Photo of Mount St Helens eruption

Geology Lecture Series: 40th Anniversary of the Mount St. Helens Eruption

Anne Matthews News

Coos Bay, OR – Southwestern Oregon Community College’s Geology Lecture Series goes virtual at 8:32 a.m., Monday, May 18, 2020 – the 40th Anniversary of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. That’s right, 8:32 a.m. That’s not a typo! The LiveStream lecture will correspond to the exact moment of the volcano’s eruption.

Dr. Kathy Cashman, of the University of Bristol, will present a lecture on “The importance of observing volcanic eruptions: from eyewitness accounts to oral traditions”. Dr. Cashman’s talk will examine what happened on May 18, 1980, and how observations by individuals and rapid scientific response set the foundation for numerous advances in physical volcanology over the past four decades. Dr. Cashman will also discuss a variety of historical accounts and oral traditions, including those associated with other volcanoes in the Cascades.

Her talk will show the importance of studying distant observations to learn and share the volcanological story. Dr. Cushman’s discussion leads into two presentations by U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist Dr. Richard Waitt.

Dr. Waitt will follow first with “Mount St. Helens 1980 – A Summary”. This will be a short overview with eruption images and background to lay the groundwork for the eyewitness accounts that are the basis of his second talk, “Dark Noon – Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens”. In this segment Dr. Waitt features eyewitness accounts of the 1980 eruption from over 400 interviews with Mount St. Helens survivors that he has collected over 35 years.   

Dr. Kathy Cashman has taught at Princeton University, the University of Oregon, and the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. She also led the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Oregon, and as president of the Volcanology, Geochemistry and Petrology (VGP) section of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). In 2003 she became a Distinguished Professor of the College of Arts and Sciences (Oregon). In 2007 she became a Philip H. Knight Distinguished Professor of Natural Science (Oregon). Dr. Cushman received the AGU VGP Bowen Award in 2006, was elected a Fellow of the AGU in 2009, and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012. She currently holds a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.

Dr. Richard Waitt was part of the U.S. Geological Survey team conducting volcano research in the Cascades, and was among the first to arrive at Mount St. Helens following the volcano’s early rumblings in March 1980. He spent more than 35 years gathering hundreds of eyewitness accounts of the eruption for his book, In the Path of DestructionIn it, he describes flying over the mountain May 20, 1980, two days after the blast. “In the terrible panorama the geologist in me sees raw beauty,” he writes. “Millions of big trees are down; behind cliffs stand broken snags. A lumpy landslide reaches far down the North Fork. Ashy logs cover Spirit Lake. On a topographic map I sketch its new shoreline: two hundred feet above the old.”

Geology Lecture Series talks are free and are currently being held shared online. Go to www.socc.edu, scroll to the bottom and click on the LiveStream button. For those not able to stream live, these lectures are being archived, with access from the College’s website at https://livestream.com/SWOCC/geology2019-20.

Lecture series sponsors include DB Western, The Mill Casino, IRIS/SSA, Ocean Discovery Lecture Series, the Southwestern Foundation, and the College. 

For additional information, please contact Ron Metzger at 541-888-7216.

PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Krimmel – from public domain/USGS