Volcano Day is Erupting Soon, Should be a Blast

If you’ve always had a fascination for volcanoes and earthquakes, Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals shares your passion. On Saturday, May 11, 2019, we’ve scheduled a full day of events with demonstrations, family activities, and talks by volcanologists from the U.S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory.

We live in a highly volcanic region – most of us in western Oregon can see one or two volcanoes when the weather is right. But what do we really know about these icons? Volcano Day is a good opportunity to learn more about our local geology.

Map of major volcanoes in the Cascades. (Image source: Cascades Volcano Observatory)

Talks and demonstrations will take place throughout the day. We encourage you to try to time your visit for talk and demonstration.

Event Schedule:
10:30 – 11:00 – Talk by USGS Scientists Liz Westby and Carolyn Driedger
11:00 – 12:00 – Trash-Cano eruption & other demonstrations
12:00 – 12:30 – Talk by USGS Scientists Liz Westby and Carolyn Driedger
12:30 – 01:30 – Trash-Cano eruption & other demonstrations
1:30 – 2:00 – Talk by USGS Scientists Liz Westby and Carolyn Driedger
2:00 – 3:00 – Trash-Cano eruption & other demonstrations
3:00 – 3:30 – Talk by USGS Scientists Liz Westby and Carolyn Driedger
3:30 – 4:00 – Trash-Cano eruption

This event is included with regular museum admission. Admission costs $12.00 for adults, $10 for seniors over 60, $8 for kids ages 5-17, $8 for veterans and active military. Admission is free to members and children 4 and under.

The most popular demonstration by far is the famed trash-cano – a simulation of a volcanic eruption done by blowing up a trash can using liquid nitrogen.

How do you simulate a volcanic eruption in a garbage can? Find out Saturday!

Other hands-on demonstrations will be available, including Lahar-in-a-Jar, a demonstration of pyroclastic mudflow.

Lahar-in-a-Jar: A mudflow, or lahar, is a pyroclastic event

In addition, we’ll be honoring the 39th anniversary of the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Local collector Mike Medvec will bring his collection of Mt. St. Helens memorabilia and will be available to discuss the eruption throughout the event.

For those of you who don’t remember the rumbling blast of power that echoed across Portland and down the Willamette Valley, it was a signature event in our history. Many still remember being a long ways away that Sunday morning and hearing a thunderous sound around 8:30 am.

May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. (Image source: USGS Photograph taken on May 18, 1980, by Austin Post.)

Unfortunately, 57 people died in the 1980 eruption, including USGS volcanologist David A. Johnston, for whom the USGS Johnston Ridge Observatory is named.

Subsequent eruptions dumped volcanic ash locally on rooftops as far as Forest Grove. Heavier ash accumulations reached eastern Washington, Idaho, and even Oklahoma. It was a mess. But it was scientifically fascinating.

Ash cloud distribution. (Image source: USGS – https://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/msh/ash.html )

Geologists had warned for years that our volcanic neighbors were not extinct, just quiet. Native American legends recalled Mt. Hood (Wyeast) and Mt. Adams (Klickitat) “fighting” over the beautiful maiden Loowit. The mountains hurled rocks at each other, started fires, and shook the earth, according to the stories. Angered, Tyhee Sahale turned all of them into mountains, with Loowit transformed into the once beautiful symmetrical cone-shaped volcano we know as Mt. St. Helens.

Mt. St. Helens in 1978 was calm and serene. Two years later, it rumbled to life. (image source: U.S.G.S./U.S. Army Corp of Engineers)

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