The Greatest Grumpy Cat Meme Ever

I stumbled across this looking for something else. I am a Doctor Who fan*, and I approve this meme.

grumpy cat tardis

If anyone knows who created this, tell me who they are. I love them. I want to buy them alcoholic beverages.

But you know Grumpy Cat never actually met The Doctor. No way you can hate traveling the universe when you run with him!

 

*Please don’t talk to me about recent episodes. My DVR died, and I haven’t caught up, and I didn’t get to see Day of the Doctor, and WAAAAHHH!!!!!!!! All will be remedied as I continue catching B up – we’re on Series 4 now. By the time we reach the newest series, it’ll be in my hands on nice shiny DVDs which will not fail me, and happiness will return to the universe. Also, I may possibly have a working DVR again. Anything is possible!

Sometimes It Works Out Fine

Many of you were there to offer cyber-sympathy during the recent dust-up that plunged me into Emoland. Your support prevented me from becoming a permanent resident there – thank you! But for a while there, it looked like I’d be living life without B. Which led to frequent trips to Emoland, lemme tell ya.

But that situation’s sorted. We finally had the difficult talk a bit ago, wherein he displayed an understanding as to why all this feminism stuff is important, and he’ll trust me going forward, and won’t worry about the battles I choose to pick. Mind you – he’s understood the importance of said battles all along, which is one of the many reasons I like him lots. But he’s now willing to risk some collateral discomfort, and knows we can have equality without sacrificing fun. We’ll trust each other more in the future.

Of course, that talk would have happened a lot earlier if he’d known how to approach the conversation, poor soul. In trying not to pressure him, I think I went a bit too far in the opposite direction. Whoops.

And then we sorted out the other, more mundane, personal issues that had contributed to the bad situation between us. We committed to the necessary changes each of us needed to make in order to do better by each other. Then we purchased an excessive amount of alcohol and watched a very odd vampire flick, followed by a Wonder Woman episode, and it’s been fine since. Better than I expected.

Sometimes, these battles we have to fight for equality cost us close personal friends. But when that happens, the ones worth keeping will work it out with us. And they’ll be there for us in the future.

B’s one of the best. Raise him a round and welcome him to the feminazi ranks.

Image is of two cats hugging. Caption says, "Don't worry. Everything is fine now."

Gone Eatin’, Plus Lots o’ Thanks

So it’s that day again in America where we give thanks and stuff ourselves into a coma.

Image is of a cat lying on a dinner plate. The table also contains a salad bowl in the center and plates full of food. Caption says, "I is TURKEY.... stuff with noms.Sometimes, Christians ask us what we have Thanksgiving for if we don’t believe in a god we can give those thanks to, which displays an appalling lack of imagination, not to mention no appreciation for the people around us.

I’ve got plenty of people and things to be thankful to and for. There’s B’s brother B, who’s cooking the turkey so I don’t have to. There’s B, who made this dinner happen (and yes, we’re good again – I’ll tell that story when I’ve regained consciousness). There’s the fine folks who raised all the food and came up with the genius spice combos. There’s all the people everywhere who made the roads I will drive, and made the car I will drive, possible and safe. There’s my company, which irritates the crap out of me but pays a good wage, and the customers who make it possible for them to pay it. There’s all the people without whom this day wouldn’t happen, whose contributions are so invisible I don’t see them, but they’re there.

Thank you.

There’s my parents, and my kitty, and my friends, who all make my life happier, and make me happy when I can do things for them that make them happy.

Thank you.

And then there’s you, my readers, my colleagues and friends in this wonderful world of cyberspace, where my life has been changed and enriched over and over and over again, and where I like to think I give a little something back. I love you all!

THANK YOU.

Now, even if you’re not in America, go do something nice and fun today. May it include the things you love best. Because, damn it, you deserve only the best!

Laters.

Image is of a cat on its back on a sofa, fast asleep. Caption says,

Magnificent Mount Rainier

Seattle doesn’t lack for scenery. I mean, you can be coming back from gathering wool (no, seriously, Starspider and I were at The Weaving Works getting her wool for felting), and you drive through the city onto the I-90 bridge, and Mount Rainier happens.

Mount Rainier and the curved arch of a portion of the I-90 bridge.

Mount Rainier and the curved arch of a portion of the I-90 bridge.

Usually, you don’t see it on cloudy days, but the cloud ceiling was high, so there was that blush of sunset in the sky as well as on the mountain, and all of that reflected in the waters of Lake Washington, and it was one of those moments that remind you why life can be pretty damned awesome even at rush hour. So I had Starspider take shots from the car, because I wanted you to share the moment with me.

I’ve subsequently had perhaps too much fun with those photos. Like this shot, clipped from a much larger one, which caught my fancy because it’s so unintentionally artsy. I’m sure someone could come up with some sort of poignant caption, and then maybe we could sell it as a postcard to people who are grabbed by weird things.

