National Geographic : 1931 Sep
A WORLD INSIDE A MOUNTAIN Aniakchak, the New Volcanic Wonderland of the Alaska Peninsula, Is Explored BY BERNARD R. HUBBARD, S. J. HEAD Of THE DEPARTMENT OF GEOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA With Illustrationsfrom Photographsby the Author H UGE Alaskan brown bears walking around the edge of a lake, watch ing their chance to flick out an un wary salmon; ambling through grassy, flower-strewn meadows where grouse and ptarmigan rise in alarm and squirrels and foxes scurry to cover; then making their way across contorted lava flows and cinder cones to dig into the soft, warm mud near active fumaroles or drink from bubbling mineral springs-and all this in the natural sanctuary of a volcanic crater. The pic ture almost transcends imagination. But in Alaska nothing in scenic values is too amazing, too unexpected, for possi bility. We had thought ourselves sated with years of Alaskan exploration; yet Aniakchak Volcano revealed to us new wonders. Not only is it as awesome as mighty Katmai, which we visited in 1929, but it encircles with its 3,000-foot walls a variety of scenic features and an abound ing bird, animal, fish, and plant life that make it a world in itself-a world inside a mountain. ANIAKCHAK CRATER WAS DISCOVERED ON A MAP Though the largest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean from the Alaska Penin sula rises within the Aniakchak Crater, it was not until 1922 that the volcano was discovered. The discovery came about in an unusual way. While marking off the sighted peaks of what appeared to be a curving range of mountains, Mr. R. H. Sargent, of the United States Geological Survey, found a circle of points on his chart. "What's this ?" he exclaimed, as the sig nificance dawned upon him. "This can't be a crater; it's too immense !" But crater it was, and he had discovered it not in the field but on the computing table! Sid Old, guide of Kodiak, and Walter R. Smith, geologist of the Survey party, undertook to investigate the find, and, after entering the crater, returned with the news that a rim 21 miles in circumference in closed countless interesting features. With Mr. Sargent's map and Mr. Smith's field notes, the author, in company with Prof. Roderick A. Chisholm and three strapping University of Santa Clara stu dents-James Barron, Charles Bartlett, and Kenneth Chisholm-left San Fran cisco on May 16, 1930, determined on a thorough exploration of the region. Courtesies of transportation were ex tended by the Alaska Packers' Association, and on the steamship Chirikof the six-day trip on the Pacific to Kodiak Island was made in good weather conditions and with out unusual incident. The first excitement came near Uyak Bay, on Kodiak Island. The day was un usually clear, and Martin, Mageik, and Ku kak volcanoes were sending graceful col umns of smoke high into the air, the ship's sextant giving the height of Martin's plume as close to 20,000 feet. Katmai's rim, blasting the skyline, excited greatest in terest, however. In an otherwise clear sky, a cloud hovering above and within this giant's huge, exploded maw was so similar to the volcanic smokes near by that many on the boat thought Katmai to be erupting. THE NEW WONDERLAND IS NOT HARD TO REACH We could not conceive this as possible, because less than a year previous we had climbed to its rim and, descending inside, found a cold lake filling its bottom. The solution of the problem was not long in coming. A change in temperature and bar ometric pressure toward evening allowed the cloud in question to rise, disengage it self from the jagged rim, and float grace fully away, leaving Katmai chiseled clear against the glowing western horizon. From Uyak Bay to Chignik, on the Alaska Peninsula, is only a 12-hour run.