Archive for the ‘memories’ Category
18 May, 2010 – 12:39 pm | Filed under geology, memories | No Comments »
Today’s the 30th anniversary of the eruption that has gotten me hooked on geology for life. I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it somewhere more permanent than Facebook.
These facts are well-known, but restating them doesn’t hurt. After a long period of dormancy, Mount St. Helens began showing signs of reawakening in March of 1980. In the weeks leading up to the major eruption, there had been emissions of ash and steam and occasional lava flows (the Cascade volcanoes are not the kind to have viscous lava flows the way the Hawaiian ones do), and magma started pushing its way up underneath the north face at a rate of 1.5 meters per day, creating a massive 450-foot bulge high up on the north face of the volcano.
At exactly 8:32 AM Pacific time on the 18th of May, 1980*, an earthquake occurred directly below this massive bulge. It all gave way and the largest landslide in recorded history occurred as the north face tumbled down, propelled in part by the forces under the volcano. Once the north side started giving way, a lateral blast of over 600 miles per hour exploded across the land to the north.
USGS volcanologist David Johnston had stepped in at the last minute for volcanologist Harry Glicken to keep watch on MSH’s north side on the 18th. At precisely 8:32, the Cascade Volcano Observatory received a radio transmission from Johnston: “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!” He would have been directly in the path of the blast, and his body was never recovered. (In a cruel turn of events, Glicken himself was killed in a pyroclastic flow, along with 40 others (including famed volcanologists/volcanophotographers Maurice and Katia Krafft), in a major eruption of Unzen-dake in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan in 1991.)
All told, the eruption killed 57 people, nearly all of whom were outside the prescribed “red zone.” It leveled over 200 miles of forest and sent ash hundreds of miles away. It continued to erupt over the next few months before finally quieting until a few years ago, when it began to reawaken in 2004–though with none of the ferocity of the 1980 eruption–and has been classified as active ever since.
*I’d seen sources when I was younger cite it at 8:29 or 8:30. I held out hope that it was actually 8:29, since that’s my birthday.
It was thanks to a children’s book by Patricia Lauber–Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens–that I discovered volcanoes and volcanology. I stumbled across it in the library of my elementary school and have no way of knowing exactly how many times I read and reread it, but one thing was certain: I was hooked. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became (and fearful at times; during my silliest moments in the 6th grade, I remember having nightmares of being caught in an eruption at Mt. Vesuvius near Naples, Italy, and wondering if the hill my parents lived on was a volcano in disguise).
30 May, 2008 – 1:31 pm | Filed under memories, personal, school, tv | No Comments »
My team was at Firehouse Subs for our weekly Friday lunch outing, and I was filling up my drink when I caught a snatch of some very familiar-sounding dialogue–a child’s voice, pronouncing a word and spelling it out with a peculiar clarity. My head jerked up and I looked around quickly, then looked up and realized there was a TV suspended over me. I took two steps back to peer around at the front, and sure enough, it was the Scripps National Spelling Bee!
I will admit that I’m a spelling bee fangirl. I love it. I miss the deep cadences of Dr. Cameron’s speaking voice, but have come to look forward to current pronouncer Dr. Bailly’s slightly higher-pitched voice as he reads out the hundreds of words to these brilliant kids. I love watching them as they work their way through each word, asking the requisite questions: Can I have the definition? Can you use it in a sentence? Can I have the language of origin? Or even, Does the ___ part of this word come from the root word ___ in Greek, which means ___? I clap for, cringe in sympathy for, and cheer on these kids yearly.
This isn’t a purely random interest. I won our county spelling bee in the 6th grade (“pagoda”, ironically, considering that I went on to spend two years of my life in Japan), losing narrowly in the district bee on “pacificism,” more commonly known as “pacifism”–the proctor screwed up the pronunciation, and I came in 3rd, with 1st and 2nd going on to the state bee (2nd place lost on “podunk” and 1st won on “disappoint”…yeah). I sometimes still wonder what Could Have Been. I will admit that it was a chore back then, and I didn’t have the drive needed to make it to the nationals, but now it’s an avid fascination.
It’s fascinating, the lengths these kids go to for this competition. And it goes beyond just stringing letters together–sometimes it’s a matter of chance, if you get a word you haven’t heard but think you can spell because you understand the spelling conventions it could be following due to its language of origin.
And there’s that dreaded sound that makes the entire audience slump back in their seats as one and sigh, “Aww…”: The Bell. The one that sounds when a speller’s made a spelling mistake. The kids’ faces are like open books–you can see how it all plays out, you can see what’s going through their minds, whether it was a near miss they anticipated, whether they waited in dread because they knew they’d messed up, or whether it was a total surprise.
Every single year it comes on, I think about signing up to go out to DC and volunteer for the following year. Every single year I forget. Maybe one of these years!
I have tentative plans tonight to go out to dinner with a meetup.com group here in Atlanta (a group whose events I’ve never attended, so it’s not like they’re expecting me), but I think I may ditch in favor of finding a friend with a TV so I can watch the two-hour finals live tonight.