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August 31, 2008

Observations for 31 August

After yesterday, it was to be expected that the day would be a bit dull.

As I reported before, the night was warm. The weather prediction for today was for cold and rainy, but the only rain was in the morning, and nothing more than a few drops. The rest of the day was warm and blustery, with rain only returning at the end of the day. It's supposed to snow tonight.

The only real geyser news was that sometime during the night Grotto began its first marathon eruption since Giant's eruption on Tuesday. My mid-morning Spa had already had its eruptions, but Bijou showed little inclination to go to sleep. There were distinct Bijou shutdowns accompanied by some of the trappings of a hot period attempt, but that was only another indication that the platform was in flux.

Add in a couple of Grand eruptions, a Beehive and even some Daisys, and it made for a quiet day.

Observations for 30 August

On a normal morning, by 06:00 there's a certain amount of radio chatter. You get a lot of reports of eruptions on Geyser Hill or of larger features down basin, along with the occasional "switch to 5". This morning from when I awoke at 06:00 until 06:45, there was dead silence. I was wondering if my radio was mistuned or not working in some way, but Alan Friedman demonstrated that it was working just fine. He then got people down basin to confirm what all the vehicles in the Lower Ham's lot was saying (both the ones there and the ones missing). That Fan & Mortar had not erupted overnight.

It turned out to be a busy day. Grand had a nice two burst eruption, but the nearly three minute long second burst let us know that we could have had more.

Down at Grotto, there was quite a crowd waiting for an eruption of Rocket. Of course these were really people waiting for F&M. Over the period of about an hour, Rocket had several false starts before finally and reluctantly erupting. Unlike my experiences in the past, this Rocket Major did not start suddenly but at first looked like one of these "Rocket Minors" we'd been seeing.

After that, it was more Fan and Mortar. Some people stayed out there overnight, and so we knew definitely that there had not been any attempts at eruptions. After the Rocket Major, we were approaching 26 hours since the event yesterday. When I arrived, the people who'd been there were ignoring what to me (and others) looked like some strong activity from Fan. I asked, half-jokingly, "so tell me what its about this that looks so bad?" That when things got interesting. The vents of Fan really did look like the strong play that preceded eruptions back in the 1980s. After all the random "garbage mode", it was quite a difference. Tara belatedly put out a radio call, only to have F&M moments later force her retract it as the vents suddenly dropped in vigor and height. And went back to previous behavior.

Looking at the time, I decided that I could just as easily wait for any further events in the parking lot, and after a while, head out for the mid-day Grand. But first, a stop for Daisy seemed worthwhile. It was right after that eruption that I heard that splashing had been seen in Fan's Main Vent. Well, so much for my plans. Back to F&M. By the time I got there, the splashing had pretty much stopped. It wasn't long, however, before the Fan vents started, and they didn't follow the pattern of the last day-and-a-half. This time they were taking their time. Instead of Gold Vent following High vent within a minute, we saw several minutes of High splashing. Between these splashes the water level, just below the overflow lip, could be seen from the right locations. Finally, when Gold did start, the activity of High stayed vigorous, and its height seemed to increase.

By now I was getting to experience activity which I'd not seen before. In years past, when I'd seen a start, once the "lock" stage had been acheived, it was only a matter of moments before the eruption began. Here the lock seemed to drag on and on. In a few minutes High vent was erupting at at least 8 to 10 feet, with Gold going 4 to 6. Angle had turned to steam and still no eruption. Then Main vent began to have small surges, each one bigger than the previous. Even after the East vent began erupting it took Main about ten seconds to join in.

Mortar's vents showed a bit of water, then shut down. Not even steam. With a fairly strong breeze from the west, this gave us a clear, unobstructed and dry view of Fan for several minutes. Then suddenly Mortar came back to life, and everyone who'd tried for that closer clear view became wet. All three of Mortar's vents seemed to come and go independently of each other. While getting wet from Main vent meant getting hit on the fly by warm water, from Mortar it was a cold, soaking mist.

With the considerable warning, and it being the start of a three-day weekend, there was quite a crowd of gazers there. No census,but wouldn't surprise me that the number was close to one hundred. There must have also been and equivalent number of visitors who wandered up during the preliminary excitements. Fortunately Riverside wasn't near an eruption, because adding in that crowd would have made the walkway impassible.

The F&M eruption was short, only 29 minutes to the last water, and then there was a final huff of steam from all the vents. During the eruption we also got activity, of a sort, from South Norris Pool. The water level rose and was accompanied by boiling along the southwestern edge. It was almost an eruption.

After the eruption it was time to head for the Grand eruption which I had thought would be my place of waiting for the event. Turns out Grand had other ideas, as just as I was about to get on the bike to head out, the call comes that Grand has started. A 6 and a half hour interval. I did get there in time to see the second burst, which was perfectly timed just as the wind paused. An already tall burst was not cut down by wind.

