HISTORY: Remembering The 35th Anniversary Of The Mount St. Helens EruptionPosted: May 19, 2015
David Bressan writes: In October of 1792, the crew of the H.M.S. Discovery was surveying the west coast of North America and spotted a cone-shaped mountain. It was named after the British diplomat Alleyne FitzHerbert, 1st Baron St. Helens. However the true nature of Mount St. Helens was discovered by scientists only in 1835, when a minor eruption revealed its volcanic origin. In November 1842 the missionary Josiah Parrish experienced a rain of ash, probably coming from the active St. Helens. This phase of volcanic activity continued until 1857.
“According to their legends, the mountain was once the beautiful princess Loo-Wit, who was fought over by two great warriors in a battle of fire and smoke. To end what threatened to be an eternal battle, all three were transformed in mountains.”
To the local Klickitat people, the mountain was already known as Loo-Wit Lat-kla– “Keeper of the Fire” or Louwala-Clough “One from Whom Smoke Comes” and also as Tah-one-lat-clah – “The Fire- or Smoking-Mountain.” According to their legends, the mountain was once the beautiful princess Loo-Wit, who was fought over by two great warriors in a battle of fire and smoke. To end what threatened to be an eternal battle, all three were transformed in mountains. The beautiful and shy princess became the symmetrical, ice-covered St. Helens, while the two angry warriors became Mount Hood in the south and Mount Adams in the west. This myth was possibly inspired by the observation of a prehistoric eruption of one of the mentioned volcanoes, but there are also more recent reports of their activity.
In 1800, the Sanpoil and Spokan nations told to the first missionaries and traders visiting the area of an eruption occurring on St. Helens:
“The people called it snow… The ashes fell several inches deep all along the Columbia and far on both sides. Everybody was so badly scared that the whole summer was spent in praying. The people even danced – something they never did except in winter.
They didn’t gather any food but what they had to have to live on. That winter many people starved to death.”
Minor eruptions with small explosions and lava flows occurred again in 1898, 1903 and 1921.
In 1969, the geologist Dwight Crandell warned a conference in San Francisco that the volcanoes of the U.S. were still poorly studied and monitored – and also much more active than previously assumed.
“The beautiful and shy princess became the symmetrical, ice-covered St. Helens, while the two angry warriors became Mount Hood in the south and Mount Adams in the west.”
Based on dated deposits of past eruptions, Crandell and his colleague Donal Mullineaux published a paper in which they warned that “the scheme of activity of St. Helens led to the assumption that it is possible to postulate an eruption in the next 100 years and maybe even before the end of this century.”
In March 1980, a monitoring system was finally installed on St. Helens. From the very beginning, the system registered increased seismic activity from the mountain. In that same month, magnitude 4 earthquakes happened periodically and a steam explosion occurred on March 27.
St. Helens had entered a new eruption phase… (read more)
- Photos: 35 years after Mount St. Helens’ deadly eruption killed 57, rained volcanic ash on Pacific Northwest (vancouversun.com)
- A look back 35 years after Mount St. Helens’ deadly eruption (phys.org)
- A look back 35 years after Mount St. Helens’ deadly eruption (computermagazine.com)
- Mount St. Helens Fast Facts (wyff4.com)
- 35 years after catastrophic eruption, a view from Mount St. Helens crater rim (onenewspage.us)
- Remembering Mount St. Helens (mnn.com)
- Witnesses recount devastation after Mount St. Helens eruption (mynorthwest.com)
- Mount St. Helens’ best places to see during 35th anniversary of eruption (oregonlive.com)