September 17th (Day 14): Portland and Mount St. Helens
|Mount St. Helens as seen from Johnston Ridge Observatory|
In Portland we visted the famous Rose Test Garden with more than 500 different types of roses as well as the Japanese Garden in Washington Park. Before we left the city we also had a look at the Portlandia, the second largest copper statue in the United States after the Statue of Liberty.
I-5 took us north where we booked a room right away in Castle Rock before we used Highway 504 to get to the Johnston Ridge Observatory in front of Mount St. Helens.
As we entered the blast zone we saw a lot of newly planted young forest but then we reached a landscape more similar to a desert, before we reached the observatory.
David A. Johnston, an US volcanologist was sitting right here on May 18th, 1980, when the mountain exploded right before his eyes. “Vancouver, Vancouver, that’s it”, was his last message he could transmit before the hot ash cloud reached him. Almost 60 people died and it is estimated that 1.6 billion animals have been wiped out by this most destructive volcanic eruption in the history of the United States causing the largest debris avalanche ever recorded on earth with a volumne of 0.7 cubic miles.
In all, St. Helens released an energy of 350 megaton of TNT, an equivalent to 27,000 atomic blasts over Hiroshima.
From the Johnston Ridge Observatory we could look right away into the crater where a new volcanic dome is forming and ejecting smoke. A ranger gave a very interesting talk about the time before, during and after the erruption which did not come as a surprise but was simply underestimated. We also watched a movie in the visitor center and as sun was going down the light and view of the volcano was getting better and better every minute.