The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens

Book - 2016 | First edition.
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For months in early 1980, scientists, journalists, sightseers, and nearby residents listened anxiously to rumblings in Mount St. Helens, part of the chain of western volcanoes fueled by the 700-mile-long Cascadia fault. Still, no one was prepared when an immense eruption took the top off of the mountain and laid waste to hundreds of square miles of verdant forests in southwestern Washington State. The eruption was one of the largest in human history, deposited ash in eleven U.S. states and five Canadian providences, and caused more than one billion dollars in damage. It killed fifty-seven people, some as far as thirteen miles away from the volcano’s summit. Shedding new light on the cataclysm, author Steve Olson interweaves the history and science behind this event with page-turning accounts of what happened to those who lived and those who died.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : W.W. Norton & Company, [2016]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780393242799
Branch Call Number: 363.3495 OLSON
Characteristics: xvii, 300 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps, portraits ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

A cautionary tale about the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Riveting and well written, this book is meticulously researched and an important read.

Combining the history of the region, personal narratives of those involved, and the science behind the eruption, the author produces a compelling narrative of the events surrounding that fateful 1980 day on Mount St. Helens. Suggested by Liz K.

An intense look at the history of the area surrounding the eruption as well as the people, places, and politics of the explosion of Mount St. Helens.

From the critics

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Oct 03, 2017

Difficult to believe that we could learn something new about the volcano's eruption since there are so many publications about it, but Olson includes background in his nonfiction book. For example, what role did Weyerhauser's holdings in the area play on the policy decisions by government to protect citizens.

Jun 07, 2017

Great book. Well written, concise and informative. It's an engrossing story of how scientists, local officials and businesses dealt with warnings of an apparent eminent catastrophe and the resulting progress of volcanic sciences since. Details of victims and those closest to the eruption were compelling. The story of Mt St Helens is also the story of logging in SW Washington and this book presents a broad background to the history of land use around the volcano.

AL_LESLEY Nov 09, 2016

At first I was thrown by the how far the history steered away from the volcano at times, such as with European forestry degrees and Minnesota logging but as it all melded together, the economic and social influences on the areas surrounding the volcano and the political and specific super 80stastic situations going on, I saw the same interconnected story that the author must have seen and was grateful for a compelling story rather than a dry scientific tome.

Sep 10, 2016

Phenomenal presentation. I highly recommend for any native Pacific Northwesterner.

Aug 12, 2016

Very easy and interesting. Great back stories on all the people involved.

Jul 11, 2016

Thrilling read! True account of the Mt. Saint Helens eruption in 1980. A little slow to start, but worth sticking around!

sidnawkid Jun 08, 2016

Well researched and presented information. Examines the events preceding, during, and after Mount Saint Helens' eruption. Discusses the events from different points of view; scientists, loggers, politicians, tourism business owners, law enforcement, emergency responders, etc. Fascinating background information about the history of both the lumber and railroading industries in the U.S.

May 15, 2016

This book is very good at putting the eruption in the context of Washington state history and land use practices, which cost many lives. It also makes clear the state of science at the time. It has less to say about the natural environment before and after the event, but overall it's an excellent account.

May 09, 2016

A well-written account of the single most powerful natural disaster in US history. The only pages where my interest flagged was the chapter about Gifford Pinchot. The previous chapter is about 2 people too near the volcano at the wrong time. Olson wrote that a visit today to the area is an unforgettable experience - three quarters of a million people annually visit it. After reading the book I watched A&E's video of the eruption on YouTube.

TSCPL_JulieN Apr 18, 2016

If your only knowledge of the eruption of Mount St. Helens are the little jars of ash that you passed around in show and tell, then this book is more than worth your time. Olson not only sympathetically shares the tragic fate of 57 people, but also includes many fascinating stories of the forestry industry, the science of volcanoes, and a kidnapping reminiscent of the Lindbergh kidnapping.

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