Volcano. Whaakari.

Tragedy & Myth

Temple of Apollo

Following the 2019 eruption of Whaakari, I began seeing in my mind’s eye the ancient tragedies and myths playing out on the volcanic landscape of mountain and sea. Like in the fog of war, moment to moment, what is happening and what is speculation was broadcast. How many killed? How many survivors? When and how would survivors be rescued from White Island? The news coverage included an off the cuff interview with one of the helicopter pilots who had rescued victims. Three privately owned helicopters had flown to the island, searched and rescued, and flew injured victims to hospitals. Government Search and Rescue never came. They had been called off due to safety concerns.

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, helicopter pilots Mark Law and Tom Storey flew to White Island to find the remaining victims. Law said he couldn’t stay on safe land doing nothing knowing people were out on the island needing help, “ You’ve just gotta act.” A hero in my mind. One who in times long ago would inspire song, art, and prose, the thing legends are made of. He had a helicopter - the wings of rescue - and just did it. Nike. Like a winged hero of myth reaching out of the heavens and scooping up the wounded in his hands. (It’s ironic that a year later he and the pilots who saved lives are among those being prosecuted in criminal court case.)

From my sketchbook this list, Pompeii :

The Temple of Apollo.

Temple of Apollo

Temple of the Fortunate Augusta

House of the Tragic Poet (Cave Canem)

House of the the Faun

House of the Vettii

House of the Golden Cupids

House of the Ancient Hunt

House of Menandea

House of Marine Venus

House of Sallust

Villa of the Mysteries

Villa of Diomedes

House of the Carbonized Furniture. __

The Eye of Apollo. Apollo is one the Olympian deities in classical Greek and Roman mythology and religion. God of art, music and dance, truth and prophecy, healing and diseases, the Sun and light, and more, and protection of the young. From the Temple of Apollo, Pompeii comes a statuary fragment of a bronze inlaid eye. The eye of Apollo watching human drama and tragedy unfold.

Hymn of Apollo (stanzas II. & VI.)

- Percy Shelley, fragment of poem


Then I arise, and climbing Heaven's blue dome,

I walk over the mountains and the waves,

Leaving my robe upon the ocean foam;

My footsteps pave the clouds with fire; the caves

Are filled with my bright presence, and the air

Leaves the green Earth to my embraces bare.


I am the eye with which the Universe

Beholds itself, and knows it is divine;

All harmony of instrument or verse,

All prophecy, all medicine, is mine,

All light of art or nature; - to my song

Victory and praise in its own right belong.

Flight from Whaakari / Pompeii. Rendition of White Island shoreline harbor and dock with small boat/ dingy/ lifeboats with overlay of famous image of marble statue by Italian sculptor Giovanni Maria Benzoni (1809 - 1873). About the statue, “The Pompeians (Flight From Pompeii)”, 1873, Benzoni said:

Had I the plaster in my hands I would have modeled this group which formed in my mind at the sight of that immense calamity on the spot. As soon as I returned to Rome I worked manically with a fever induced by the image of that horrendous event. I seemed to hear the terrible rumbling issuing from the summit of the mountain in whose bowels lay the fiery betrayal. I read the descriptions of those terrible days, but nobody’s account left it’s mark as had my few hours spent among the ruins.

I am moved by the gesture of the grouping, the cloak of protection, and the fleeing. It spoke to me of Vesuvius and speaks of Whaakari.

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