The cloudy sky and trees behind us, reflected in the sideview mirror, with the concrete wall of the bridge rushing by.

The cloudy sky and trees behind us, reflected in the sideview mirror, with the concrete wall of the bridge rushing by.

And then you have the mountain in the sinking sunlight.

Panorama of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington. The mountain is reflected in the lake as a streak of pale pink and gold.

Panorama of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington.

Now, these were shots taken in poor light through a window from a moving car, and what you see is being clipped therefrom so that the mountain is larger than a melting mini-marshmallow floating in a soup tureen, so they’re a little grainy. But some simple photo editing can turn them into something more than just hastily-snapped and imperfect pictures, or so I like to believe.

Detail of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington. With the contrast and saturation and things fiddled with, it looks a bit like a watercolor, dunnit?

Detail of Mount Rainier and Lake Washington. With the contrast and saturation and things fiddled with, it looks a bit like a watercolor, dunnit?

And if I darken it, I can foreshadow its inevitable eruption.

A darker version, with the mountain beginning to resemble the fire mountain it is.

A darker version, with the mountain beginning to resemble the fire mountain it is.

I can pour gold down its flanks.

A detail of Mount Rainier with the gold highlights of sunset enhanced, so that the mountain looks like it's got an intimation of a halo and a lovely golden mantle.

A detail of Mount Rainier with the gold highlights of sunset enhanced, so that the mountain looks like it’s got an intimation of a halo and a lovely golden mantle.

Or I can be minimalist, and show you how it was.

A more natural version of the same photo.

A more natural version of the same photo.

As the season progresses, that thick mantle of snow will become thicker, and on the days when the clouds part and we can see it from the city, it will look very much like an enormous scoop of sweet cream gelato. At sunset, it will become so pink you’d swear it’s strawberry. These mountains surprised me, when I first saw them: I’d been used to sharp and jagged peaks, not these rounded scoops that look so innocent and culinary. Then I learned that this is what a young, vigorous volcano looks like (unless it blows its insides out). As beautiful as these mountains are, as seemingly serene, they’re wildly dangerous.

And that’s part of their beauty. There’s nothing permanent about them, and their serenity won’t last, but in these quiet moments, they add dramatic beauty to the city skyline. They make me want to stop and stare and know every detail of them, from inside out.

Which will be quite easy at Rainier soon enough (geologically speaking), when it spills its insides out…

Went for Shrooms, Came Back with Birds

Inspired by Kenny and the small stretch of charming weather we’re having, I went on a quest Saturday to find mushrooms. Only some unutterable barstard’s mown down all the local fly agaric. And the ones I did find were – oh, shall we say, well past their prime and leave it at that? Bleck. And I was being lazy and doing the North Creek loop, which isn’t exactly a mushroomer’s paradise. I need to get me arse out to the woods, but after a month of sitting round sewing and a further three weeks of lying around being ill, I’m not up for the strenuous business.

Which turned out awesome, actually. I got you birdies!

My little cormorant. Image is a profile of a cormorant, which is standing on a small lump of wood or similar in the creek.

My little cormorant.

There are two ponds on this stretch of North Creek. One is up by where I work: it’s large, and somewhat screened from passers-by, and it’s where a lot of the cool kids hang out. That’s where you would normally see a cormorant, when they make their way over here. However, a bird-watching gentleman told me that pond is frozen, so everybody ended up coming down the creek to the second pond, which is smaller but deep enough not to freeze. It’s also easier for people to get to, which is why the birds and other animals who don’t appreciate humans tend to give it a miss. This cormorant was also giving it a miss, opting instead for a stretch of creek up near the beaver lodge. It wasn’t too happy about being in close proximity to people, but seemed to understand that we weren’t going to come down the steep banks after it.

This did not mean it was able to live its life undisturbed. The ducks were not at all impressed by its solitary black majesty.

 

Cormorant and duckies. A male and female mallard pair are sailing through the creek right past the cormorant.

Cormorant and duckies.

I thought it would photograph best with water as a background, but I decided to try another set of photos with the grassy bank behind. And green is, apparently, its color, because it really makes that orange by its beak and that green eye pop.

 

Cormorant against grassy bank.

Cormorant against grassy bank.

Here’s a nice close photo of it.

 

Closeup of cormorant.

Closeup of cormorant.

Look at those lovely patterns in its wings. Rather looks like someone spent a long time drawing it in various shades of charcoal gray and jet black, dunnit? That’s one of the many things I love about this camera. From the bank, I could barely make out the slightest shade of orange around its bill, and the body was just a solid black blob. The camera managed to resolve quite a bit with its spiffy optical zoom.

And you get a tableau like this, when the water stills after the ducks’ passing, and a noble bird is reflected.

 

Cormorant and reflection.

Cormorant and reflection.

So that was pretty awesome. Then I meandered the few steps down the trail to the pond, where a kindly birdwatching gentleman pointed out a treasure. See if you can find it in this group photo.

