Monday, January 31, 2005

Pompeii: The Last Day

I was one of the millions who watched "Pompeii: The Last Day" last night on the Discovery Channel. I thought the visual effects were quite compelling and the acting quite good for a docudrama. I also did not realize that the pyroclastic surge that killed the remaining residents of Pompeii did not produce instant death. The narrator's description of the residents' three painful breaths, the first searing the lungs and producing fluid, the second creating a soft concrete like mixture with the inhaled ash, and the third and final breath one of suffocation, was quite poignant. It made the instantaneous death suffered by the inhabitants of Herculaneum's boat sheds seem merciful by comparison (even though their teeth shattered and their brains boiled afterwards).

I also didn't realize the last flow actually spanned the Bay of Naples and threatened the household where Pliny the Younger waited for his uncle's return. I wish it had included more information about Rome's relief efforts but it made it sound like relief was deemed useless because of the immensity of the disaster.

The second half of the presentation was a repeat of information provided in a documentary I had seen before about how the current authorities have planned for an evacuation of the area if (or should I say when) Vesuvius erupts again.

Of course I startled my husband when I commented that I hoped Vesuvius would hold off at least for a couple more months so I could visit Pompeii and return home safely in March. He didn't realize my plans included a visit the ruins.
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