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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday - First Chapter - First Paragraph - Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens



Each Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea shares the first part of a book that she is reading or thinking about reading.  This week I'm sharing the first few paragraphs of Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens by Steve Olson.  I've mentioned that we spent several years living in the Portland, Oregon area during the 90's.  I loved living so near snow capped mountains and I became really fascinated by Mount St. Helens, which had erupted on May 18, 1980.  By the time we lived near it, the area had recovered somewhat and there was a visitor center that could be toured.  I was very interested in Mr. Olson's book.  See what you think:



     In the year 1980, toward the end of March, newspapers and television stations began reporting on a series of strange events taking place in a largely unknown corner of the western United States.  A volcano in southwestern Washington State known as Mount St. Helens was threatening to erupt.  A crater had opened on the summit of the mountain and was spewing ash and steam thousands of feet into the air.  Earthquakes were shaking the volcano so violently that people nearby said it was like being on a ship at sea.  State officials, based on geologists' predictions, were telling residents and visitors to stay away.  Floods, mudflows, and withering blasts of superhot gas could, with little warning, sweep away trees, houses, and people.
     It was a wonderful diversion at an unhappy time in the nation's history.  In 1980 the United States was still recovering from the traumas of Vietnam, Watergate, and the oil embargoes of the 1970's, which had temporarily deprived Americans of one of their most cherished freedoms--the right to drive anywhere, anytime, for as long as a person might want.  A long presidential campaign was just getting under way between an unpopular sitting president, Jimmy Carter, and the eventual Republican nominee, a former California governor and movie star named Ronald Reagan, who promised to return the nation to its former glory.  Students backed by the revolutionary government of Iran were holding fifty-two Americans hostage in the US embassy.  The most popular music of the time was disco, fashions ran from bell-bottoms to peasant blouses; and men sported bushy mustaches and long sideburns.  In a 1976 magazine article, Tom Wolfe referred to the 1970's as 'The Me Decade' for the period's pervasive dissatisfaction and devotion to personal transformation, and the label seems more appropriate than any decadal label coined since.


Blurb:

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.

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I know the paragraphs I shared above are a little long, but I liked the retrospective of the 80's.  Who remembers that time and who remembers the day Mount St. Helens erupted?  I do.  Where were you on May 18, 1980?  I look forward to reading more about that time, that event, and the lore that surrounds it.

36 comments:

  1. Although probably not one for me I can see the appeal for you on this one. It is a great opener for setting the scene, not only about the eruption but putting the time in context of American history!

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    1. That was what caught my interest most - putting this eruption into the perspective of other events. And then i was right there in time.

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  2. I have this one checked out as well. I was in first grade when Mt. Saint Helens erupted and a classmate and her family had just moved back from somewhere close to there. She brought all of us a vial of ash (which I hung onto for years and years in a box of my mementos). I have always been interested in learning more about this event.

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    1. A vial of ash - wow. I think that's very interesting. When we lived in Portland, many of the people we met had lived there during the event and their descriptions were almost unbelievable. The ash. So much.

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  3. I have added this to my TBR list. I remember this eruption and am interested in the story. Thanks for featuring it.

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    1. Thanks for coming by. I was really intrigued when I saw the book and knew I'd need to read it.

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  4. Oh wow, this sounds very interesting. I'd read more.

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    1. That was my exact reaction, Diane.

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  5. Not necessarily one for me but the type of thing that fascinates my husband so I'll be flagging with him.

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    1. Emma, good to hear it. Non-fiction is not my usual type of read, but since I was so interested in the location I grabbed it.

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  6. Sounds like an interesting read.

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    1. Yes, hope so. There are a lot of pictures too.

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  7. I remember that day well...it was my wedding anniversary.

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    1. Oh wow. My husband and I were engaged at the time and married later in the summer. Yes, that would set the date in your mind. LOL

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  8. I remember watching in awe and dread.

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    1. I don't remember watching on TV, but I might have. The visitor center had all kinds of video from that time.

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  9. This sounds really interesting, Kay! I imagine my mother would love it. She spent the first several years of her life in Washington and considers it home even though she's been in California many more years. She is really interested in Mount St. Helen.

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    1. Yes, I can see how people that hail from that area would be very interested. I was really fascinated when we lived there. The top is kind of flat and you can see how the upper regions just blew off when the eruption occurred.

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  10. I love the opening! The author did a great job recapping that time in the US. I was in elementary school and remember well the excitement over Mount St. Helens. I somehow ended up with a small vial of its volcanic ash, which was pretty cool.

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    1. Diana, you and Tina both had vials of ash. Well, it blew all over the western US and into Canada as well. Probably down to Mexico.

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  11. This does sound interesting. I remember it as a news story, but not one I paid attention to. Here's Mine

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    1. I vaguely remember it from the time and suspect I must have seen something on TV. We were so far away in Texas, it would have been of a curiosity than something I kept up with.

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  12. The intro really puts the eruption into perspective, sharing many of the events surrounding it: the furor of the times, the ridiculous fashions, the political drama, the hostage situation...yes, it all comes back to me vividly. I remember doing something really stupid (one or two things) in 1980...maybe those things were my personal eruption?

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

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    1. Yes, that paragraph about the culture during 1980 - blast from the past right?

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  13. Oddly, I do remember 1980, but not the volcano. As a just-turned-20-year-old, I must have been too wrapped up in my own concerns. The book sounds interesting...

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    1. I think that the eruption itself was more of a curiosity to those far away. The ash did end up all over the Western US and Canada.

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  14. I haven't thought of Mount St. Helen's in ages. This looks like an interesting read! I'd keep reading!

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    1. I was so excited when I saw the book. Very interesting to me. I haven't read far, so I'm hoping it is a narrative that doesn't get too technical or I may just look at the pictures. LOL

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  15. I hiked some of the trails around Mount St. Helens back in the mid-90s. I found it fascinating how much of the landscape had recovered in such a relatively short period of time and yet how much had irrevocably changed. This sounds really good!

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    1. I understand exactly what you mean, Michelle. The hillsides were obviously very different before and after the eruption. I'm excited about sampling this book.

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  16. I can see why you are fascinated with this one, enjoy. I was only 5 then HA :-)

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    1. OK, you young one! What do you mean - you don't remember about something when you were 5? LOL LOL

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  17. I remember the eruption. I lived quite a way from the location. I also remember seeing photos in magazines. The downed trees looked like matchsticks. I'll bet the book will keep your interest.

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    1. All those trees - wow. Yes, I think it will keep my interest too.

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  18. I remember when Mount St. Helen's blew! I was a senior in high school and I must have paid attention since my dad was living in Seattle. Sometime afterward, I drove past that area, either that summer or a the year after. I remember seeing a lot of the damaged trees. Pretty devastating for the area, that's for sure!

    Thanks for including the look back on the 80s. Fun to read about those years, which don't seem that long ago, do they?!

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    1. They don't seem that far away and long ago, but I guess they were. Yes, I enjoyed that retrospective too.

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Thanks for stopping by! I am so happy to hear your thoughts and will respond as soon as I can. Happy Reading!