Can you spot the unusual bird in this photo? Look closely - it's very hard to see. (The photo shows a portion of the pond, full of ducks and other waterbirds, and hiding in the rushes is a green heron.)

Can you spot the unusual bird in this photo? Look closely – it’s very hard to see.

I’ll give you a minute. Also, a link to a larger version. Because I love you, that’s why.

Since the other pond was frozen, a huge congregation of wildlife had gathered down at this one. If you look round the mud flats, you’ll see lots of nutria having a nibble, as well as all the ducks, and this was just a small sample of the abundance.

Ducks and nutria having afternoon tea.

Ducks and nutria having afternoon tea.

And amongst all the usual stuff, there was this wee little green heron, who should’ve left the locale long ago.

Wee green heron on the bank, barely seeable it blends in so well.

Wee green heron on the bank, barely seeable it blends in so well.

I don’t remember ever seeing one before, so this was rather exciting, and made me feel better about missing out on mushrooms.

Little heron walking out from its old brown grasses with purpose. That food, my friends, will be captured and eaten.

Little heron walking out from its old brown grasses with purpose. That food, my friends, will be captured and eaten.

I spent quite a bit of time up there, watching the heron hunt, and talking to the gentleman about all the wonderful things round here. He’s seen river otters on this creek, which means I’m going to have to spend more time along it. Otters! It’s possible that’s what got mightily offended when I startled it from the bridge the other day. It plopped off the bank before I could get a good look at it, and all that would poke out later was a head sorta like a nutria but not really, and kind of like a beaver only not, and it would look toward the bridge, see me still there, and make an angry huffing sound before diving again. Just like a church-type lady doing the “Well, I never!” routine. I felt kinda bad, but look, I was on the human part of the creek and stayed there, so I sort of felt like it was getting huffy over nothing.

Anyway. One last look at our hunting heron:

Hunting heron, now out on the mud flats and looking for passing delicacies in the water.

Hunting heron, now out on the mud flats and looking for passing delicacies in the water.

Coming home, I saw a dragonfly. Yes, a big fat ol’ red dragonfly, so late in the season – I’d have shot a photo if it had landed, but it didn’t. Still. Absolutely magical, seeing a summer creature in the near-winter. It went well with the ladybug that was industriously climbing my window earlier.

Mah late ladybug. It's a silhouette of a ladybug that's climbed to near the top of the window, shot from inside the house. Just a tiny little thing.

Mah late ladybug.

And then Starspider and I went to the weaver’s store near sundown, taking the road along the lake, and those sunset colors on the water with the Cascades and Mount Rainier and everything – I wish we’d been in a position to photograph them for you. It reminds me why I moved here, and why I stay.

One of the best cities in the world, this.

The Cataclysm: “Vancouver! Vancouver! This Is It!”

Dawn arrives early in the Pacific Northwest spring. The clouds are usually thick enough to filter the light to the satisfaction of all but the lightest sleepers, but on the morning of May 18th, 1980, 5:30am saw the sun rising in cloudless skies. It called all rain-locked residents to seize a sunny spring day while the opportunity lasted. Sunlight shone on the ash-dusted flanks of Mount St. Helens, and cast shadows in the fractures in the bulge. The mountain, so recently wracked with steam explosions and rocked by earthquakes, had regained some serenity.

Mount St. Helens viewed from Coldwater Ridge, taken in early May. Bulge at upper left side of peak between Dogs Head and Goat Rocks. Note dense fir forest. Photo by Harry Glicken. Skamania County, Washington. May 17, 1980. Image courtesy USGS.

Something woke Dr. David Johnston of the USGS early that morning. It might have been birds, who tend to get rather vocal when the sun shines here. It might have been the Oregon Army National Guard’s overflight to check thermal anomalies before solar heat could compete with volcanic sources. There may have been something else that morning that urged him from his camper and back to his instruments as the sun crested the ridges. He checked the bulge three times in the next hour and a half, using geodetic equipment to assess its growth. It seemed to have slowed again: since yesterday, the rate was only about half a meter (2 feet) per day. Still screaming fast for a geologic process, to be sure, but considerably below what it had been.

He radioed in the last measurement at 6:53am Pacific Daylight Time.

♦ ♦ ♦

On a ridge 3 kilometers (2 miles) behind Dave, ham radio operator Gerry Martin would soon begin his own day. A member of the Amateur Radio Emergency Services and the Radio Amateurs Emergency Services, he was monitoring Mount St. Helens for the Washington Department of Emergency Services. He’d have a clear view of the mountain today.

♦ ♦ ♦

In Yakima, rock hounds and geologists had arrived for the Yakima Gem and Mineral Show. Washington Department of Natural Resources geologist Keith Stoffel was there to represent the Division of Geology and Earth Resources for WADNR. He and his wife, Century West Engineering Corp. geologist Dorothy Stoffel, knew they’d have a few hours to kill before the show. They chartered a plane for a flight out to Mount St. Helens. Neither of them had seen it since it roared awake.

