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Novarupta reported activity




     The ashfall from the eruption at Novarupta was widespread. From Riehle and others (2000): "Humans directly affected by the eruption were located mainly in four areas: Katmai village, 30 km southeast of Novarupta; a pair of settlements on the Ukak and Savonoski Rivers of which one was sited near the foot of the ashflow deposit, 20 km northwest of the vent; Douglas village, 80 km to the east; and Kodiak village, 180 km east. Most of the Douglas and Katmai village inhabitants were at summer fishing camps on Kaflia Bay. The few Katmai villagers left behind fled in fear early on 6 June as the frequency of premonitory earthquakes increased. They were in bidarkas (kayaks) at Cape Kubugakli when the eruption occurred."
     From Adelman, 2002: "Winds pushed the ash cloud east and within a few hours, ash from a huge volcanic eruption began to fall on Kodiak Island, approximately 100 miles (170 km) southeast of the volcano. Within several hours ash fell on Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington. The next day the ash cloud passed over Virginia, and by June 17th it reached the skies above Algeria in Africa (Fierstein and Hildreth, 2001).
     "* * * During the next three days, life on Kodiak Island was immobilized during the 60-hour eruption. Darkness and suffocating conditions caused by the falling ash and sulfur dioxide gas rendered villagers helpless [see fig. 3 in original text]. Among Kodiak's 500 inhabitants, sore eyes and respiratory problems were widespread. Water became undrinkable. Radio communications were disrupted and visibility was nil. Roofs in the village collapsed under the weight of more than a foot of ash. Buildings were destroyed as avalanches of ash rushed down from nearby hillsides (Fierstein and Hildreth, 2001).
     "On June 9th Kodiak villagers saw the first clear, ash-free skies in three days, but their environment had changed fundamentally. Wildlife on Kodiak Island and in the Katmai region was decimated by ash and acid rain from the eruption. Bears and other large animals were blinded by thick ash and many starved to death because large numbers of plants and small animals were smothered in the eruption. Birds blinded and coated by volcanic ash fell to the ground. Even the region's prolific mosquitoes were exterminated. Aquatic organisms in the region perished in the ash-clogged waters. Salmon, in all stages of life, were destroyed by the eruption and its aftereffects. From 1915 to 1919, southwestern Alaska's salmon-fishing industry was devastated (Fierstein, 1998). The biological impact was far worse overall than that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 (Fierstein and Hildreth, 2001).
     "The impact to the land did not cease when the eruption ended. A number of moderate sized lahars - volcanic debris flows consisting of rapidly flowing mixtures of water, mud, and rock debris - resulted from the 1912 eruption. The most publicized lahars occurred a few years after the eruption itself. A landslide, triggered by earthquakes during the 1912 eruption, dammed the Katmai River in Katmai Canyon. The Katmai River remained dammed for three years until a very heavy snowmelt in 1915; the dam was breached and an enormous flood broke out into Katmai Canyon. Prior to his exploration of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, botanist Dr. Robert F. Griggs landed on the shore of Katmai Bay in 1915-nearly 19 miles (30 km) downstream from Katmai Canyon. There he 'found the countryside ravaged by a great flood whose waters were just subsiding.' (Griggs, 1922). Although Griggs called it a 'flood', a great volume of debris was also transported during this event. The tidal-flat area, 6 miles (10 km) wide, was choked with pumice and ash, turning upriver stretches of land into quicksand and destroying Katmai village (already abandoned in 1912). Trees were snapped off near ground level for several miles by the violent impact of the water, a fan of huge boulders was deposited at the mouth of the canyon, and the water volume was so great that it flooded the valley to a depth of approximately 10 feet (3 m) (J. Fierstein, personal communication, 2002)."


     From Dumond (1979): "Because of the obvious impossibility of living in any village on the peninsula coast of Shelikof Strait in the days after the eruption, in July [1912] a total of 92 of the survivors of the settlements of Katmai and Douglas were resettled at Ivanof Bay, on the peninsula coast southwest of Chignik, and in August were moved again at their own request to a final site at modern Perryville, where they were left with supplies, building materials, and the expectation that they would be thenceforth self-supporting. The settlement so established has endured.
     "On the other side of the peninsula, the displaced Savonoski people first scattered to stay with various relatives and contacts in the vicinity of present Naknek, South Naknek, and Levelock, and in the fall of 1912, after the Russian priest from the mission at Nushugak met with the leaders of both Savonoski and the coastal villages to determine upon a site, they established the new settlement of Savonoski only some 13 km upstream from the mouth of the Naknek River (Dumond, 1974; Field notes of interviews in the Naknek vicinity, on file in the Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon). Whether either of the two communities of refugees would have tried to return to their pre-eruption homesites seems doubtful, given the successful establishment of the new Perryville and the availability of at least some jobs in the growing salmon packing industry at the mouth of the Naknek River."
     Erskine (1962) describes significant property damage in Kodiak from the volcanic ash, as well as damage to the city's water system.


