New Rosetta Stones Post: In Memory of the Geologists Who Died in the May 1980 Eruption


I’m not sure how many people know four geologists died on Mount St. Helens. None of us can think of St. Helens without thinking of David Johnston, of course, and the other three deserve to be remembered as well.

This was so hard to write. I wanted to do them justice. Very little information on James F. Fitzgerald Jr., Bob Kaseweter, and Beverly Wetherald is available. And I’m not a journalist: I didn’t want to go prying around looking for friends, family and colleagues, ripping scabs off old wounds. That said, if anyone reading knew them and wishes to share anything about them, please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com. That goes for folks who knew David Johnston, of course.

I really want to go hug a vulcanologist right now. The work they do is so insanely dangerous, and yet so necessary. If we have any vulcanologists in the audience, I want you to know how admired and appreciated you are. Consider yourself hugged. Also, let me buy you a beer, next time you’re in town.

Comments

  1. left0ver1under says

    I didn’t know about the scientists’ deaths. The Seattle media (on TV in British Columbia, where I lived) only ever talked about the idiots like Harry Truman who refused to leave their homes, as if the mountain would concede to their defiance.

    Nothing ever changes, does it? The media embraces stupidity and ignores those who do important work.

  2. Kevin says

    I visited there a few years ago. It was a bit out of my way — but I’m really glad I went. Amazing that the devastation near the blast zone was still quite evident.

    We are so not in charge. Nature can smack us down in an instant.

    Says the man who is going to turn off the air conditioning now, cuz it’s gotten a bit chilly.

  3. Jane says

    I have a cover of the publication my Dad (Rocky Crandell) and Donal Mullineaux wrote called “Potential Hazards from Future Eruptions of Mount St. Helens Volcano, Washington” signed by most of the scientists who were working on it down there just prior to when it blew. My Dad must have passed the book around during a meeting and asked everyone to sign it. He didn’t sign it, however. What’s interesting is that Dave Johnston’s signature is right at the tip of the drawing of the volcano on the cover. Don Mullineaux’s is just above that. I tried to cut and paste a picture of it here but the site won’t let me.

    I never got to meet Dave Johnston. His death really bothered my Dad. Dave was positioned in an area that was deemed safe in the event of an eruption. My Dad said the idea of a lateral blast never occurred to anyone because it hadn’t ever happened in recorded history before. Because there was the lateral blast, that’s why Dave was caught in the blast zone. After Mount St. Helens’ eruption, it made scientists re-evaluate a bunch of volcanoes differently.

    • Dana Hunter says

      Jane, your dad was amazing. My respect for him grows by the hour as I read his work and see him mentioned by so many others. He called so much of what St. Helens did, and ensured people took her hazards seriously. It’s in no way his fault she took everyone by surprise – it’s what volcanoes do. I’m in awe of him. No one will ever know how many people survived because of his work, but it’s a certainty he kept the death toll way down. And I’m seeing immense respect for his work in the papers I’m reading – completely earned!

      If you want to send that photo to me, you can email it to dhunterauthor at Yahoo dot com. I’ll be happy to put it up for everyone.

      And thank you. Having Dwight Crandell’s daughter among my readers has meant the world.