Sunday, November 4, 2012

"The Valley of 10,000 Smokes" from Edcon Publishing

A place you will read about: Mount Katmai a mountain in Alaska.

Something you will read about: algae a group of plants, which usually live in water, that do not have true roots, stems, or leaves.

Following its eruption, Mt. Katmai has become a national monument visited by thousands of tourists. In June 1912, explosions boomed across Alaska. Centering near Mt. Katmai on the upper Alaskan Peninsula, they frightened Eskimos from nearby villages, and not a moment too soon. A new volcano had formed on Mt. Katmai's slope and began to erupt. Tons of ash and rock poured out, spreading an enormous dark cloud across the sky and a blanket of ash over the summer landscape. A cloud of smoke overtook the steamer Dora, at sea 55 miles away, and ashes sifted down on the boat. Soon, those aboard could not see their hands before their faces. Through the gloom, lightning flickered and thunder crashed. A fierce wind began to blow and the temperature rose.

Children in Kodiak, 1912. They're
making volcanic ash pies.
People on land fared little better. At Kodiak, 100 miles southeast of Mt. Katmai, the sky was inky dark at noon. Ash fell so abundantly that its weight made roofs collapse all over town. People coughed and choked as they groped their way about; birds died trying to fly through the black ash-filled air. It was all over in three days.

But what happened in the region around Mt. Katmai? No one knew the Eskimos had fled for their lives and did not wish to return.
Not until three years after the event did someone finally undertake to investigate the result of the 1912 eruption. In July of 1915, Dr. Robert Griggs set out with a party of explorers to visit Mt. Katmai. He and his crew made the trip by boat. As they approached Katmai Bay due south of the mountain, they could see that the water was still filled with the floating wreckage of trees and bushes. Over the land, the sky was still dark, filled with ash. The darkness made the barren landscape even more desolate.

Robert Griggs' photo of Katmai
Valley, 1915
Before the eruption, Katmai Valley had been green in the summertime, a place where trees grew tall and wildlife could be found in abundance. Now it was a place of death, where neither plant nor animal life had been able to survive. Griggs and his party tramped through the valley across a layer of sticky mud past skeleton forests of dead trees. A great wind blew up, stinging the weary travelers with the glass-sharp pieces of volcanic rock. They were forced to drink water thick with bits of rock; they forded patches of treacherous quicksand, sinking to their knees, never able to touch solid bottom. They struggled up hills where, for each step they took, they slid back a little through the fine volcanic sand.

Even solid ground could not be trusted, for ash had fallen on snowfields and then been packed down. Afterward, the snow had melted out from beneath the crust of ash, leaving hollows beneath the valley floor. The explorers knew the ground could collapse beneath their feet at any moment.

As the mountain peaks loomed ahead, Griggs' party came across a fantastic, geological feature - a colossal chasm. It was nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon - 4,000 feet from rim to floor.
The explorers camped and waited for the clouds over Mt. Katmai to move off, for Griggs was determined to see what had happened to Katmai's three-pointed peak. When the sky began to clear, Griggs was astonished to see not a peak but a flattened stub. Mt. Katmai had caved in on itself, becoming shorter by some 800 feet!

Griggs returned again in 1916 for another look. During this expedition, he and his party climbed Mt. Katmai. The mountain was covered by clouds and not until the party had reached the top did the cloud cover thin out. At Mt. Katmai's summit the explorers stopped short, for they were perched on the edge of a huge chasm. In its depths they saw a lake of milky blue cradling a small horseshoe-shaped island. The mountain had a huge hole at its core where solid rock had once been. Now the hole was filling with water from melting snowbanks on its steep sides. The chasm was 4,460 feet deep and three miles long.

The party went around the lake to look down at the valley on the landward side of Mt. Katmai, where a fantastic scene met their gaze. The valley floor was covered with thousands of cracks and vents, and from each a column of steam arose. Some were no more than threads of white, but others roared hundreds of feet into the air. Griggs later wrote, "The whole valley, as far as the eye could reach. was full of hundreds, no thousands ... of smokes, curling up ... Sleep that night was impossible ... I had seen enough to know that we had accidentally discovered one of the great wonders of the world." And so Griggs decided to name the place the "Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes."

