A team of scientists will in December use a drill ship to trace the geological history of the southern Aegean, including the volcanic eruption that reshaped the Greek island of Santorini, a mission member said Wednesday.

"It's the first time that an oceanographic mission of this scope is carried out in Greece," Olga Koukousioura, a micropalaeontology researcher at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, told AFP.

Starting December 11, the US drill ship Joides Resolution will extract samples from six locations at a depth of between 360 and 860 metres off the popular Greek travel island.

Koukousioura said the samples could also yield historical climate data useful for modern research.

The scientist said the Santorini volcano, whose geological history will also be traced, is merely the epicentre of an Aegean Sea volcanic arc stretching from Methana on the Athens coast to the Cycladic islands of Milos and Nisyros. 

"Santorini is an open geological museum, a natural laboratory," Evi Nomikou, an assistant professor in geological oceanography and natural geography at the University of Athens, told Kathimerini daily.

A team of around 30 researchers from the United States, China, India, Japan and Australia will undertake the two-month mission financed by the International Ocean Discovery Program until February 10.

Best known for its picturesque sunsets that draw hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, Santorini was completely reshaped by a volcanic eruption around 1600 BCE that wiped out a culturally advanced Minoan colony.

Geothermal activity accompanied by seismic tremors remains high to this day.

The last major eruption of the most active part of the volcano, beneath the uninhabited black lava islet of Kameni near Santorini, occurred in 1950.

The Joides Resolution is capable of recovering sediments and rocks deep beneath the seabed.

In 2017 it was part of a mission to the South Pacific to seek the so-called "lost continent" of Zealandia that was submerged millions of years ago.

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