SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Catastrophic eruption transforms Alaska landscape


November 26, 2012
Monday PM

(SitNews) - Over 100 years ago on June 6, 1912, people in Juneau, Fairbanks, and Dawson City heard an explosion. There was no way for them to know the boom came from hundreds of miles away, nor that it was the starting gun for the largest volcanic eruption of the 1900s. No one then could fathom that in the next three days a mountain would collapse upon itself, or that ash and hot gases would explode from the ground six miles from that mountain, creating a landscape of hot ash and 500-foot geysers of steam. The Novarupta-Katmai eruption of 1912 was hard to imagine then just as it is now, over 100 years later.

jpg Catastrophic eruption transforms Alaska landscape

A view of an ash covered home in Katmai Village on August 13, 1912, nine weeks after the eruption.

In three days of the summer of 1912, about 40 square miles of the world’s best bear habitat was transformed into instant badlands, burying the downwind valley, now known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, in more than 500 feet of ash and volcanic rock.

Novarupta spewed 100 times more material than Mount St. Helens and sent skyward a plume that reached 20 miles high. Sometime during the eruption, Mount Katmai, six miles from Novarupta, disappeared into itself. In place of its summit today is a magnificent crater lake surrounded by 300-foot walls that echo the thunder of glaciers that now calve into the lake.

Though over 100 years has passed since the eruption, the valley still resembles the barren landscape visited by American astronauts in 1966 who wanted to familiarize themselves with otherworldly volcanic formations. The Alaska Geophysical Institue’s connection to Katmai goes back to those days when volcanologist Jurgen Kienle did his graduate work there assisted by his wife Linde. The Kienles were among those who built huts at Baked Mountain still used by researchers and hikers today.




Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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