A well-written, often riveting account of Mount St. Helens before, during, and after its famed 1980 reawakening, Steve Olson's Eruption delves into the weeks of uncertainty that preceded and followed the mountain's explosion, framing the monumental event in the context of the timber industry, Pacific Northwest politics, the history of the Forest Service, and ongoing conversation efforts. In addition to chronicling the blast, avalanche, flooding, and ashfall that devastated the region and took the lives of 57 people, Eruption also considers the volcano's legacy and the scientific developments of the last 35 years.
Like all great popular science books, Eruption offers insight not only into its subject, but also a variety of ancillary ones that lend the story greater depth, color, and perspective. With an extensive bibliography, it's evident Olson did considerable research in preparation for the book. For those interested in Mount St. Helens specifically, or volcanology in general, Eruption offers a personal, political, and polyphonic account of a remarkable natural disaster that continues to shape the region decades later. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A riveting history of the Mount St. Helens eruption that will "long stand as a classic of descriptive narrative" (Simon Winchester).
For months in early 1980, scientists, journalists, sightseers, and nearby residents listened anxiously to rumblings in Mount St. Helens, part of the chain of western volcanoes fueled by the 700-mile-long Cascadia fault. Still, no one was prepared when an immense eruption took the top off of the mountain and laid waste to hundreds of square miles of verdant forests in southwestern Washington State. The eruption was one of the largest in human history, deposited ash in eleven U.S. states and five Canadian provinces, and caused more than one billion dollars in damage. It killed fifty-seven people, some as far as thirteen miles away from the volcano’s summit.
Shedding new light on the cataclysm, author Steve Olson interweaves the history and science behind this event with page-turning accounts of what happened to those who lived and those who died.
Powerful economic and historical forces influenced the fates of those around the volcano that sunny Sunday morning, including the construction of the nation’s railroads, the harvest of a continent’s vast forests, and the protection of America’s treasured public lands. The eruption of Mount St. Helens revealed how the past is constantly present in the lives of us all. At the same time, it transformed volcanic science, the study of environmental resilience, and, ultimately, our perceptions of what it will take to survive on an increasingly dangerous planet.
Rich with vivid personal stories of lumber tycoons, loggers, volcanologists, and conservationists, Eruption delivers a spellbinding narrative built from the testimonies of those closest to the disaster, and an epic tale of our fraught relationship with the natural world.
"Olson intercuts stories of victims including David Johnston, the volcanologist who was monitoring the explosion, with an account of its impact on science—such as popularizing the use of lidar. With 1,500 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, this is an urgent reminder of the need for advances in the field." Nature
"In Mr. Olson’s telling, [the survivors’] stories read like urgent fiction….These vignettes lend a human face to an event that has become associated largely with geology." Michael O'Donnell, Wall Street Journal
"As Steve Olson reminds us in his vividly reported new history... what happened on May 18, 1980, in the primordial thickets of the Pacific Northwest, was an enormous, multi-faceted even... This engaging book maneuvers deftly along the way toward impact." Mark Damsker, USA Today
About the Author
Steve Olson is the author of Eruptions, Mapping Human History (a finalist for the National Book Award),Count Down, and other books. He lives in Seattle, Washington.