A Phoenix From A Ring Of Fire Is A Pattern For The Recovery Of Mount St. Helens

A lush volcanic island in Indonesia provides clues about Mount St. Helens' recovery from its moon-like state

On August 27, 1883, the volcano Krakatau in the Dutch East Indies erupted with the force of more than 10,000 Hiroshima-type hydrogen bombs, killing an estimated 30,000 people and leaving a wide swath of devastation. The recovery from that volcanic upheaval is providing scientists with glimpses of the renewal that can be expected after more recent eruptions, in particular that of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

Today, the islands surrounding the blasted volcano, in what is now Indonesia, are rich tropical rain forests abundant with vegetation and wildlife, and seemingly an eternity away from the moon-like slopes of Mount St. Helens. Will the area surrounding the Washington volcano recover its majestic forests of Douglas fir and western hemlock within a similar period of time? Definitely, says University of Washington zoologist John Edwards, who recently returned from Krakatau.

As one example of recovery he cites French researchers' discovery of a proliferation of ballooning spiders on Krakatau only three months after the explosion. On Mount St. Helen's, there was also a profusion of spiders in the first few weeks after the eruption. Indeed, says Edwards, a lean, bearded New Zealander who was co-leader of a National Geographic Society-financed expedition to Indonesia last fall, "we can clearly see some strong parallels between Krakatau and St. Helens."

The Krakatau eruption was one of history's true cataclysms. Located in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java and Sumatra, the volcano created an explosion that was heard 2,500 miles away in central Australia. The tsunami (or marine pressure wave) generated was a wall of water seven stories high that destroyed more than 160 towns and villages. The airwaves from the blast made four journeys aroun

Contact: David Brand
University of Washington

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