National Geographic : 1917 Jan
THE VALLEY OF TEN THOUSAND SMOKES The next day, July 31, dawned as clear and bright as the former; but the cloud from Mageik this time drifted off to the northwest, and small clouds were begin ning to gather on the west side of the valley, so that I knew it was to be the last day of good weather. A MUD-FLOW COVERING TEN SQUARE MILES 80 FEET DEEP I had hoped to take a two-days' trip across the pass to see if we could find the source of the clouds which had aroused our suspicions. But remember ing the bad name given Katmai Pass by Spurr, who states that it was the most difficult pass crossed by his party in their long and adventurous journey in 1898, I had no desire to be caught short of provisions on the wrong side, and so gave up the projected trip and decided to reconnoiter instead. Planning to make an easy day of it, for we were tired after, our ascent of Katmai the day before, we climbed around the shoulder of Obser vation Mountain and descended into the upper valley of Mageik Creek, where we found the largest and most striking ac cumulation of ash observed anywhere. The whole flat, occupying a triangular space five miles on a side, was filled many feet in depth by the ash, which had slumped off the mountain sides. One section we traversed was no less than 125 feet thick, and two others 8o feet. ASCENT TO KATMAI PASS Having stopped a little while to exam ine the character of the Mageik mud flow and to eat our lunch, we made our way forward across the bad lands toward the pass, following now the ridges of the mud-flow, now the bottom of the canyon, which rose in a gentle slope. As we ascended the valley past the highest peak of Trident, we came into view of the hollow between it and the next peak, from which I had thought several times I saw clear indications of rising steam. The sun was shining into it brightly, so that I could see it all clearly. There was not the smallest puff of steam anywhere to be seen. We were up now to 2,500 feet and could see a long way through the pass, and there was no steam to be seen there either. So again I concluded, as I had the day before, that we had seen nothing more than the ordinary clouds which gather so easily around the summits of all high mountains. Church, jaded from the continual hard work, had given out and we left him be hind with the packs, much against his wishes, several hundred feet below, while Folsom and I went forward a little far ther to see what we could discover. We were both tired from our hard climb the day before, and traveling transversely across the gullied "bad lands" of the mud-flow, which was necessitated by the condition of the canyon below, was very laborious; so that I was ready to turn back satisfied with having seen through the pass and, as I believed, having laid another ghost. THE FIRST FUMAROLE But just as I was about to suggest turning back to Folsom I caught sight of a tiny puff of vapor in the floor of the pass. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Yes, there it was, a miniature volcano sending up a little jet of steam right in the pass. When I saw this I decided that we must go on to investigate, because the very smallness of this steam jet made it of as much interest as a large volcano. For one of the most striking features of the eruption of Katmai-one which was without parallel in other great erup tions-was the absence of subordinate manifestations of vulcanism outside the main theater of action. I had been con tinually surprised at the absence of para sitic cones, fumaroles, mud craters, hot springs, and the like in so great an erup tion. Earlier in the day we had found the stream from the hot springs near the pass, mapped by Spurr; but aside from that, this fumarole was the first thing of its sort to be observed. When we reached the pass we found its floor all shot through with cracks and small fissures, from which issued half a dozen good sized jets of steam and perhaps a hun dred small ones.