History Snippets: Mt. St. Helens

“History Snippets” serializes small bits of research from an unfinished test project. The theme is technology and natural events that shaped our modern world.

Mt. St. Helens 1980

Mt. St. Helens, 1980. Volcano. This photograph is credited to the National Geographic. A modern natural disaster which killed 57 people, few deaths for a volcano owing to its remoteness and a little early warning detection.

In a heavily populated area, this same eruption, small as volcanoes go, could have been catastrophic. An 83-year old resident named Harry R. Truman lived on the far end of Spirit Lake and refused to be evacuated. The explosion blew 1,200 feet of rock off the top of the mountain. They say Mr. Truman had 16 seconds before the superheated pyroclastic flow rolled over him; they never found Mr. Truman’s body. It was the biggest eruption in the 200+ year history of the political body called the United States. Due to the pillar of ash and smoke, one cannot see the actual mountain in the 1980 photo.  Below, the mountain is shown 28 years after the eruption, in the photo below.

Mt. St. Helens 2008. Photo by Alex Forbes.

Mt. St. Helens, 2008. Volcano crater. I captured this view on a flight to Seattle along the Cascade Range. You can see part of the crater blow-out and the shrunken Spirit Lake, which, surprisingly, recovered its fish and plant species within a few years. Atmospheric haze is due to the vast California forest fires in the month the photo was taken.

Volcanic Disaster Scales

The image below is a scaled-down image capture of a free PDF available online from Sky & Telescope magazine, “REAL Disasters” by editor in chief Robert Naeye. The PDF is available in the editors’ article “The Great 2012 Scare“.

Scaling historic volcanoes and supervolcanoes. See article text for links to the original Sky & Telescope article and PDF.

Scaling historic volcanoes and supervolcanoes. See article text for links to the original Sky & Telescope article and PDF.

  • Mt. St. Helens is represented by the top cube, 1980, 0.24 cubic miles of ejecta
  • Mt. Pinatubo, 1991, 2.4 cubic miles
  • Krakatoa, 1883, 4.3 cubic miles
  • Mount Mazuma (Crater Lake), 7,700 years ago, 18 cubic miles
  • Tambora, 1815, 36 cubic miles
  • Yellowstone caldera, 1.3 million years ago, 67 cubic miles
  • Yellowstone caldera, 640,000 years ago, 240 cubic miles
  • Santorini (not pictured), 5,500 years ago, 240 cubic miles
  • Yellowstone caldera, 2.1 million years ago, 600 cubic miles

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