“Vancouver!, Vancouver!, This Is It!”
From downtown Portland, Oregon I exit from Interstate 5 North onto Highway 504E. I am on my way to the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mount St. Helens.
A $8 admission fee that supports the park and allows usage at nearby trails and lakes is a worthwhile investment.
Months prior to Mount St. Helens eruption scientists had been monitoring a huge growth on the mountain.
At a growth rate of 5 feet per day, the equivalent of a human gaining 200 pounds per day in “doggie years”, this was astounding!
It is said that on May 18th, 1980, Mount St. Helen lost the “Battle of The Bulge”. Unfortunately, David A. Johnston a geologist working on his day off for a colleague witnessed this defeat but lost his life in the process.
Half of the mountain fell that day spreading it's contents in all directions with up to 180 miles per hour winds preceding it. The “Blast Zone” from this extended up to 14 miles in some directions leaving a path of destruction behind.
This force knocked out bridges, destroyed an entire landscape, buried a river with up to 600 feet of debris and even created new lakes.
As the movie ends the stage curtains rise and we get a view of Mount St. Helen while still seated in the auditorium, a nice touch to the presentation.
Inside the observatory informative exhibits and first hand accounts from those that experienced the eruption and effects of Mount St. Helens on May 18th, 1980. Heroic stories and amazing photographs.
Well, here you can get a chance to measure up. Activating a seismograph on display, I am proud to say I measure a warping 0.0000000001 on the Richter scale.
I bet you are impressed.
Press a button at the observatory main display and you can relive St. Helen's eruption in a colorful light display.
Outside, I join up with a few other park visitors for the last Park Ranger talk of the day at 5:15pm. We appreciate the humor and presentation as we learn a little more about life and the events in the area before and after the eruption. It is amazing to learn that since the eruption, frogs, snakes, rats and even elk have been found living in the crater since 1980.
However, on further investigation it was discovered that it was just an elk doing some butt scratching on the equipment in the crater that was giving unusually high seismographic readings.
From the 1980 eruption at Mount St. Helen scientists have learned so much about our ever changing world and what goes on beneath the surface of it. This knowledge is being made useful to predict and provide warnings of other possible eruptions worldwide.
At Mount St. Helens, nature has been on it's best behavior since 1980 with only a few minor exceptions. Although we know of it's destructiveness, today I am fortunate to observe a part of it's spectacular beauty.