Mount St. Helens Series


When Mount St. Helens got up on the wrong side of the bed in March of 1980, she provided an unprecedented chance for geoscientists to get their volcanology on. This is the story, pulled from the pages of the earliest USGS papers on the 1980 eruption sequence.

 Mount St. Helens from Spirit Lake. Skamania County, Washington. August, 1975.

Mount St. Helens from Spirit Lake. Skamania County, Washington. August, 1975. Image and caption courtesy USGS.

Dedication: The Geologists Who Died at Mount St. Helens

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “The Current Quiet Interval Will Not Last…”

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “One of the Most Active and Most Explosive Volcanoes in the Cascade Range”

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “The Unusual Character of the Seismic Activity Became Clear”

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “Something Dramatic”

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “Pale-blue Flames”

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “The Only Way It Can Stabilize is to Come Down”

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “Our Best Judgement of Risk”

Prelude to a Catastrophe: “The Volcano Could Be Nearing a Major Event”

Interlude: Moment of Silence

The last photo taken of David Johnston, at Coldwater II observation station, Mount St. Helens, sitting in chair by trailer. 1900 hrs. Skamania County, Washington. May 17, 1980. Image courtesy USGS.

The last photo taken of David Johnston, at Coldwater II observation station, Mount St. Helens, sitting in chair by trailer. 1900 hrs. Skamania County, Washington. May 17, 1980. Image courtesy USGS.

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

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

Interlude: “Lateral Blasts of Great Force”

The Cataclysm: “A Sudden Exposure of Volatile Material.”

The Cataclysm: “That Whole Mountain Range Had Just Exploded”

The Cataclysm: “A Boiling Mass of Rock”

The Cataclysm: “I Was Just Instantly Buried”

Interlude: When Vehicles Become Part of the Geologic Record

Interlude: What Vehicles Say About Temperatures Within a Volcanic Blast

The Cataclysm: “A Horrible Crashing, Crunching, Grinding Sound”

The Cataclysm: “All of the Trees Seemed to Come Down at Once”

The Cataclysm: “From Unbaked Fragments to Vitreous Charcoal”

The Cataclysm: “Stripped from the Proximal Forest”

The Cataclysm: “Fully Down and Buried”

The Cataclysm: “The Path of Maximum Abrasion”

 

Mount St. Helens in May of 2014.

Mount St. Helens in May of 2014.