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May 18th, 2006

ring of fire


[ Mount Saint Helens | 18 May 1980 | Before & After ]


Had you been living here twenty-six years ago today you would have seen the afternoon sky turn black as night when Mount Saint Helens decided to send clouds of soot and ash into the sky. I was one month old at the time, and while this was too young to actually remember anything of the event, television footage from that day shows what might almost be confused for a bizarre early summer snow - if you take your snow in shades of dark grey. The area my family was living in at the time recorded around five inches of ash, while in a few places there was enough accumulation to bury local houses.

Mount Saint Helens began rumbling again last spring, but apart from some steam blasts nothing ever came of it. However, lest you think that there's only one volcano to worry about in the area, the United States Geologic Survey has a map that shows the collection of volcanoes that make up some of the eastern range of the Pacific's 'Ring of Fire'. The Cascade Mountains are located along a plate subduction zone in western Washington, so even without an eruption there's also the fun of preparing for possible earthquakes, lahars, and mudslides. Never a dull moment, it seems.

Now, on the other side of the ocean, Mount Merapi in Indonesia has woken up in recent weeks to produce some excitement of its own. However interesting it is to hear that the word 'lahar' comes from Indonesia, I would feel much better if Inok weren't living within 30km of an active hot spot. I suppose it does present a breath-taking setting for normally mundane things like travelling to university, though here's to hoping that things don't get out of hand in Yogyakarta. Be careful, Inok!