They arrived with their pilot, Bruce Judson of Executive Aircraft, at 7:50am, and began their first pass over the volcano, eagerly observing. St. Helens vented a few wisps of steam from the bottom and southeast lip of her crater. The north face looked wet: large areas around Goat Rocks and Sugar Bowl glistened. They could see reddish-brown streaks left by debris flows, and wondered if those were hours or days old. Wet seeps wept on the south-facing wall of the crater. “Immense fractures” broke the south lip.

On the third pass, Judson thought those fractures had increased.

Ice avalanche from Leshi Glacier traveled over top of north side of Sugar Bowl, Mount St. Helens. Skamania County, Washington. May 17, 1980. Image courtesy USGS.

For their fourth pass, they swept wide to the northwest, taking in the whole of the mountain before approaching the summit from the west. They’d fly over on their way back to Yakima.

It was 8:32am.

♦ ♦ ♦

Fifteen kilometers (9 miles) east of the summit, University of British Columbia geology student Catherine Hickson and her husband Paul sat in the front seat of their car, eating breakfast. They’d driven down the day before and camped outside the predicted danger zone, hoping to see a little geology in action from a safe distance. Catherine was studying sedimentology, but an active volcano practically in the back yard is a sight few geologists can resist. They’d been treated to a quiet mountain and lovely weather. They’d risen in time to watch dawn flood the mountain slopes, and catch the few wisps of steam streaming from her summit in the cool of the morning. So far, the most excitement they’d experienced involved their dogs: both acted strangely that morning, subdued and anxious. They checked the animals over for illness or injuries: finding none, turned their attention to breakfast, barely paying attention to the currently quiet volcano outside their windshield.

At 8:32am, Paul glanced up, and yelled. Something was happening on the mountain.

♦ ♦ ♦

We expect volcanoes to give warning before they come undone. But they are geological phenomena: sometimes, the only warning we get before something catastrophic happens is the general seismic and phreatic precursor activity, which sometimes fades away with only a murmur. Sometimes, the warning given is followed too closely by catastrophe for us to react.

Several witnesses felt the magnitude 5.1 earthquake that morning. Some didn’t. It’s not certain whether Dave Johnston, alone at Coldwater II, felt anything at all. But we know he was among the first to see the enormous bulge on the north slope fail. He was staring it in the face. And when it came down, he knew. Grabbing his radio, he shouted, voice cracking with the intensity of the experience, “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!

Vancouver never heard. Something, possibly the eruption itself, interfered: his last transmission was picked up by a ham radio operator who recorded those words, together with others too garbled to understand, on the tape recorder hooked to his unit. He relayed the message, and tried to reestablish contact. But Dr. David Johnston and Coldwater II were gone.

♦ ♦ ♦

On the ridge behind Dave, Gerry Martin had radioed the Washington Department of Emergency Services when the eruption started, providing a cool and concise description of the catastrophic failure of the north slope, the resulting avalanche, and the blast cloud that emerged as the confined cryptodome was suddenly released. He had an extra moment before the blast and debris avalanche reached him, saw them overrun Dave Johnston and Coldwater II. “The camper and the car just over to the south of me are covered,” he told the DES respondent. “It’s going to get me, too.”

Then, silence.

♦ ♦ ♦

Flying toward the summit, Keith and Dorothy Stoffel noticed rock and ice sliding down the walls of the summit crater. Judson banked his aircraft for a better view. In a WA DNR paper summarizing the eruption (pdf), Keith described what he saw:

Within a matter of seconds, perhaps 15 seconds, the whole north side of the summit crater began to move instantaneously. As we were looking directly down on the summit crater, everything north of a line drawn east-west across the northern side of the summit crater began to move as one gigantic mass. The nature of movement was eerie, like nothing we had ever seen before. The entire mass began to ripple and churn up, without moving laterally. Then the entire north side of the summit began sliding to the north along a deep-seated slide plane. I was amazed and excited with the realization that we were watching this landslide of unbelievable proportions slide down the north side of the mountain toward Spirit Lake. We took pictures of this slide sequence occurring, but before we could snap off more than a few pictures, a huge explosion blasted out of the detachment plane. We neither felt nor heard a thing, even though we were just east of the summit at this time. Dorothy saw the southern portion of the summit crater begin to crumble and slide to the north just after the initial explosion.

From our viewpoint, the initial cloud appeared to mushroom laterally to the north and plunge down. Within seconds, the cloud had mushroomed enough to obscure our view. At about this time, the realization of the enormous size of the eruption hit us, and we focused our attention on getting out of there.

In the midst of the eruption, Judson dove for speed. Even at 200 knots, the blast cloud nearly overtook them. He turned them south, away from the north-directed blast and the east-blowing winds, and managed to outrace disaster. They landed safely in Portland, having witnessed the cataclysm from 0 kilometers away.

