The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


This precise moment marks 25 years since the geological event that fascinated me more than any other in American history, that being the eruption of Mt Saint Helens in Southern Washington. When I was 10 years old, my family took a car trip up to the Pacific Northwest, during which I got to see the mountain up close for the very first time. I'll always remember how eerie it was: the lack of standing trees, the strange, lumpy nature of the plain below the volcano, the crater and the smoke it gave off, lonely Spirit Lake, saturated in some areas by tree remnants, and so on. I still have a small container of ash from the '80 eruption that I bought there.

I could tell you anything about the initial magnitude-5.1 earthquake (and the harmonic tremors that preceded it), the bulge, the landslide, the mudflows, the pryoclastic flows, Harry Truman and his cats (now buried 300 feet below the initial landslide), geologists like David Johnston (who died 5 miles from the mountain that day) and Harry Glicken (who survived, but died a decade later during the eruption of Mt Unzen in Japan), and the visit to the area by President Carter, who I'm sure was happy to tour a catastrophe that had nothing to do with the capture of a regulatory agency by a narrow energy interest.

 Posted by Hello


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