— The Valley of 10,000 Smokes
In June, 1912, Katmai mountain erupted. It was the second largest volcanic eruption in recorded history, discharging about 3 cubic miles of rock. By comparison, the recent Mount St. Helens eruption discharged only 0.1 cubic mile of rock. As a result of the eruption, an immense lahar was formed, covering 40 square miles (see photo #1, at left). Water and ice trapped under the hot volcanic ash of the lahar was turned to steam, which poured out of the ground in great fumaroles. These steam vents, called "smokes" at the time, continued for years, giving the valley its name. The heat of the ash has disapated and the smokes have stopped, but the valley is still amazing.
The lahar is as much as 700 feet thick, and is easily eroded. Jim took a hike into the valley to get a better view of the landscape. He was not able to get all the way down to the valley floor, as he wasn't sure he could make the hike back up from the bottom. Here are a few of his photos:
It was this fantastic eruption, and the amazing landscape it left behind, that was the justification for the creation of Katmai National Park. It is fascinating that few people outside of Alaska have ever heard of this immense eruption. The fact that it occurred in a remote area with no known human deaths has probably caused this lack of awareness. Had this volcano erupted on the US east coast, large numbers of people would have been killed and it would be a major event in our history.