History Timeline 1910's

Photo above: World War I. Courtesy National Archives. Right: United States troops entering Veracruz, Mexico on April 21, 1914, remaining in occupation until November. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

World War I

U.S. Timeline - The 1910s

World War I

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  • Timeline

  • 1912 - Detail

    June 6, 1912 - Mount Katmai in southwest Alaska erupts in one of the largest recorded volcanic expulsions in the history of the world. It was designated Katmai National Monument in 1918 as protection against future eruptions.

    Ash from Mount Katmai 1912 Explosion

    The Novarupta Vent, two hundred and seventy miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, erupted on June 6, 1912, twelve kilometers, seven miles, away from Mount Katmai. By the time the largest eruption of the century was done three days later, Mount Katmai had collapsed inside itself and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes was created. Ash fell all the way to Dawson and Puget Sound; two weeks later you could detect debris in South Africa.

    During the eruption, there were three major incidents. In many ways due to the remote territory with no people nearby or airplanes to witness it (the entire population of Alaska, a United States Territory, in 1912 was under fifty thousand), it was a lightly recorded event. But using reports from villages and ships in the surrounding area, investigations were held from 1915-1923.

    During the 1912 event, the first report of the explosion occured from the Ship Dora that was plying the Shelikof Strait on the afternoon of June 6 and witnessed the plume. However, it was not until 1953 that more was understood of the magnitude and ferocity of the explosion. Three lava domes were created; there were eight layers of fallout. The kilometer deep collapse of Mount Katmai seven miles away occurred when magma was drained from beneath it toward the Novarupta vent. There were fourteen earthquakes between the magnitude of 6.0 and 7.0 timed to the collapse.

    By the time the sixty hour volcanic eruption ended, it had produced 13 km3 of magma, three cubic miles, one of the five largest in recorded history and the largest of the century. One hundred miles away, ash had accumulated to a thickness of 25-30 cm or 10-12 inches.

    There had been some warnings that an event was coming. Earthquakes had been felt in Katmai village during the five days prior to June 6, 1912, but since there were no seismic instruments within one thousand miles of the vent, none were recorded prior to the first major quake on June 6. On June 4, a heavier quake had prompted six Katmai villagers to evacuate. The quakes continued with the first plume rising at 1:00 p.m. on June 6, sighted by the crew and passengers of the Dora. By 6:30 p.m., ash had caused darkness (light at this time of year in Alaska remains until midnight) to surround the Dora and birds were crashing on the deck.

    Explosions were heard by 3:00 p.m. on June 6 as far away as Fairbanks and Juneau. After the three days of eruption, earthquakes were felt for fifty of the next seventy days.

    The Timeline

    May 31, 1912 - First earthquake at Katmai Village felt. Many residents were away on seasonal fishing expeditions.

    June 4, 1912 - Surrounding villages, including Katmai, felt first severe earthquake, causing remaining six villagers at Katmai to evacuate.

    June 6, 1912 (5:08 a.m.) - Seismic instruments capture the first major earthquake.

    June 6, 1912 (1:00 p.m.) - First explosion occurs, sending plume seen fifty-five miles away by the passengers and crew of the steamship Dora.

    June 6, 1912 (1:30 p.m.) - Ash falls on Kaflia Bay, thirty-four miles east.

    June 6, 1912 (4:00 p.m.) - Village of Kodiak sees first signs of ash cloud one hundred miles away from the vent. One hour later it begins to fall on the village.

    June 6, 1912 (11:56 p.m.) - Earthquake of 6.5 magnitude recorded, largest up to this point.

    June 7, 1912 (8:30 a.m.) - Another earthquake of 6.5 magnitude is recorded. Earthquakes would continue throughout the day. Eight hundred residents of Kodiak take refuge on ships and warehouses in the harbor.

    June 7, 1912 (11:30 p.m.) - The largest earthquake during the event of 7.0 and another at 6.8 magnitude rock the region. These earthquakes likely represent the time of the Mount Katmai collapse.

    June 8, 1912 (2:30 p.m.) - Skies begin to lighten in Kodiak with reduced ash falling. Late afternoon, the ashfall had predominantly halted in the village.

    June 9, 1912 (Circa 3:00 a.m.) - Major ash emmission from Novarupta Vent ceased.

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    Katmai National Park Established

    Protection of the area around the Novarupta Vent, the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, and Mount Katmai became an important task soon after the eruption. Once the investigations of the explosion had been started, several expeditions were conducted, including Robert Fiske Griggs in 1915, National Geographic Society 1917, and a third expedition in 1918. Griggs and the National Geographic Society backed the idea of making Katmai a National Monument. President Woodrow Wilson agreed with the suggestion, proclaiming Katmai and 1,080,000 acres a National Monument on September 24, 1918. Today, Katmai National Park and Preserve, a designation since 1980, has a total of 4,093,077 acres preserved and is home to Alaska history from the native population to the volcano explosion of 1912, the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, and brown bears.

    What's there today? There are two Visitor Centers, one outside park boundaries at the end of the Alaska Peninsula Highway called King Salmon Visitor Center. The highway runs from Naknek to King Salmon, which allows access by road to the western portion of the park and Lake Camp region. The central area of the park is the location of the second Visitor Center, Brooks Camp, with a road that leads to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes area. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is large; forty square miles. The Brooks Camp Visitor Center is only reachable, however, by float plane or boat. There is a campground at Brooks Camp. Just over thirty thousand visitors come to Katmai National Park and Preserve per year. There are eighteen volcanoes in the park; seven have been active since 1900. Kodiak Village, in the southern portion of the park, has been abandoned.

    Photo above: Ash around cabin in Kodiak, Alaska, one hundred miles away, 1912, Wilbur J. Erskine. Courtesy "The Novarupta-Katmai Eruption of 1912 - Largest Eruption of the Twentieth Century: Centennial Perspectives." Photo below: Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Courtesy National Park Service. Info source: Alaska Volcano Observatory; "The Novarupta-Katmai Eruption of 1912 - Largest Eruption of the Twentieth Century: Centennial Perspectives," by Wes Hildreth and Judy Fierstein, 2012, USGS; National Park Service; Wikipedia Commons.

    Katmai National Park and Preserve

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