Friday, January 30, 2009

The Volcano

Mount Redoubt 3

Original image courtesy of the Alaska Volcano Observatory, G. McGimsey, US Geological Survey

Last week it was earthquakes, this week it’s volcanoes.

In other words, it’s just another day in Alaska.

For those of you who have sent me email asking about Mount Redoubt, it’s no big deal. We’re in no danger of being entombed in red hot lava, or buried alive in ash, or chased from our homes by boiling avalanches of mud.

For those of you sending me death threats, well, so sorry about that. Better luck next time.

Redoubt is a hundred miles south of Anchorage, or about 160 miles south of me. If it blows like it did last time, we may see some ashfall. We’re prepared. I keep disaster kits in my truck and my wife’s Jeep. We’ve got plenty of canned food and camp stoves to cook it on if necessary. Hell, I even have a couple crates of MRE’s, but truthfully I’d probably gnaw my own leg off before I open those.

The big thing about volcanoes, at least in our location, is ash and abrasive dust. It can do serious damage to your lungs if you breath it in. We’ve got good filter masks, a pack in each vehicle and a pack in the emergency kit, so I’m not worried about it. Bigger problem is the dog and cats, they don’t take to filter masks well. I’ll lock them in the basement, if it becomes necessary – or the shop and run the big dust collection/filter system (hell, that might be the best thing for us human type people too). The dust is a much bigger threat to machinery, it can destroy an engine in no time flat. You need to have spare air filters on hand and change them frequently. It can also get into bearings and moving parts and cause abrasive friction failure.

On the other hand, if it falls on the roads, it’ll go a long way towards fixing the lack of friction problem we’re having at the moment (If you don’t get that, well, you probably live somewhere that the roads aren’t covered in ice all winter. It snowed last night, about eight inches and it’s still coming down at the moment. Whee).

Forgive me if I don’t get all spun up over Mt Redoubt. It rumbles. Sometimes it erupts, most of the time it goes back to sleep. Meh. There’s nine other active volcanoes in my neighborhood also, Spurr usually being the most petulant. Also, I lived in Iceland for several years, lots and lots of active volcanoes there. I once sat at an outdoor bar in the little town of Naxos, on Sicily, and watched lava flows from Mt Etna destroy a dozen homes and a 500 year old church less than a mile away. The Sicilians didn’t get excited about it, so I figured I’d keep ordering beer until people started screaming and running. A year later I watched Etna explode in the middle of the night from a US Navy ship ten miles off the coast, it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen, the mountain was on fire and fingers of liquid flame poured down the sides and into the sea, folks in Naxos were screaming and running then.

This is not to say that I don’t have a healthy respect for this type of natural force. I’ve walked through Pompeii and Herculaneum too. Becky, Beastly, and I once tramped across the live lava fields of Kailua, less than a dozen feet from 2000 degree lava flows after driving over towns that had been buried in the last major eruption. So, you know, I do take it seriously. And we’re prepared.

But I’m not all sweaty about it.

Again, thanks for asking.


For those interested, the Alaska Volcano Observatory website for Mt Redoubt can be found here. There are two webcams, one on the mountain, and one an oil platform in the Cook Inlet. Both update every five minutes or so, but the one on the mountain is usually covered over in ice this time of year. Also, note that the AVO/USGS is experiencing a major deluge in traffic on this site, so every once in a while you get shunted to a low bandwidth text only server.

One thing about Alaska, it’s never boring.


  1. Nice Job Jim. I'm so tired of all the people going "Oh noes, the volcano will blow, what will we do?!?!"

    If you're planning on flying somewhere, oh noes are in order. Otherwise, it's just annoying.

    We used knee-hi hose as a primary filter on the air intakes of the cars when Augustine erupted in the 80s.

  2. But Jim, what worries me about you the whole thing is that I don't know--

    I don't know...

    I don't know where you're a-gonna go when the vol-ca-no blow.

    (Now just the girls!)

    I don't know...

    (And now the boys!)

    I don't know...

    (Everybody let me hear you sing--)

    I don't know where you're a-gonna go when the vol-ca-no blow.

    (One last time!)

    I don't know...

    I don't know...

    I don't know where Jim's a-gonna go when the vol-ca-no blow!


  3. aaaaaah, damnit, Eric, you know I was going to include the YouTube of that song in this post and completely forgot about it.

    Now, I must go listen to some Jimmy Buffet, but considering the blizzard we're in the middle at the moment I'll probably crank up "Boat Drinks" instead of "I don't know." :)

    Waitress, I need two more boat drinks...

  4. Never too late to update. Or, better yet (from a blogger's POV, at least)--FREE SATURDAY POST IDEA!!!

    I hope everyone's warm, safe and comfy through the storm Jim. I recommend something toasty--e.g. Scotch (or if you want something literally toasty, a cup of hot chocolate generously laced with Bailey's or Kahlua)--while you watch the snow come down in torrents and listen to the J.B.

  5. I'm Irish, Eric, I don't drink Scotch. I might use it for bilge cleaner though, if I didn't have any Jack Daniels handy. And American whiskeys, sure nothing better than Jim Beam or Johnny Walker for removing paint or killing weeds. Maybe degreasing an engine block or two.

