"One big 'Aha!' for geologists was that an entire mountain could collapse." (Peter Frenzen)
"Mount St. Helens certainly reminds us of the power of nature, and we can certainly see that in the evidence of the 1980 eruption that's all around us. And here we just have an opportunity to see sort of another chapter in its history and to understand the forces that lie beneath our feet." (Peter Frenzen)
In 1980, the United States suffered the deadliest and most destructive volcanic eruption in its history when Mount St. Helens literally blew its lid off, the result of seismic activity during the eruption. What made the eruption all the more remarkable was that a fair amount of preparations had gone into anticipating it, after an earthquake in the area a few months earlier alerted federal geologists to the possibility of activity there. In fact, Mount St. Helens had been the cause of the earthquake itself, the result of its own lava flows under the surface.
Despite the warning signs, the volcanic eruption wound up being so powerful that it devastated hundreds of square miles around it and spewed volcanic ash in a giant plume that managed to scatter and deposit ash across 11 different states. Furthermore, another earthquake on May 18 managed to make the north face of the mountain collapse, shocking observers and scientists as it created the largest landslide ever recorded. Taken together, Mount St. Helens ultimately inflicted over $1 billion in damage and killed 57 people, including US scientists studying the volcano on the day it exploded. When President Carter saw the area he remarked, "Someone said this area looked like a moonscape. But the moon looks more like a golf course compared to what's up there."
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