Mount St. Helens looking toward the southeast on May 18, 1980, shows a very close view of the crater and eruption, with snow-covered Mount Hood in the distant horizon. Skamania County, Washington. Image courtesy USGS.

♦ ♦ ♦

Seventeen kilometers (10.5 miles) northeast of the summit, University of Washington geophysics student Keith Ronnholm, camping with photographer friend Gary Rosenquist and other companions in Bear Meadow, missed the start of the avalanche by ten seconds. When he emerged from his camper, “The bulge was moving… the whole north side was sliding down.” He watched the first eruption clouds form at the “cirque-like wall” left by the landslide block as the landslide disappeared from view behind a ridge. He and Gary photographed the developing eruption: the dark one that rose from the summit crater, and another, lighter, boiling out from the gaping wound in the north flank. He watched that second cloud expand nearly spherically, with one arm racing to the north after the avalanche. When the cloud hit the ridge closest to St. Helens, it bounded up in a seething, roiling mass.

They shot an extraordinary sequence of photographs before realizing they needed to flee.

♦ ♦ ♦

Catherine Hickson would write to a friend a week later, describing what she saw that day:

…The most incredible sight was occurring before our eyes – a large chunk of the mountain was avalanching down the slope perpendicular to our position, then a small cloud of black ash billowed up from below where the avalanche had occurred – the bulge on the side of the mountain had just broken away…. This was followed by a large puff of ash from farther up, then all hell broke loose as an enormous column of billowing black ash extended from the upper puff all the way down the mountainside to the second explosion, growing larger by the second enveloping it and in milliseconds extending far to the north….

An incredible black cloud was cascading down the mountainside, fed by the billowing columns soaring upwards into a huge mushroom cloud. “Nuée ardente” immediately came to mind as it became obvious nothing would stop it – not even the deep river valley that lay between us and the mountain. So we fled…

Nuee ardente from west, Mount St. Helens. Photo by J.G. Rosenbaum. Skamania County, Washington. May 18, 1980. Image courtesy USGS.

♦ ♦ ♦

Red lightning streaked from ash cloud to ground as Keith Ronnholm and his fellow campers drove to safety. About seven or eight minutes after the spectacular start of the eruption, rocks began pelting them from the ash cloud above their heads. It lasted less than a minute, and he was able to safely collect samples. Volcanic material began splattering the windshield, followed by heavy drops of mud that flattened into three-quarter inch discs as they hit. Mud stopped falling, replaced by ash, then mud again. This time, the ashfall became so thick he couldn’t see; it tapered off only gradually. He and his friends reached safety some time later, bearing photographs that would provide geologists with critical insight into the opening stages of the eruption.

♦ ♦ ♦

Bolts of lightning stabbed from cloud to ground as Catherine and Paul Hickson fled south on a logging road. The ash cloud loomed behind them, “roaring and crashing with an incredible fury.” The sun vanished; ash rained down, and then the road turned back north, taking them back toward all that fury, into a mud rain and a ground-hugging ash cloud. The mud rain forced them to retreat. They found other campers at a site they’d passed earlier, whose detailed maps showed several possible routes out of the cataclysm. They’d spend the next several hours tracing various routes, cut off by mud flows that destroyed bridges, while the mountain roared. Pumice fell, threatening to break the windshield of the car that had gone ahead to scout. Catherine collected some of it from a lighter fall, which would later be analyzed in the University of British Columbia labs.

They passed the Muddy River valley, where a lahar had swept through, leaving the trees not ripped away “covered in mud halfway up the trunks,” and replacing the river with thick, gray mud. Finally, at noon, they found a route through the destruction, sped over the Lewis River bridge, and gave a report to officers manning a roadblock further down. People had been trying to drive up for a closer look at the volcano. They looked at the Hicksons’s ash and mud spattered car, listened to them describe their escape, and seemed to change their minds about a closer view. The Hicksons crossed the Columbia into Oregon, and made it home to Vancouver, BC just before I5 was shut down due to ash fall and the threat to bridges from lahars.

They’d been right on the fringe of the blast zone. They’d survived.

After Mount St. Helens nearly killed her, Catherine Hickson would never be the same. She gave up sedimentology. Thirty years later, she would explain to Seattle Met magazine what that day had done:

“I was frightened that entire morning,” she recently recalled. “But it changed me. It changed what I studied. It changed what I became.” She became Canada’s most celebrated volcanologist.

♦ ♦ ♦

Geology student Harry Glicken, who had been scheduled to be on the mountain that morning, spent a frantic afternoon talking his way on to any search and rescue helicopter that would take him, trying to find Coldwater II, trying to find Dave. But they were gone. The top of the mountain was gone. Everything was gone.

♦ ♦ ♦

View from northwest of pyroclastic flow of May 18 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Amphitheater in background. Helicopter at edge of flow in foreground. Skamania County, Washington. July 1, 1980. Image courtesy USGS.

