National Geographic : 1994 Jun
On Television Monumental Eruption Echoes Through Time gg can never forget my sensations at the sight which met my Seess" wrote botanist Robert Griggs of the countless steaming vents-some pluming more than 500 feet high-that stretched away as far as he could see (above). In 1916 Griggs led a National Geographic-sponsored expedition to study the Mount Katmai area of Alaska, where in 1912 a monster volcanic eruption had left a blasted landscape that Griggs named the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. For years the valley remained so hot that cooking over a fumarole (right) meant watching bacon leap from the frying pan into the air. Griggs's published findings led to the creation of Katmai National Monument. Now the expanded 4.1 million-acre national park and pre serve is revisited in an EXPLORER film produced by Emmy-winner Christine Weber. By juxtaposing past and present, "Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes" examines the cause and impact of this volcanic event of the century when rivers vaporized and days darkened as seven cubic miles of pumice and ash clogged the air. "The blast was four times greater than Pinatubo and 100 times greater than the initial explosion of Mount St. Helens," says John Eichelberger of the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska. Even 82 years later, terrain surrounding the true source (not Katmai as Griggs thought but a nearby vent called Novarupta) remains lunar-like. A comparable eruption today would devastate fisheries and tour ism based on the area's abundant salmon and brown bears. With the volcano once again swelling and earthquakes trembling close by, Novarupta may blow again. "Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes" airs Sunday, June26, at 9p.m. ET on TBS Superstation. NATIONALGEOGRAPHICEXPLORERAIRS ON TBS SUPERSTATION,SUNDAYSAT 9 P.M. ET . NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSPECIALSAIR ON PBS; CHECKLOCALLISTINGS. FOR INFORMATIONON NATIONALGEOGRAPHICVIDEOS, CALL1-800-343-6610, MONDAYTHROUGHFRIDAY, 8 A.M . TO 5 P.M . ET, IN THE U. S . AND CANADAONLY.