The Valley of 10,000 Smokes
This steaming valley so fascinated Griggs that he returned in 1917 to descend to the valley floor. The explorers were cautious as they reached their destination, for they knew that the ground was treacherous, underlain with cracks and hollows. They feared the boiling-hot steam and poisonous fumes that rose from the vents all around them. Nevertheless, they camped among the valley's "smokes" and even learned to use the rising steam in place of campfires for their cooking. They discovered that a stick thrust into some columns of steam would burn. The very ground they walked on was so warm that they were forced to sleep on top of their bedding. Yet around the steam vents they found a trace of life. Tiny, simple plants called algae could survive the heat and even thrive in this fantastic place.

Today, the area surrounding Mt. Katmai, including the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and the cluster of volcanic mountains nearby, has become a national monument. Katmai National Monument covers more than 4,000 square miles, the largest wilderness area in the park system. Much has changed since the Griggs expeditions.

G-23 In the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, the "smokes" have all but disappeared, but it is a desolate place still. Layers of yellowish ash have been eroded to form weird, fluted slopes, as if giant's fingers had clawed through an enormous pile of clay. Life is beginning to return to the valley. Mosses, bushes and young trees have sprung up here and there, and visitors to the monument may spot bears, moose and wolves.

The Valley today, at sunset.
Over the years, Mt. Katmai has changed, too. In 1922 a geologist who had been with Griggs on his 1919 expedition returned to Mt. Katmai. He found the chasm empty, the lake gone. All he could see was a muddy bottom with a few pools of water and a vent through which a column of mud spurted into the air. But the lake soon filled again. Since then, the lake water has bubbled and steamed, giving early warning of brief eruptions in nearby volcanoes. The lake water has been rising, and the horseshoe-shaped island has disappeared. Year by year, the lake is growing deeper.

If you ever have the opportunity, visit Katmai. You'll find it a fantastic place, where skeleton forests shelter struggling young trees, where the rivers run thick with volcanic ash and the snow slides past steaming vents into a lake at the heart of a mountain. And then, of course, there's always the chance that, as one explorer put it, "Some other mountain will blow up." Perhaps you'll be lucky enough to see it when it does!


1. The explosion on the Alaskan Peninsula was caused by
a. enormous black cloud.
b. thunder.
c. an erupting volcano.
d. a deep chasm.

2. Falling ash made roofs collapse
a. at Dora, 100 miles to the southeast.
b. at Kodiak, 100 miles to the southeast.
c. at an Eskimo village in Anchorage.
d. a mile away from Mt. Katmai.

3. In July of 1915, Dr. Robert Griggs
a. coughed and choked as he groped his
way about.
b. tried to fly through the ash-filled air.
c. set out to explore Mt. Katmai.
d. fled for his life with the Eskimos.

4. Three years after the eruption, Katmai Valley
a. became more beautiful.
b. remained unchanged.
c. received little sunlight.
d. was settled by Eskimos.

5. The chasm discovered in 1915
a. was nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon.
b. was twice as large as the Grand Canyon.
c. was barely noticeable.
d. was filled with boiling lava.

6. Dr. Griggs found that the three-pointed peak had changed
a. on his first visit.
b. on his second visit.
c. after he had discovered the columns of steam.
d. after he descended to the valley floor.

7. The story of the Mt. Katmai explosion would probably be found in a book about
a. great monuments of the Eastern
United States.
b. great wonders of the world.
c. great explorers from 1850 to 1900.
d. population changes in Alaska.

8. Dr. Griggs traveled to Mt. Katmai
a. four times.
b. once.
c. twice.
d. three times.

9. Another name for this selection could be
a. "Alaska's Explosions."
b. "Kodiak National Monument."
c. "The Life of Robert Griggs."
d. "Katmai National Monument."

10. This selection is mainly about
a. the Eskimos.
b. how a volcano erupts.
c. camping near Mt. Katmai.
d. a fantastic place in Alaska.

No comments:

Post a Comment