Those geologists who witnessed the catastrophic eruption of May 18th, 1980, along with others caught in the fury of the unleashed cryptodome, would be essential to piecing together the events of that morning. In the immediate aftermath, things were too chaotic, the volcano too dangerous, to understand exactly what had happened. The entire landscape had changed in moments: landmarks, forests, people: all missing, all destroyed.

USGS geologists later interviewed survivors, and with their statements and photographs, observations from scientists and searchers flying through the chaos, and other bits and fragments of evidence collected from instruments that had survived, were able to piece together the events of that day. The magnitude 5.1 earthquake had come first. It probably shook that perilously unstable bulge loose, fulfilling David Johnston’s prediction that it couldn’t stabilize without coming down. It cascaded down in multiple slump blocks, one of which uncovered the cryptodome. Released from confining pressure, gasses within the thick dacite magma came out of solution and blew through upper slump block as it fell. The horizontal eruption grew far faster than one that shot vertically from the summit, and subjected people within its reach to brief but blazing heat, burning anyone not protected by vehicles or fallen trees. No one close to the mountain heard a concussive blast, just roaring and rumbling. What struck the interviewers the most was that few seemed to hear entire forests of mature trees being blown down.

The blast cloud roaring from the breached north flank seemed to hug the ground: climbers on Mounts Rainier and Adams watched it dip into valleys, vanishing from sight until it reappeared over ridgetops. The direct blast, that long arm Keith Ronnholm had seen emerging from the sphere, traveled at 140-150 meters per second (313-335 miles per hour), although it didn’t sustain those speeds for long.

When the eruption finished, 600 square kilometers (230 mi2) lay devastated. Lahars and ash fall impacted many hundreds more, ripping out bridges, destroying roads and streams, and shutting out the sun.

The cataclysm had come.

Day after the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. View of denuded slope and blowdown timber, with a still steaming Mount St. Helens in the background. USGS Photograph taken on May 19, 1980, by Peter Lipman. Image courtesy USGS.

Previous: Interlude: Moment of Silence.

Next: The Cataclysm: “One of the Most Dramatic Mass-Movement Events of Historic Time.”

References:

Cheng, Cliff: In Honor of Jerry Martin, W6TQF, and Reid Blackburn, KA7AMF. Last accessed 8/9/12.

Foxworthy, Bruce L. and Hill, Mary (1982): Volcanic eruptions of 1980 at Mount St. Helens: the first 100 days. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1249.

Hickson, Catherine J. (2005): Mt. St. Helens: Surviving the Stone Wind. Vancouver, BC, Canada: Tricouni Press.

Korsec, M.A., Rigby, J.G., and Stoffel, K.L. (1980): The 1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens, Washington. Department of Natural Resources Information Circular 71. (PDF)

Lipman, Peter W., and Mullineaux, Donal R., Editors (1981): The 1980 Eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1250.

Thompson, Dick (2000): Volcano Cowboys: The Rocky Evolution of a Dangerous Science. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books.

 

Originally published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.

Sunday Song: Leaves

It’s the dying time o’ year again. In Seattle and surrounding areas, that means rain, followed by rain, and showers, then some rain, and this is an especially wet fall so we’ve had some rain to go with our rain. When it’s not raining, it threatens to rain, and the sun is a distant memory. Oh, and the leaves were really spectacular and gorgeous, but it was raining, and then before the sun came out, there was some rain with extra-strong wind, and when the sun briefly emerged, most of the pretty leaves were in soggy heaps on the ground, sometimes with the tree still attached.

But there were a few times when the clouds would clear and the sun would glow through the few remaining red and gold leaves, turning them into nature’s own stained glass, and I’d slip out of the building on breaks and snap away furiously, trying to capture that fleeting loveliness that, to me, is the only bloody good thing about this season. Aside from Halloween, of course.

Sunlight through yellow leaf on green hedge.

Sunlight through yellow leaf on green hedge.

I am, however, feeling a bit gothic, what with all the dark gloomy days. So this song will fit the theme for three reasons: firstly, it’s called “Leaves.” Secondly, it’s kind of gothic and gloomy, what with that background and if you listen to the words. Thirdly, in the midst of the gloom, and the leaves, you’ve got something very bright and lovely glowing all over the place. In my photos, it’s the leaves; in this song, it’s Anneke van Giersbergen, who for some reason maintains a bright beaming grin whilst singing about losing someone probably forever.

That’s always intrigued me.

Leaves are kinda like that, too. “Hey, it’s butt-ass freezing cold, and wet, and we’re dying, and we’re all pretty and shiny bright colors, yay!”

Red leaves on gray trunk.

Red leaves on gray trunk.

Arboreal chemistry is really kind of interesting. Someday, perhaps, I’ll delve into my old notes on the subject and write you a treatise on why these riotous colors appear. It was actually fascinating. But right now, I’m supposed to be writing a bunch of geology stuff, so I’d best refrain from biological byways.

