Geomedia: Books: "This Gulf of Fire" recounts the 1755 Lisbon disaster

In the panoply of history-altering natural disasters, Lisbon’s destruction on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, 1755, stands out. You may have heard of this Portuguese calamity in the context of tsunami coverage, but it was a sequence of three disasters — an earthquake, a tsunami and a fire — that combined to level much of the city and claim tens of thousands of lives. Some scholars suggest a fourth calamity was the way the aftermath was handled, but author Mark Molesky seems more charitably inclined on that front. In “This Gulf of Fire: The Destruction of Lisbon, or Apocalypse in the Age of Science and Reason,” Molesky, a historian at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, has written the definitive scholarly account — if not the most accessible one — of that fateful day and its historical aftermath.

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Callan Bentley

Credit: Virginia Community College System.

Bentley, an EARTH contributing editor, is an assistant professor of geology at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va. He is the 2018 recipient of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers Shea Award for exceptional contributions in earth science writing for the public and/or teachers. He also draws EARTH’s cartoons and is past president of the Geological Society of Washington. He blogs about geology at http://blogs.agu.org/mountainbeltway. The views expressed are his own.

Monday, November 19, 2018 - 06:00