Saturday, August 10, 2013

Steamboat Geyser, 1982-1984

This is one of those very odd coincidences. We've been working on bringing one of our few remaining "junk" rooms into service, which involved going through a lot of stored things. Among these, I found my photos of the two eruptions of Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone, the world's tallest active geyser, that was lucky enough to see in 1982 and 1984. Well, I say lucky, but I substantially improved my odds by camping out on the viewing platform for many, many days. I decided that I should scan these images and post them online so they would be available, since there are not a lot of good photos of Steamboat in full water. It is extremely irregular, with intervals between eruptions having been as short as 5 days and as long as 50 years.

Tonight as I finished cleaning up a few of the images, I discovered that Steamboat erupted again just last week (July 31) for the first time in 8 years! So, far more timely than I had anticipated, three shots of two eruptions from September 6, 1982, and July 6, 1984 (clickable for larger version):

1982, early in the water phase, viewed from the boardwalk at the bottom of the hill

1982, full eruption, viewed from the traditional photo op spot

1984, full eruption

In full force, Steamboat is not just an amazing display of power, it is also a thing of immense beauty. The south vent (on the right) throws up a solid curtain of skyrocketing chevrons, while the north vent (on the left) reaches with its delicate fingers to incredible heights. Notice that in the 1982 photos, you can see one of these fingers perched at the very top of the giant steam cloud.

The 1982 eruption happened near noon on a post-card warm and cloudless day during the Labor Day weekend -- notice how the foreground spectators are dressed. Dozens of people were on the viewing platforms when the eruption began; hundreds may have seen at least a part of the water phase. The 1984 eruption was a moodier experience, in the morning, with more steam, filtered backlight, and only two or three of us on hand to watch as the first jets from the north vent began their heart-stopping climb towards the zenith.

ADDENDUM: I've gotten together a few more of the images from 1982:

I don't know for sure whether this was the morning of the eruption, but it was around that time:

It was a typical scene on the viewing platforms during nice weather in those years, when the odds of a major eruption were enough that people would dedicate time to sitting and waiting.. and waiting... and waiting...

Waiting for this:

Looking up from the lower viewing platform as the water climbs and climbs. This image is from the first moments of the eruption, when the shock wore off enough to remember I had a camera in my hand.

As the rain of geyserite approaches the upper platform, the spectators flee:

The sound track to this would run something like "Oh my god, oh my god, is this it? Oh my god this is it! Oh my god oh my god oh my god!" The experience from the upper platform is actually one that must be had, rain of silicate-laden water and all, and many spectators do venture back up there to get drenched. It is quite close to the north vent and almost directly in its line of fire, so at full water the top of the water column is indeed right overhead.

When the wind is from the west, as is normal, the lower platform remains dry and packed with people:

This shot is from late in the water phase as the steam is beginning to increase. At this stage you can still hear the person next to you; but the chest pounding roar of full steam phase soon grows and swallows up most other sound.


At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Micah K said...

I was present for the steam phase of steamboat 3 hours after it erupted on July 31. One of the most geyser experiences of my summer. and I've also seen Morning and North Goggles. Thanks for this post, these pictures are incredible and other geyser gazers will really enjoy it!!! I know I did.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Glad you enjoyed them. They made the rounds many years ago, but they all had water damage on the original negatives and slides (I wonder how that happened?) which now in the era of easy photoshop I was able to fix.

At 5:42 AM, Anonymous Chantal said...

This is fantastic!

At 9:34 AM, Blogger mary said...

Hello Bill,
I am proceeding to on the long path to learn about coppicing. I live in southern BC Canada and we have a small tree here which often comes up with many stems. It is my intention to plant 1 or 2 acres with the Douglas Maple and in 10 or so years be able to cut out the fattest of the stems for cord wood. This can be a money making venture for my community and my daughters if they need a place to live that is not Vancouver. I am writing to you to ask if there are on line resources or books that will help in this learning process. I am not sure at what size of the seedlings they will move into the many stem mode.
Mary Ballon
mary underscore ballon at yahoo dot ca

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Mary -- I'd just start with the wikipedia page:

It covers basic terminology and practices. From there I'd just use Google and other search engines to look for information more specific to your needs, like "maple coppice" etc. From what I have seen, our red maple responds well.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter