two small islands in the center of the Santorini caldera, Palea
Kameni and Nea Kameni -"the volcano" to the local people- are
the youngest volcanic land in Greece. Palea Kameni (Old Burnt Island) is less
than 2000 years old, while Nea Kameni (Young Burnt Island) began to form only
425 years ago and its youngest lavas are less than 50 years old. Palea Kameni
has a total surface area of 60 hectares (148 acres), and a maximum elevation of
98.5 meters. Its two thousand years of existence have been enough to create a
thin layer of soil in certain areas on which the islanders of Santorini used to
grow animal feed. Today, a few goats manage to make out a living on the island,
while wild rabbits and doves find safe hiding places in the many deep fissures
in the lava rock.
Map of Santorini.
map of Palea and Nea Kameni.
in bloom (N. Kameni)
The only tree on the kameni islands
Kameni has a surface area of 340 hectares (840 acres), and its highest point
reaches 127 meters above sea level. Here there is virtually no soil. Where the
volcanic tephra has formed a thick enough layer, some grasses, succulents and
amaranthus manage to survive, while in the spring wild flowers spread a
colourful carpet over the summit. The animal kingdom is represented by a few
wild rabbits and thousands of tiny lizards. The sole example of larger plant
life is a single wild fig tree the local people call "Erinia", using
the ancient Greek word for wild fig which is erineos. It has managed to survive
on the southern slopes of the hill known as Mikri Kameni, the oldest lava on the
island. There must have been many fig trees here in the 19th century, for the
northern point of this (at that time separate) islet was called Sykia (Fig
Tree). The harbour used by tour boats has also adopted the traditional name of
the wild fig tree, and is also known as Erinia.
The Volcano of Santorini