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The old port, and the volcano on the Kameni Islets
A zig-zag of six hundred steps descends from the bottom edge of Kato Fira (west from the main crossing of alleys at the centre of Chora) down to the Old Port, 230m below, which is sometimes referred to as Skala Firas, or simply as ‘ormos’. Donkeys and mules carry people up and down, preserving a long-standing tradition. When the cable car opened, it was agreed that a portion of every ticket sold would be given as a subsidy to the muleteers, so that the tradition could be maintained. The harbour below is tiny and the water almost black in colour.
From the quay, excursion trips leave for the ‘volcano’ and the Kameni Islands opposite, in the centre of the Caldera: these can be arranged through the Dakoutros Travel Agency in Fira (T: 22860 22958). The islands are magma domes, which have pushed up in successive eruptions to a height of 130m above the water level. Both Strabo and Seneca describe the first appearance of Palaia Kameni from the water in 197–96 bc, using the common source of Posidonius who may have derived his information from an eyewitness of the event. Something of the tortuous history and shifting size and height of this mass of solidified magma is traced above (see under Volcanic Caldera on pp. 14ff). From the (usual) point of disembarkation on the north side of Nea Kameni, which corresponds to the area of the island which first appeared in 1570, a path leads up to the summit above the central crater of the volcano, which exhibits little visible activity beyond the escape of a strong and stinging sulphurous vapour. nothing lives or grows on the island. Close to the shore, the land mass is formed of boulders of shiny, black basalt with forms that are alternately slickly rounded and jagged-edged. From the summit, the cooled magma flows of the last major eruptions can be distinguished: the 1707–11 deposits to the northwest; the main 1925–28 deposits to the east; and the massive areas of the 1866–70 deposits to the south. on the surface to the west the superimposed lava flows of 1925–28 can be seen. Warm springs rise under water at several points near both Palaia and nea Kameni. Most excursions stop near the chapel of the Taxiarch on nea Kameni: the shoreline is coloured red from the minerals in the springs, which rise from the seabed at c. 35Β°C. It is necessary to swim some distance in cold water from where the boat stops, before reaching the area of the springs. The heat dissipates quickly in the surrounding water.
Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.