Red leaves on gray trunk II

Red leaves on gray trunk II

This is sort of like compensation for the frogs. I miss my froggies. I didn’t get to see many this year – they’d moved to a part of the ditch where they could be better hidden, but I could walk down by the water and I’d hear them go plop as they fled. I am probably not a nice person, but I did like hearing they were there. Too bad I couldn’t do that without scaring the shit out of them.

Red leaves on a gray trunk with little gold flecks and moss.

Red leaves on a gray trunk with little gold flecks and moss.

One of them always screamed, this little gasping cry like a squeak toy, before it jumped. It was my favorite. Now, of course, it’s too cold for them, so when I walk along their ditch I’m left looking at dying plants. Which can be interesting, too, but don’t tend to leap into the water with little squawks of alarm.

Bunch of red leaves against a gray trunk replete with interesting shadows and tiny slivers of blue sky.

Bunch of red leaves against a gray trunk replete with interesting shadows and tiny slivers of blue sky.

One of the things I wish I had more time to do is just stand there and look at things. I mean really look. These unintentional works of art really are remarkable.

Yellow and red leaves against a shadowy green hedge.

Yellow and red leaves against a shadowy green hedge.

On nice (or at least not-sopping-wet) days, I like to take a quick walk to the creek on break. Some days, though, I don’t make it there, because nature has staged an art show.

Branches of red leaves against bright blue sky.

Branches of red leaves against bright blue sky.

In this case, it was a tree that had held on to its leaves in defiance of the wind storm. Some of those leaves were brilliant red.

Detail of red leaves against blue sky.

Detail of red leaves against blue sky.

Some of them were still green. And I wish my camera had been more amenable to the idea of photographing red against green in brilliant sunlight, because it was really remarkable and breath-taking, but my little point-and-shoot couldn’t deal with it. But this will give you an idea of what the whole looked like.

Red and green leaves.

Red and green leaves.

Spectacular.

This season does have its compensations. I just wish they’d last a bit longer…

Fundamentals of Fungi: Kenny’s Quintet

Oh, my darlings, it’s been a very long time since I’ve given any love to those of you who adore your shrooms. Fortunately, I’ve got a coworker who finds some fabulous ones, and had a good camera on his phone, and he’s sharing the love with you.

He hit me square in the squees with this beauty of a fly agaric he found up by Canyon Park.

A fly agaric fit for a gnome's throne.

A fly agaric fit for a gnome’s throne.

One thing I love about all of the mushrooms around here is how fairy-tale they all seem. I may be an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t delight in the stories we tell each other about magic and mystery and mysticalities. Kenny found some fungi that make me want to photoshop fairies in.

Lots of perky little white-capped shrooms that make this look like a fantasy forest.

Lots of perky little white-capped shrooms that make this look like a fantasy forest.

Get into the misty wet woods, and come across a bunch of mushrooms marching up a tree, adorning it like jewels, and you can almost believe you’ve stepped from the mundane world into a rather more interesting one.

Strings and streamers of mushrooms adorning a tree.

Strings and streamers of mushrooms adorning a tree.

The beauty of being an atheist is, I know that magical world is our really-real one. I don’t have to do anything special or complicated to get there. I just have to find a path into the woods and follow it with my eyes open.

 

A virtual wall of mushrooms on a tree trunk.

A virtual wall of mushrooms on a tree trunk.

Then forget fairies. There’s the natural art, of course – mushrooms can be remarkably beautiful. And we can use them to feed ourselves, or kill, or go on a trip, or treat illness. We can use them to dye fiber, or soak up toxins, or start the fire we’ll use to cook some of their mates. We can use them to read ecosystems. That’s all pretty remarkable stuff. Mushrooms have many stories to tell, and while they may not be quite as sparkly as a forest full of fairies, they’re captivating.

A tower of brown mushrooms.

A tower of brown mushrooms.

And I’ve got so very many to share with you this winter.

Dave Crockett’s Narrow Escape

One of the eeriest things I’ve ever seen is the video shot by KOMO News reporter Dave Crockett on May 18th, 1980. He was just 28 years old. Something woke him before dawn that Sunday morning, telling him this was the day to be there. Good reporter’s instincts, that man.

I was a very young child, just wrapping my mind around this whole mountain-go-splodey thing, watching clouds of gray ash roil and tumble in the sky as Dave Crockett fought to survive on the slopes of the volcano. The idea that someone could be on it, caught up in the cataclysm, and survive, left me stunned.