Next up was Penta. It started a steam-phase eruption shortly after the Grand eruption. Most steam phases aren't really that interesting, but this one put out a lot of water. The runoff eventuallly reached beyond the walkway. The Top vent was roaring loudly, at times putting out nothing but steam. Meanwhile, Oval started to rise and burst to several feet. This activity lasted several minutes before the water level resumed its usual Deep Drain levels.

By this time it appeared that everything of interest that could erupt had done so, but not quite. After erupting some time during the night, Beehive had what had to be a short interval to finish off the day with a nice, but wind reduced water column.

Meanwhile, down at Giant, Bijou is starting to have shutdowns and Mastiff is showing that it can have "bathtub" hot periods. It wouldn't be surprising for Giant to erupt some time in the middle of the coming week. It's been iknown to do that in the past.

The weather prediction was for increasing cloudiness and increasing wet, and by sunset that had become obvious. But with the clouds came a warmer night. During the wait for the nighttime Grand, I never even felt the desire to dig out all the coats and blankets I would have put to use on a more typical night (like the day before...) We were also treated to occasional heavy gusts of wind and periods of dead calm, and a few spits of wetness.

August 30, 2008

Observations for 29 August

Fan & Mortar continue to show their contempt for me, and everyone else gets to suffer too.

Last night I learned that the previous eruption was not at 02:37, but four hours earlier, at 22:37. This was both good and bad news. Bad in that it meant that the window would open just about the time I arrived at dawn, and that I now had a chance of missing an eruption by being late. Good in that two short (less than two-and-a-half days) intervals would allow me to see the chance to see two eruptions.

F&M took the third option, which was to throw in a long interval after having several shorts. Shortly after I arrived it started having the kind of activity that can lead up to an eruption: it had a lot of powerful surging in the Main Vent, and three pauses before the Fan vents began erupting. But that wasn't enough, and we got no eruption.

Then it spent the next twelve hours not even trying to erupt. By sunset, there had yet to be anything seen from main vent. Most of the cycles had Angle vent playing the whole time. Quite disappointing, and just another reason to never be optimistic about that geyser.

Elsewhere, Grand is taking advantage of the shorter days to make sure that two of the three daily eruptions occur in the dark, with the third right in the middle of the day. The evening eruption was one of those where Grand was waiting for West Triplet, while W.T. was waiting for Grand, so neither wanted to erupt any time soon. But it was only a nine hour interval, so guess I should complain too much.

I did see the latter stages of a Tilt eruption, my first of the year. I also noticed that the hole across from Scalloped Spring has, for the first time I know of, water visible in it, about two feet below the surface. Just another reason that the board walk there will need to relocated. (The more likely alternative is a collapse, and then the NPS will shut it down for weeks while deciding what to do about it.)

August 04, 2008

Observations for 02 and 03 August

Weekend trip wasn't a total bust, but you'd think that by showing up at the start of Fan & Mortar's eruption window, I'd get to see more than one attempt at eruption. Which is what I got: over half an hour of the Bottom Vent erupting and pouring out water only to be followed by what was quickly and obviously not very strong Fan activity.

That happened around noontime on Saturday, and by sunset there hadn't been a second attempt. I was out almost at dawn (06:00) and by the time I left at noon, there still hadn't been any attempt.

There is something about those geysers that makes me have to work hard to see them. There have been some years when they've been fairly active, like 1997, where I could be there for weeks (months?) and still miss all the eruption starts. When I do see an eruption from the start, it sure feels like I've always had to spend at least a day down there waiting for it. Sure, I might walk up onto it, but that was the second day, the first being spent broiling on that gritty embankment. (Back in the days before the benches and boardwalk.

On the other hand, I did get to witness the next stage in the evolution of Sputnik and friends. Previously, Mary Beth Schwarz has been seeing them erupt at or near the start of a West Triplet eruption. On Sunday after Grand, at about a time when we'd have already seen West Triplet start, we saw two independent eruptions. They were twenty minutes apart, and twenty minutes after the second was when West Triplet started and we got a third eruption.

We also saw activity from a new vent. All of the previous activity had been by vents that were active back in the late '80s/early '90s, and correspond nicely to my maps and notes from back then. (I've got some Lynn Stephens photos from 1989 I'll try to scan and post, and see if I can still get at the disk files with my maps.) But this little sput, only a couple of inches high, is new. Or at least never caught my attention. Like Sput "a", it's out on the sinter sheet, on a slightly raised ridge that lead to, if I can remember correctly, the site of East Triplet, and is about half-ways between the two larger features. Now if we can only get East Triplet itself to try to clean itself out.