    Bushmills (preferably either Black or 1608), Jamisons, Bailey's, Killians. Period.


  6. Jamesons is my preferred.

    But I can't afford all them there special label whiskeys. :)

    I had a foofy drink with dinner (a hurricane I think) and I was sorely disappointed, as it had something icky flavored in it. I should know better, but it just *seemed* like a good day for a foofy drink. You know, the drinks with pineapple slices on the side.

  7. Scotch whiskey, Irish whiskey, Tennessee whiskey... it's all alright if it's good whiskey. Tho' my preferred liquor is tequila, actually, so whatever.

    I used to be a Killian's guy in college until I found out it was brewed, bottled and distributed in the U.S. by Coors; I won't buy Coors for much the same reason I won't order from Domino's.

    Guinness, of course, is magnificent. And Harp is wonderful. And there are other Irish brews, but I hope you'll forgive me for being partial to an English beverage of late--I usually pick up IPAs unless something else happens to catch my eye (e.g. a Sam Adams seasonal or I'm in the mood for something from Abita, etc.).

    Anyway, stay warm, and have a nice bit of whatever works for ya', man.

  8. Yeah, Killian's isn't really Irish. But it is an Irish Red recipe, and Irish red is my very favorite brew.

    Guinness isn't beer, it's a meal, and it's in a class by itself, of course. Harp, well, I wouldn't turn my nose up at that either.

    English stouts: try John Courage - but make damned sure that it's cold, I'm talking liquid nitrogen cold. It's excellent, and damned hard to get on tap in the US. The canned stuff is crap, the bottled is OK.

    Bitters are really my preference, and Australian Bitters in particular. The Aussies know how to brew beer, they also know how to drink it, they also know how to get into a bar fight and do it right (feet first, whole hog, and when it's over everybody shakes hands and buys each other a round - only assholes have hard feelings). I love Australia.

  9. pineapple and a paper umbrella has been the ruin of many a man.

    ...especially when that man is a republican senator and he's drinking it off the stomach of a gay prostitute.


  10. You know, when I heard about that on tonight's NPR my first thought was it was all part of your plan to dominate the universe. I still don't think I'm that far off.

    And a crate of MrEs? Okay, yeah, I guess there aren't these big, ambling, tasty ruminants roaming the woods up there. All those Nature films must be fakes. I bet there isn't really any snow either. Just like how the whole "rain thing" is a ploy to keep everybody away from Seattle, the snow and cold thing just keeps us all away from Denali.

  11. Well, Steve, I did field dress a bull moose last week, and drag several hundred pounds of moose meat out of the woods over ice and snow and it like to kill me.

    Unfortunately, the meat is still at the processor getting turned into steaks and roasts and sausage and, uh, excuse, now I'm all hungry.

  12. Don't some MREs have teeny little bottles of Tabasco Sauce in them? If so, does Tabasco help?

    (posting from the PA boonies)

  13. The Tabasco doesn't help. Not really.

  14. Only if you rub it into your eyes to take your mind off the taste...

    Bleh, the thought of 'cheese' spread in the Mojave in July/August (DAMHIKT) and the little squares of TP that are only good for cleaning under your nails and the turkey 'loaf' and...

  15. Yeah, that's any Army thing, rubbing MRE Tabasco in your eyes on patrol to stay awake.

    You can kiss my ass on that.

    I've been pepper sprayed, three times now, and I'm not exactly anxious to repeat the experience or stupid enough to do it to myself.

    MRE wise, I'd say the western omelet is my personal hell. And did I ever mention that I once got half a chicken head in my Chicken Ala King? No?

    That chocolate cherry cake wasn't half bad though, once you got past the ammonia aftertaste and the alternating bouts of constipation and explosive diarrhea...

  16. Well, never rubbed it in my eyes to stay awake, actually, I was kidding about that - I'll leave that to the grunts - tankers usually have tunes to keep them awake ;) Been gassed a few times though - not so fun (CS and pepper)

    Chocolate nut cake with cocoa sludge over the top - good stuff - right up until the painful rectal itch kicks in...

    Ahh, memories :)

  17. Somehow I missed this on Friday. Must have been the boss letting us off early 'cuz we saved his arse from an embarrassing situation.

    So, on the better late than never theory...

    Although I live in a large metropolitan area, I keep supplies handy - multiple sizes of flashlights (one in my day-pack too) and extra batteries, extra batteries for a radio & digital camera, inflatable mattress & battery pump, various kinds of soup and canned goods/meats, AND a Coleman dual burner camp stove w/extra propane cylinders.

    Other things as needed depends on the season. But I can either be hunkered down or fully mobile and out the door in a matter of a few minutes. Everything is in one closet and will fit in one rolling suitcase.

    It never hurts to be prepared. The fact that downtown Atlanta got hit with a tornado last spring is proof of that - the building I frequently work in was one of the ones that got hit! It literally rained glass. Freaky. And our region just learned another fault-line has been discovered close enough that we'll get pretty rattled if it decides to go slip slidin' away at any point.

    Plus, as long as I've got my friend's Jimmy (thanks to fellow Parrothead Eric for the Buffett nod) on the i-Pod and Jack in the flask, I'm good to go!!


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