Category Archives: Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens Erupts–A Look Back at Spring 1980

Mt. St. Helens was once one of the most beautiful, pristine, symmetrical mountains in the world.   For thousands of years, it had reflected its grandeur in the huge, deep, crystal pure Spirit Lake.

Spirit Lake and Mt. St. Helens, pre-eruption. Photo from U.S. Forest Service.
Spirit Lake and Mt. St. Helens, pre-eruption. Photo from U.S. Forest Service.

Then in March 1980, Mt. St. Helens started to have earthquakes–“harmonic tremors”–the signaled the movement of magma.  The mountain started to puff up ash.

Mt. St. Helens initial ash plumes began in March 1980. Mt. Rainier is in background. Photo by C. Dan Miller
Mt. St. Helens initial ash plumes began in March 1980. Mt. Rainier is in background. Photo by C. Dan Miller

After the initial surprise, western Washington residents mostly saw it as a curiosity.  It became a day trip for people to drive to watch it billow dark ash.

Photo by Peter Lipman
Photo by Peter Lipman

People joked about the volcano, and radio stations played Jimmy Buffet’s song, “Volcano,” the title track from his new album at the time.  What an eery coincidence!

buffett volcano 2jimmy buffett volcano

 

 

 

 

We didn’t understand what was coming, although brave geologist Dave Johnston, 30, tried to warn us.   We mostly thought that the lava would pour out of the volcano top and leisurely roll down the side.  We didn’t understand that our volcanoes had thick magma, and would simply explode when they erupted.  Dave tried to tell us otherwise. Continue reading Mt. St. Helens Erupts–A Look Back at Spring 1980