If someone came up to me and asked me what is one volcanic eruption in history that sticks firmly in your mind? Now I do not know people that would go up to someone to ask this, but if I did have to answer I would probably say Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed the Roman city of Pompeii in 79 AD. Then, if they asked me to name a volcano eruption in that occurred in the 20th century, I would most likely say the eruption of Mount St. Helena. The reason I would name this eruption is because I do not really know of any other major eruptions in that century. I came to discover an eruption in Alaska that created almost 30 times more ejecta then Mount St. Helena and more ejecta then all historic Alaskan eruptions combined. This occurred on June 6, 1912 and the the volcano was named Novarupta.
Many times, months or weeks before a volcano erupts scientists detect seismic activity in the region. Earthquakes begin taking place because pressure is trying to be released. Unfortunately, for the small population that lived in Alaska at that time, seismographs were not in place to record this activity because Alaska was not officially a U.S. state and, therefore, not many scientists were motivated to do volcanic research there. The entire population was caught by surprise when a loud boom that was heard over 750 miles from the volcano itself bellowed throughout the state. For over two days the volcano emitted tephra and gas into the atmosphere. Citizens were not able to leave their homes for fear of suffocating from the gases, suffering from blindness, or not being able to find food or shelter. Ash began falling all over the region, specifically on Kodiak Island where the area was covered in over a foot of the substance and buildings collapsed under the weight. The eruption did not only effect the citizens in Alaska but also those in Canada and the United States. An ash cloud rose up 20 miles into the atmosphere from the volcano and spread across southern Alaska, most of western Canada and several U.S. states. Even though it hard far reaching effects, not many people outside Alaska knew that Novarupta erupted.
National Geographic took interest in the eruption and sent a team up to the site to collect information on the after effects. They were certainly surprised at what they found. The valley of Knife Creek near the volcano was now completely barren and had thousands of jet streams coming from the ground. The valley was then nicknamed the “Valley of 10,000 Smokes”. The valley was not the only geographic feature that was effected by the volcano. In fact, an entire mountain changed. Mount Katmai, a mountain six miles from Novarupta, had the top several hundred feet collapse into a magma chamber below. This resulted in a crater that was 2 miles across in diameter and 800 feet deep.
In the end, for a volcano that did not have much publicity, it sure had a huge impact on the geography surrounding it.