Borealis Meditation

Science and Spirituality

Oh hello blog, I have been ignoring you! its earth science week! :)

Ok, wow I need to get my ass in gear.

Thoughts for a podcast:
– Volcanoes, myths and lore (+ a little science)
– Aurora, basic explanation and a little bit of well known lore up here
– color?
– metallic and magnetic minerals in magic and life
but really this is a blog as well as being about my podcast.
I have 10-15 minutes before my ride comes to get me and we drive home in the now very slick snow. I have a story to share about a volcano in Alaska. I’ll link to some articles but this is my reflections of a talk I went to.
(Quickbird true-color satellite image of Kasatochi Island collected on April 9, 2004. Image copyright Digital Globe.)
Kasatochi
Little Kasatochi. Its a very small island way out in the Aluetian islands. Home in the past to many birds. An important nesting site and a haul out place for sea lions. A biologists dream! its never been inhabited that I know of except by fox trappers. The foxes are gone and the small shack was refinished and every summer biologists would hang out and count birds and enjoy the small island. In terms of the geology it was known that it was a volcano, but hadn’t been active except for some possible activity in the 1800s. Pretty dormant. A small green island with a central lake in the crater, a little blip in the ocean, but the top of a large submarine volcano.
The summer of 2008 was no different then the ones before. Two biologists were dropped off by the research boat that went into the Aleutians every summer to stay on the island and count birds. In early August these biologists began to feel earthquakes on the island. By August 4th they contacted the volcano observatory. Now imagine. You are on a volcano you know its a volcano out in the middle and I mean middle of no where. There is NO instrumentation on the volcano and you feel earthquakes. At first it was no big deal, there are earthquakes in the Aleutians all the time, its not monitored it could be a normal amount of events. There is no background to compare it to. At this point the earthquakes were of a magnitude and possible location that it was considered normal and non-volcanic.
By the 6th however it was very clear that this was very not normal activity. By that night there was a warning listed for the volcano and it was decided those scientists needed to get off the island. The next morning there was a M 5.8 and the closest seismic station on a neighboring volcano began to record volcanic tremor usually seen as being caused by the migration of fluids, water or magma. They needed to get those men off the island now.
The boat that had dropped them off was too far out, the coast guard chopper that was closest to them was in need of a part, and the weather was very over cast. They waited on the shore. They used the sat. phone to call home, the volcano rumbling below their feet. Finally a fishing boat was able to make the seas to get them. The weather was horrible but they got out to the boat and back to safety. Within an hour of their departure….
there was confirmation of a plume. Kasatochi had erupted less then an hour after they left. Two weeks later they returned. The island was grey. Nothing remained. The cabin was under 20-30m of material the beaches were built out. They would not have survived the eruption that much is clear. Rocks the size of cars were sitting on beach where once there had been water.
The official report is that the biologist were off the island less then 30 minutes before the eruption.
That was on close call. The island is getting back to normal again. The birds are nesting, there is some green taking root. Again Kasatochi is an important island for biologists.
Kasatochi is the most energetic volcanic eruption since the inception of the Alaska Volcano Observatory. It was an unmonitored volcano.
*dramatic music*
Welcome to the world I love, the drama, the joy, the excitement of volcanoes.
I hope you enjoyed that! 🙂
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2 Comments

  1. Whoa. Very cool, and lucky for the scientists! On a side note, has anyone ever tried *talking* to these volcanoes to see why they get so angry? 😛

    Kidding aside, it sounds like a VERY cool field to be in! Weird question, though: If someone were caught in a lava flow, would the burn up/melt like in the movies (specifically thinking that Tommy Lee Jones thing), or would they become encased in the molten rock and smother, leaving a sort of fossil (like at Vesuvius)?

    Great stuff! Eager for the next episode!

    -Cory

  2. Oh man are you in for a long response when I get home and type it up! this prompted an hour long discussions of death in a lava flow! 😀

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