     From Riehle and others (2000): "Remarkably, no known deaths were directly attributable to the eruption (Martin, 1913; Griggs, 1922) despite its size, the largest of the twentieth century (estimated Volcano Explosivity Index of six; Simkin et al. 1981), and the proximity of people to the vent. There are several reasons for the lack of fatalities. First, none were close enough to be burned by contact with tephra or by the ashflow or its surge, unlike victims 20-30 km from Mount St. Helens in 1980 (Rosenbaum and Waitt, 1981). Individuals fleeing Savonoski and Katmai villages reported heat from falling tephra, but they were able to continue their journeys until they were beyond the tephra fall (Griggs, 1922, pg. 17). Second, although there was flooding on drainages heading in the vicinity of Mount Katmai or the VTTS (Griggs, 1922; Hildreth 1983), flood volumes were insufficient to damage either Savonoski village or Katmai village. Third, individuals in the zone of heaviest tephra fall were rescued before serious dehydration or starvation. People at Kaflia Bay were rescued by the steamer Redondo 3 days after the end of the eruption (Revenue-Cutter Service 1913, p. 125), and those from Savonoski village paddled their bidarkas for 2 days to Naknek, beyond significant tephra fall 60 km to the west."


     From Riehle and others (2000): "The effects of the tephra on animals and vegetation, of major importance to a subsistence culture, depend critically on thickness of tephra and the particular species. Virtually all animals either died or left areas of heaviest tephra fall on the Alaska Peninsula; Griggs (1922) observed bear and fox tracks on the beach of Katmai Bay in 1915, but the only signs of animal life in the upper reaches of the Katmai River valley were occasional birds. By 1919, however, nesting birds, mice and ground squirrels in the same area had increased notably (Griggs, 1922, pg. 164). Cattle at Kodiak, where 20 cm of tephra fell, survived the eruption but then were removed from the island until pastures had fully revegetated 2 years later (Griggs, 1922, p. 44). In general, mammals in the areas of heaviest tephra on Kodiak Island were not seriously affected except for malnutrition (Evermann, 1914), although smaller mammals may have suffered more heavily than larger ones (Erskine, 1962). Caribou on the Alaska Peninsula abraded their teeth on volcanic ash to the point of starvation after a relatively minor eruption of Aniakchak Crater in 1931; many new-born calves were lost as the herd migrated from the area of ashfall (Trowbridge, 1976). Probably the same occurred in areas of even light tephra on the Alaska Peninsula after the 1912 eruption. Caribou graze on low-standing mosses and vegetation whereas moose browse on shrubs and grasses which are more easily cleared of tephra by wind and rain.
     "Effects of tephra on salmon are complicated because different species (mainly coho, sockeye, and pinks in this part of Alaska) have different life cycles and spawning ages, and require different types of spawning beds. Salmon were just beginning to enter streams on the Peninsula and in the Kodiak Islands at the time of the eruption. Those in areas of more than about 10 cm tephra either suffocated in tephra-laden waters or returned to the sea, from which they periodically attempted to re-enter the streams (Evermann, 1914). Streams in areas of lighter tephra generally cleared in time to permit late spawners to enter in 1912, whereas those in areas of heavy tephra on the Peninsula were still unsuitable for spawning because of eroding tephra and unstable beds as much as 5 years after the eruption (Griggs, 1922, pg. 161). * * * [S]ome streams on western Afognak Island were devoid of fish food a year after the eruption (Evermann, 1914).
     "The impact of the eruption on the salmon resource was not fully realized, however, until several years after the eruption. Sockeye returns to the Kodiak Islands began to decline in 1915 (pink salmon spawn after 2 years, sockeyes and coho after 3-6 years) and continued to decline until 1920 (Eicher and Rounsefell, 1957). Thus, immediately after the eruption, salmon were still available as a food resource although opportunities to take them from streams in areas of 20 cm tephra or more were probably limited. Additionally, marine shellfish were killed in significant numbers in areas of heavy tephra, and even cod were reported to have left traditional grounds near Kodiak Island (Evermann, 1914, pg. 62).
     "The details of vegetative recovery, recorded by botanist Robert Griggs (1922), are as varied as was the impact on salmon. In areas of heavy tephra, tree limbs were broken, grasses and shrubs were buried, and landslides and floods excavated or deeply buried trees growing in floodplains and at the foot of steep slopes. On Kodiak Island, grasses and shrubs had recovered within 2-3 years; recovery was not as much by reseeding as by sending up shoots from existing root systems. Some plants survived as much as 3 years of burial (Griggs, 1922, pg. 51). Some willows survived even deep burial by sending out adventitious roots just below the new ground surface. Experiments confirmed that the tephra had few available nutrients but would support plant growth if properly fertilized."

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