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Observations for 17 July 2018

Updated: 2018 Jul 19: Added photos of where the signs ended up.

It's been a decade since I last spent time in the Bijou Cage in the dark. With all the noise coming from Giant, it can be hard to tell what Bijou is doing. But after a while, I got used to catching the faint sound of Bijou stopping. Caught the end of a Grotto eruption (no Rocket) and then had to wait out the interval until the next Grotto start. Right after that happened, I got the expected weak Feather-only Hot Period. Then it was back in to get some sleep.

Woke up to the sound of rain. Looked at a weather map and it showed that the main band was an hour away. This was all well before I had planned to be out again for the next hot period, one I expected to be really good. So waited where it was dry before heading out. The weather map said that there was another band coming in the next hour, but it never materialized.

Up at Norris, New Crater/Steamboat was starting to look good, so most of the basin was deserted.

At Giant Bijou had a fairly long pause of about 3 minutes just before Grotto started. During that eruption, there were frequent short pauses and slowdowns. After the hour and a half Grotto, which ended with a Rocket eruption, the slowdowns continued for the next hour, until 10:19, when we finally got a true pause. Water appeared in Mastiff within a couple of minutes, but it wasn't until five minutes into the pause before Feather started. The hot period then progressed fairly rapidly, with all the platform vents in action at some point. (At least it seemed that way.) Feather never quit, but did drop as Bijou restarted.

At that point, Giant started surging and Feather rose back to full height. There were several heavy surges in Giant, at least one that looked like it should have been the start of the eruption. But after a couple of minutes, the activity died down. By that time the Bijou cage was full of everyone who hadn't (or couldn't) go to Norris, there was a lot of disappointment. It was the best hot period up to that point, though. So good that Norris gained more gazers willing to make the drive there.

The past few days we have been having alternating hot periods. A good one, like the one we had just witnessed. Then about 6 to 8 hours later there would be a short eruption of just Feather, with none of the other vents in action. The major hot periods were coming about 16 to 22 hours apart. (I'd noticed this sort of pattern during the previous leadup to the 05 July eruption). So my plan was to return to the cage in about 5 hours and wait for the next weak one, then come out in the early morning hours the next day for the hot period that could result in an eruption.

I returned to the cage around 14:00. At 15:38 Grotto erupted. About 20 minutes in, Bijou had a long pause (5m52) where water was visible in Mastiff, but nothing much else happened. Grotto lasted a little over an hour, ending with Rocket. There were no more pauses until almost an hour after Grotto ended, when a similar 6 minute pause happened.

By then, had experienced a short rain shower, for which I wasn't totally prepared. So far, these long pauses were followed by at least an hour of Bijou splashing, so I decided to take advantage and go back to the cabin and be prepared for the next shower.

I arrived back to alternating short pauses and slowdowns until a third long pause two hours after the previous. By now I realized I needed to change plans. It had been nine hours since the hot period, and no minor. No idea how long it might be, or if it would even happen. So I returned one more time to change into my nighttime cold clothes.

About an hour after the previous long pause, Bijou had a sort of intermediate one, lasting 3m40s. With the Southwest Vents active, this was the first activity of the afternoon meriting a radio call. Shortly afterward, Grotto started again.

Then nothing. The first slowdown may have happened about 2-1/2 hours later, but it was hard to tell in the dark. Grotto was still active. At this point I was not about to leave. In years past, this sort of behavior-- Bijou continuously erupting for hours -- was a really good sign of an imminent eruption. (Or at least a major hot period). Grotto not wanting to stop (or be stopped by Rocket) also seemed good.

Suzanne had been at Norris all day, and arrived back at the cabin just as I made the radio call for the pause. Because she had gotten ready for going out in the dark, she decided to continue on to Grand on the chance that I would have gone there for a few Turbans. But I wasn't there, so eventually she bailed out on a long interval and joined me in the Cage. Upon hearing about the Bijou/Grotto behavior, despite the coldness, she didn't want to leave either.

Five minutes before midnight, Bijou finally paused. Grotto was still active. Even with the bright flashlight, we couldn't determine if Mastiff was showing water. After a couple of minutes, the Southwest Vents finally started erupting, and that was good enough to start sending out another radio call. By then it looked like Mastiff was near overflow.

Things started getting a little hectic when Feather started at midnight. Almost immediately its satellite began. Then several of the other platform vents. We could tell that Mastiff was pouring off water, even though we couldn't see what it was doing through the fog. Feather never really tried to stop. Finally, only 6 minutes into the hot period, Giant had a huge surge. Moments later, it had another one, this one up to the top of the cone. The third surge was higher, and didn't stop. Suddenly Giant began to climb, and the eruption started. And the wind direction was toward the cage.

And that's when the real fun began. Because I was trying to take notes and talk into the radio, I was juggling too many different things (radio, phone, notebook, pen, red flashlight). I shoved things into pockets without thinking, then tried to move to a location where I might see something illuminated by the super-powerful flashlight. That's when I remember that we still had our packs and blankets and other stuff still on the benches in the cage. Too late, they were soaked. We moved them well back on the boardwalk, getting drenched in the process, and that when the real horror hit. I couldn't find my phone.

It's hard to enjoy a nighttime eruption when you can only hear it and when you think you have done something incredibly stupid. Instead of trying to watch the eruption, we repeatedly scanned the area looking for the phone without success for far too long. Finally I realized that my watch, tied to the phone, was still working, no matter where I was. That mean I had to be carrying it. I finally realized that it was in a pocket that I have never, ever used for any geyser gazing instrument (just my wallet). My relief finally allowed me to enjoy what was left of the eruption.

The radio call, at least, wasn't a waste of time. Several people heard it and got out to see the start, or got there early in the eruption. Maybe ten or a dozen in all.

The eruption was noisy and wet. The boardwalk as far as Grotto was soaked, as were our bikes tied up on the recently appearing bike rack. The bright flashlight, thanks to an extra battery pack, was the one thing that worked right, as it never dimmed. We were able to see the ending of the eruption pretty well because of it. The Giant sign had rolled well down the runoff, on the far side near to Turtle. The highly reflective "Keep Off" also rolled down several terraces. There was also a bit of the "catfish" or "low tide" smell as more plantlife got cooked.

Grotto quit sometime during the eruption.

For most of the eruption, we didn't feel the cold (and wet). The excitement, despite my problems, took care of that. But we still had to bike back to the cabin. I found that my bike light needed a recharge, so I had to rely on Suzanne's on the way back. In the cabin, we spent the better part of an hour taking apart our packs to dry things out.

That's when the horrible night hit Suzanne. She discovered that her needlepoint instructions (something she hadn't worked on since the previous Giant activity in 2007) had become wet. And so did her phone. It would no longer charge up. (That problem is going to last for a while, as so far all our attempts to fix it haven't worked.)

So while we did see another eruption of Giant, our first in 11 years, it is a bit hard to be happy about the experience. I think it's going to take a daylight eruption, with lots of gazers present, to make this one a bit more bearable, and turn it into something to laugh about.