SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
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Hopefully, any blasts are long in the past!


December 17, 2019
Tuesday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
When I was a little kid, my Dad used to scare the holy heck out of me with stories about how Deer Mountain spewed lava and ash when he was a kid. 

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Seriously, Dad and his Charcoal Point area hoodlum friends had to FLEE INTO THE OCEAN to avoid the wrath of Deer Volcano!!!!!

Well, maybe not, but I was all of four or five so it seemed possible. Especially with the peak of Deer Mountain looking all volcano-cone like.

Unfortunately for the story, when the state volcano studiers issued a report about volcanos in the state  a while back, Deer Mountain was not on the list. I'm not saying it never spewed ash. But not in any geological time frame worth considering.

So, no fire and brimstone from our nearby peaks is to be expected, at least for the foreseeable millenia.

This, of course, fits in with our general smugness towards natural disasters in Our Fair Salmon City.

We don't get earthquakes (at least not significant ones). We don't get tornados (other than the random waterspout), we don't have wild fires (an acre or two does not count) and we sure don't have volcanoes.

Or do we?

The volcano report did note that there are a couple of inactive volcanoes in the area, down around Behm Canal. But they haven't erupted during anyone's life time.

And, of course, there is New Eddystone Rock, which is the remains of an ancient volcano. No, it is the not the top that was blown on Mt. Edgecumbe when it erupted a zillion years ago.

That was another of my Dad's stories. That the eruption blew the mountain top so sky high that it landed in the smack dab in the middle of Behm Canal, around 200 miles away.

Dad said he and his dad were fishing nearby when it came down. Caused a bit of a splash and tossed all the fish on shore and Dad (and his Dad) spent the rest of the day picking the salmon off the beach near Ella Creek. And there you have it.

Whew. Dad had a lot of those stories. Most generally pegged toward how much they could scare me. Lots of kushtakahs and other creatures of the dark woods. And sea monsters that would crawl out of the water and onto the deck of our boat as we slept at night.  Some nights I didn't sleep so well. Nothing makes creaky noises like a wooden fishing boat at anchor.

About the only good thing about my Dad's stories were that I could scare the bejeezus out of my friends by passing them along at sleep overs.

But I digress.

We were talking about volcanoes. Of which Ketchikan is deficient.

Or is it?

Seems there is still a bit of geologic activity in the area after all, and I don't just mean the hot springs at Bell Island, Bailey Bay and elsewhere.

First of all, there is a marginally dormant underwater volcano not far from New Eddystone Rock. 

About six years ago, area geologists discovered the remains of a volcano that last erupted in what is now Behm Canal between 10,000 and 13,000  years ago when much of the region was still covered in a massive ice sheet.  Surveys confirmed the volcanic nature of the seamount by finding lava near its base several hundred feet below the surface.

Then a couple of years later, in 2015, scientists studying the sea bed in Dixon Entrance came across something interesting just north of the "border" between Alaska and British Columbia. A volcanic sea vent, a volcano in training, just about 3,000 feet below the surface. Stretching from the vent, nearly to the surface, was a 2,500 foot plume of methane gas. A sure sign of volcanic activity taking place.

Now that doesn't mean that a caldera the size of Southeast Alaska is going to sudden erupt causing massive destruction and making us all 5-10 minutes late for work.

But it is a reminder that as constant as the land is around here (Deer Mountain looks the same in all the historic photos!!!) there are still changes going on. It may be a while before a new island pokes its nose out of Dixon Entrance and we begin fighting with the Canadians over whose side of the border its on, but it will likely eventually happen. Unless, of course, Antarctica melts and our entire region ends up 300 feet further under water.

But even more to the point, a new volcano blasting its way out of Dixon Entrance gives me a few great stories to pass on to my grand kids one of these years.

Along with the story of how Deer Mountain erupted in 1965 and we had to SWIM FOR OUR LIVES in Tongass Narrows.




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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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