National Geographic : 1921 Sep
VOL. XL, No. 3 WASHINGTON SEPTEMBER, 1921 MAGAZlHE COPYRIGHT.1921, BY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY.WASHINGTON.D. C. OUR GREATEST NATIONAL MONUMENT* The National Geographic Society Completes Its Explora tions in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes BY ROBERT F. GRIGGS DIRECTOR OF THE KATMAI EXPEDITIONS OF THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY ROM the first- accounts of the explosion of Katmai Volcano, in Alaska, in June, 1912, it was clear that it must rank among the dozen great est historic eruptions. Nevertheless, these early narratives contained no accounts of the events of the eruption itself, but were confined to the description of its effects at great distances. Closer inspection was not needed to establish the rank of the eruption, for it was evident that a cataclysm which buried towns a hundred miles away under a foot of ashes, whose concussions were so loud as to excite the comment of people at a distance of 750 miles, whose explosions threw such a quantity of dust into the upper atmosphere as seriously to diminish the intensity of sunlight for many months throughout the whole Northern Hemi sphere, must have been among the great est known to man. Yet, tremendous as must have been the outbreak that produced such effects, it has gradually become certain, as the ex peditions sent out by the National Geo- graphic Society have explored the country round about, that the explosion of Katmai itself was by no means the most remark able feature of this tremendous eruption. It is too much to claim that the eviscera tion of Katmai was only a subordinate outbreak consequent upon the main dis turbance, yet it is certain that before Katmai blew up another eruption, itself of the first magnitude, had already oc curred at a distance of some miles from that volcano. EXPLOSION OF KATMAI MERELY FINAL ACT IN THE ERUPTION However the relative importance of the eruption giving rise to the Ten Thousand Smokes as compared with the explosion of Katmai may be judged, it is certain that the disturbance did not begin, as would naturally be supposed, with the big explosion. That was rather the closing act in the drama, the sequel to eruptions from the floors of valleys at a consider able distance from Katmai. This is proven by the fact that the *Members of The Society will recall that the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was dis covered by a National Geographic Expedition. The reports of The Society's six Katmai expeditions contain all the information that has been published covering the district. (See the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for January, 1917, and February, 1918.) These accounts gave such clear evidence of the unparalleled interest of the region that, by proclamation of the President of the United States, it was promptly added to our National Park System as the Katmai National Monument. (See NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for April, 1919.) The only comprehensive account of the eruption was likewise prepared by a National Geographic Society Expedition and published in The Society's Magazine in February, 1913.