Saturday, October 09, 2004

What lies beneath

Mt. St. Helens is still bubbling, but apparently, not in danger of erupting anytime soon, according to the People Who Know These Things. I've always been a rabid fangirl of things that go boom and shake, preferably in a very dramatic and explosive way but without minimal property damage and no loss of life. For the record, I feel same way about thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

While I've always considered myself a wee bit of a volcanologist*, I didn't know until Mt. St. Helens started to spew, that 'she' actually had 14 siblings in the Cascade Mountain range. That's right, 14 active volcanoes dotting the Pacific Northwest. Now, I always knew the Cascades were part of the famed Ring of Fire, but I never really thought there were more volcanoes in the PacNorthwest than Mt. St. Helens.

And certainly not 14 of them!**

Talk about sibling rivalry! Gorgeous peaks, all of them, but since Mt. St. Helens went and blew her top so explosively and decisively back in 1980 and has continued to bubble at various times since then, it's not surprising that none of the other peaks get quite the same level of attention -- especially since some of them haven't erupted in over a thousand years or more. Yes, the word 'active' is used very, very loosely here.***

The other volcanoes in the area, all of them bubbly to varying degrees, including Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood, Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, and the other most recently explosive sib -- Mt. Lassen, gone volcanic back in 1914-1917. You can read more about the formation and explosive history of the 'active' Cascades volcanoes here and also, some lovely snapshots and a peak-by-peak rundown here provided by the folks currently camping out on the flanks of the unruly sister.

* Is this even a word?
** I've heard estimates of as many 20 volcanoes in the Cascades and as few as 12. Check here for a list of volcanoes; I believe Crater Lake used to be a volcano that went totally ballistic and literally imploded on itself.
*** An explosion once every 500 years just doesn't seem to cut it as 'active'; blow your top every 10 or 15 years or put out an Old Faithfulesque stream of ash and lava on an hourly basis and then we'll talk active.

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