delos statue]
    Books Pertaining to Commodore Perry's Expedition to Japan and Okinawa

    ["m c perry" greece apollo statue]

    ["matthew c perry" intext:greece ]

    Perry in Mexico

    [United States Navy delos island] [United States Navy delos island 1890..18900][United States Navy delos island 1890..18900 intext:"M C Perry"]

    [united states navy delos Apollo statue graffiti]

    the Sacred Way (or Dromos) leads to the Sanctuary of Apollo

    Site mentions: "A piece of the foot is in the British Museum, a hand is in the Delos site museum, and part of the trunk and the thighs are behind the Temple of Artemis on Delos.

    The statue base bears several inscriptions: the original dedication in Archaic letters, which reads "I am of the same marble, statue and pedestal"; a 4th-century dedication reading "The Naxians to Apollo"; and later graffiti from Venetians and 17th-century travelers."

    I am sure it is not the one we are looking for and also don't mention M C Perry

    [Statue of Apollo delos ruins intext:"M C Perry"]

    [m c perry greece delos island] in books. Found possible good link but just have snippet view. Just mentions Mr. Riordan found an inscription

    [Naval Institute proceedings "m c perry " delos] and tried to find the proceedings with ["mr riordan found an inscription "M. C. Perry USN 1826""] not good link

    At the moment no answer. I think the lego part has nothing to do with the Challenge. So I need to try different angle.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all

    1. Perry’s varied collection spans Ancient Greece to the modern world

      [Matthew Calbraith Perry in greece]
      He was promoted to master commandant in 1826 and named a captain eleven years later. Also says: "From 1838 to 1840 he commanded the steam frigate Fulton in connection with experiments in steam navigation."

      Perry served on this ship USS North Carolina, Executive Officer,
      Mediterranean Squadron Sep.1824 - Aug. 1827

      Sep. 1824 - 5 Aug. 1827 - Served as Executive Officer, U.S.S. North Carolina, flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron under Commodore Rodgers, engaged in protesting American commerce from Greek pirates. In 1825-26 participated in a visit to the headquarters of the Greek Revolutionists and in an interview with the Captain Pasha of the Turkish Fleet. Promoted to Master Commandant, 21 Mar. 1826.

      [Matthew Calbraith Perry greek pirates] also in books


      The Navy’s Godfather: John Rodgers Book

      [Commodore Perry greek Squadron] in books
      Commodore Matthew Perry and the Perry Expedition to Japan

      [Perry Mediterranean Squadron]

      Answer Commodore Matthew Perry was commissioned in the Mediterranean Squadron to reunite with Greek Pirates with the ship USS North Carolina.

    2. Hmmm... I don't know why, but I have to approve your comments one-at-a-time, I can't just batch them up with others. I tried to approve them all, but one might have slipped away from me. Sorry about that.

    3. the visibility of my contributions is dubious, but it is curiously rewarding, in a Pavlovian sense, to see them on the flickering screen…
      you got the one from the 21st too, thx - stuff happens & you have your hands full - we're not robots … | … yet (they need to work on that sense of automated humor)

      imperfect machine/consciousness


  3. 1 I see Matthew C Perry chiseled his name on there. Wikipedia and other confirm he was in Greece in the year 1826 which he inscribed, as did others from his ship. He is famous and high ranking even in those early years of his USN career. He went everywhere in the world for 50 years and rose about as high in the USN as its possible to do, I think. Just easy obvious searches.

    2 [santorini eruption explosion 18th century] finds book Volcanoes of the World: Third Edition
    By Lee Siebert, Tom Simkin, Paul 55 shows Greece and New Kameni which erupted in 1711, at the beginning of the 18C, which leads to
    Which confirms previous date.

    Contemporary commentary: searched Gale newspapers, Nothing 1700-1750 for New Kameni, however another search same timespan for Santorini finds this from the Leiden Gazette April 20 republished in Daily Courant (London, England), Friday, April 16, 1708; Issue 1923. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. "Constantinople January 4 (1708) They write from the Island of Santorini in the Archipelago, Situate about 28 Leagues to the Northward of the City of Candia, of the 1st of December last, that an Island was sprung up from out of the Sea, which in that place is vastly deep: That this Island is form'd of Stones thrown up by a Volcano, that is under the Ground at the bottom of the Sea . . ."

    Two Great CHallenges jon tU

    1. Ahh
      Reading the other comments I realised I misread 18th C as 1800s. The 1707 Volcano ws also described in the previous book. A more contemporary account is here

  4. First challenge was tricky.
    Since all the names were unfamiliar, I searched for 1826 Mediterranean US and the second hit was a Wikipedia entry for the Mediterranean Squadron, discovered the name of the commander of fleet.
    Searched John Rodgers American navy 1826 and found his biography

    According to biography he commanded a fleet of 4 ships: North Carolina, Constitution, Ontario and Erie. At beginning of 1926 he was in Port Mahon (Minorca) wintering fleet. Joined in Feb 1926 by Porpoise commanded by Benjamin Cooper (one of the graffiti names). 4 of these ships sailed in convoy via Milos and Paros and met with Erie in Vourla.

    Checked on Google maps- this route would take them close to Delos
    The biography also indicated that M.C. Perry was a Lieutenant on the North Carolina which was the flagship of the fleet.

    A google search US Navy 1826 brought up a register dated 13/12/1825

    According to the register all 4 names carved were serving officers:
    John A Cook was a Lieutenant on the Porpoise
    Thomas J Manning was a midshipman on the Porpoise
    M.C. Perry was a Lieutenant on the North Carolina
    Benjamin Cooper was a lieutenant on leave

    Search for MC Perry North Carolina Mediterranean shows he was promoted to master commander in 1826. I assumed from the number of hits and his later history is that Perry is the officer you noticed.

    A further search "north carolina" Porpoise 1826 Delos produced a journal:

    15 Jun – Fresh breezes – Porpoise sighted anchored in Delos harbor – 1130 anchored in 7 fathoms with 48 fathoms chain in Auso [sp?] harbor – out 1st and 4th
    18 Jun – Light breezes – 0500 underway – squadron in company – 1100 Divine Service – North Carolina ¾ mile on starboard bow – beat to quarters at sunset –

    Both the Porpoise and North Carolina were at Delos from June 15-18 1826 and the Cook, Manning, Perry and Cooper were on board these ships at the time. From Rodgers biography, it was common for the officers to visit historical sites when they came ashore- he describes in depth their visit to Troy, but not Delos.

    Second search took less than 1 minute
    Searched Santorini eruption – found Eruptions on Santorini- 1866 1870 (Nea Kameni)
    Wikipedi search of Nea Kameni shows that it is a new island formed as part of the eruption.
    Searched TROVE for Nea Kameni; Reported in the Hobart Mercury Thurs 3 May 1866

  5. See also Santorini and its eruption by Focque