I can’t remember for certain if I first saw his video before or after I read Marion T. Place’s outstanding children’s book on the Mount St. Helens eruption. I do remember reading about this poor bloke, cut off by mudflows, choking in apocalyptic ashfall, walking toward the only light he can see. And through all of that, barely able to breathe and nearly certain he was going to die, he had the presence of mind to keep the camera running and narrate his experience. That, my friends, is a hardcore reporter. Place is a fine wordsmith, the kind who has you gasping alongside the survivor whilst you wonder how the hell you can possibly escape this. But no words, no matter how masterfully written, can equal the sucker-punch to the gut that is the footage he shot that day:

The darkness and that eerie light have never left me. Every time I’ve come across Dave Crockett’s name in the years since, I’ve seen that darkness and heard his labored breathing. I remember him shouting his defiance at the mountain, triumphant and alive.

He was only 13 kilometers (8 miles) west of the summit, on the south side of the South Fork Toutle River, on that day. Talk about your front row seat! He was one of the survivors interviewed by USGS geologists, who used eyewitness accounts combined with physical data collected to piece together what had happened. His story is told in USGS Professional Paper 1250:

Less than 10 min after the beginning of the eruption, a huge mass of water, mud, and trees crashed down a small tributary within the South Fork Toutle River valley. It snapped off trees and “exploded” when it hit lows, bursting as much as 60 ft when it hit obstacles. A similar flow then swept across the road about 100 yd to the north, moving trees, rocks, and stumps. A few minutes later a substantial but much smaller flow, containing numerous trees and other debris, was still moving down the valley. About S min after the first flood, the witness crossed the flow path by wading through material like “warm concrete” and a flow of very muddy, cool water. The river returned to and stayed within its deep channel until about 1400, when there occurred a second smaller flood deep enough to spill out of the channel….

About 15 min after the start of the eruption, a dark cloud descended from the mountain and sandsized ash began raining down vertically. The witness sensed pressure pulses on his face and in his ears that seemed to correspond to periods of more intense ash fall. He experienced difficulty in breathing during the heavy ash fall and clearly attributed this difficulty to a lack of air, not to clogging of his nose and mouth with ash.

Scientific language often comes across as cold and dispassionate as a consequence of its focus on precision. But this eruption was so huge, what the survivors went through so extreme, that the enormity of it comes across even in technical terms. This was a life-changing event, one that Dave Crockett was lucky to survive. He got to spend a few more hours watching the mountain spill its magma chamber into the sky before being rescued by a helicopter later that afternoon. They got his car out later. It’s now at the Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitor Center, and will go on display once they figure out where to put it.

KOMO News did a very nice 30th anniversary piece with him, where you can see his raw footage – which is even eerier. It drives home the fact that Dave Crockett is one hell of a resourceful and lucky man. I hope I’m lucky enough to meet him one day. It would be an honor.

The survivor’s tales are that gleam of light in the darkness of destruction. They allow us to see the eruption from a human perspective. And they provided invaluable information that helped geologists understand what happened that day, which has saved lives at other volcanoes since, and will do so far into the future.

 

References:

Johnson, Eric: “‘I got to sit on a cliff and feel the earth move.”‘ KOMONews.com. Last accessed 8/30/2012.

Lipman, Peter W., and Mullineaux, Donal R., Editors (1981): The 1980 Eruptions of Mount St. Helens, Washington. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1250.

Place, Marian T. (1981): Mount St. Helen’s: A Sleeping Volcano Awakes. New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Company.

 

Originally published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.

“They’ll be led, be bled, and time’s wheel will turn on after they’ve gone.”

There is a remarkable piece written by a man who once called for Salman Rushdie to die. It’s about the awesome power of books, and the fearful power of ignorance, and the power we have to change the future.

Read all of it. But in case you needed persuading, here’s a taste.

 

"Worse crimes than burning books." Image by Eric C. Castro on Flickr. Photo is of stacked antique books, with the quote "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them. - Joseph Brodsky"

“Worse crimes than burning books.” Image by Eric C. Castro on Flickr.

And in fear anything can become real. The truth can become a lie, it can die, and writing a book can become a crime, because of the noise it made.

[snip]

But then what do eleven-year-old boys know? Not much. They can be led by old men who should know better. But then what do old men know if they never read and just follow orders of other men? They knew nothing, but this was nothing new. Men have been led by men forever. Men who follow rules will be ruled. They’ll be led, be bled, and time’s wheel will turn on after they’ve gone. There was nothing new they could show me.

[snip]

Every generation must decide its own future, and with every action and decision they write it. We’re all the authors of tomorrow’s history books. Growing up we made enemies that were never there. Old men, wise old men used to tell us things and we’d listen, but why, when it’s the young who have the new ideas? Those old men believed that we’d repeat our lives in the sky and that Salman should die. I don’t want to be that old man. I want to be the new. Look, here it is, our page today that will become history. If we’ve made mistakes, turn it over and start again, you’re allowed to, and on it let’s write something new.

"Writing in the Dark." Image by Howard Dickins on Flickr. Image shows an open journal in a dark room. A hand is writing in it with a glowing pen.

“Writing in the Dark.” Image by Howard Dickins on Flickr.