A Volcano in the Alps?

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This paper analyzes the article published in Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti (SPV) and a number of foreign studies addressing the natural cataclysm that occurred in Savoy (Western Alps) in 1751 and was recognized by witnesses as a volcanic eruption. This event was observed by V. Donati, a famous natural sc-ientist of the 18th century, and described by H.B. de Saussure, a prominent researcher of the Alps. Other evidence of similar phenomena in the Alps is presented from the historical data. It is suggested that a special type of explosive eruption, not accompanied by lava pouring out but still very dangerous may occur in the Alps.

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  1. 1

    De Saussure, H.B., Voyages dans les Alpes, précédés d’un essai sur l’histoire naturelle des environs de Genève, Neuchâtel, 1779, pp. 413–414.

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    Grishov, A.N., Reasoning on earthquakes and spitfire mountains, Nov. Ezhemes. Soch., 1794, pp. 91–100.

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    Haug, É., Traité de Géologie, vol. 1: Les Phénomènes géologiques, Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1907; Moscow–Leningrad: NKTP, 1932. Iz"yasnenie estestvennykh prichin zemletryasenii: Sobr. soch., vybrannykh iz Mesyatseslovov za raznye gody (Explanation of the Natural Causes of Earthquakes: Collected works from the Menologion Various Years), St. Petersburg, 1791.

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    Milanovskii, E.E. and Koronovskii, N.V., Orogennyi vulkanizm i tektonika Al’piiskogo poyasa Evrazii (Orogenic Volcanism and Tectonics of the Alpine Belt of Eurasia), Moscow, 1973.

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    Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti, Septeber 20, 1751.

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    Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti, October 1, 1751.

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    Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti, October 11, 1751.

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    Scalva, G. and Caramiello, R., Da Torino all’Oceano Indiano, passando per le Alpi. Vitaliano Donati scienziato e viaggiatore, alle origini della scienza moderna, Riv. Stor. Univ. Torino, 2017, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 83–106.

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    Schwarzbach, M., Berühmte Stätten geologischer Forschung, Stitgart: MBH, 1970; Moscow: Mir, 1973.

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    Shevchenko, V.I., Lukk, A.A., Guseva, T.V., Avtonomnaya i pleittektonicheskaya geodinamiki nekotorykh podvizhnykh poyasov i sooruzhenii (Autonomous and Plate-Tectonic Geodynamics of Some Mobile Belts and Mobile Edifices), Moscow: IFZ RAN, 2017.

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    Stats-Gelehrte Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyischen correspondenten,1751a, no. 150.

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    Stats-Gelehrte Zeitung des Hamburgischen unpartheyischen correspondenten,1751b, no. 153.

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    Zornlin, R., Recreations in Physical Geography or the Earth as it is, London, 1848.

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The author thanks Cand. Philos. Sci. S.Yu. Nechaev for the English and German print publications of the 18th century, as well as Clara Silvia Roero, the president of the Center for Historical Research of the University of Turin, for providing us with the data that made it possible to reconstruct the history of the investigation of the Savoy event in 1751.


This work was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, project no. 17-01-00503a.

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Correspondence to L. I. Ioganson.

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The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

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Translated by V. Arutyunyan

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Ioganson, L.I. A Volcano in the Alps?. Izv. Atmos. Ocean. Phys. 55, 840–845 (2019) doi:10.1134/S000143381908005X

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  • Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti
  • Savoy
  • XVIII century
  • V. Donati
  • H.B. de Saussure
  • volcano
  • eruption
  • rockfall