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October 30, 2018

1989 Article on Geyser Gazers

Today I came across a short article in The Los Angeles Times from late 1989: Geyser gazers who watch over Yellowstone's natural wonders consider it a labor of love.. Mentions and quotes a number of gazers from back then, including Mary Ann Moss, Herb Warren and Paul Strasser.

As far as I can tell, it gets the facts right, and doesn't make fun of its subject.

October 21, 2018

Snowy Walk Between Castle and Grand Geysers, 11 October 2018

Snowy Walk Between Castle and Grand Geysers, 2018 October 11. Video by H.Koenig.

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October 20, 2018

New Crater Eruption for 15 October 2018

Eruption of New Crater/Steamboat Geyser, 2018 October 15. Video by H.Koenig.

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October 19, 2018

Giant Geyser Eruption for 11 October 2018

Eruption of Giant Geyser, 2018 October 11. Video by H.Koenig.

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October 18, 2018

New Crater Eruption for 08 October 2018

Eruption of New Crater/Steamboat Geyser, 2018 October 08. Video by H.Koenig.

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October 17, 2018

Observations for 16 October 2018

After checkiing out, stopped in the store parking lot. Realized that Grand hadn't erupted, just as we saw the steamcloud rising from its location. Went out anyhow since it was a cold, dead calm morning. Got to Sawmill Group in time to see the end of the long second burst, and to see Vent and Turban quit.

Also saw that there were frozen puddles in some of Sawmill's runoff channel. Not sure what to make of it. Perhaps the water nearer the vent was too warm to pool and freeze, or maybe something else is going on there.

October 16, 2018

Observations for 15 October 2018

Today started like yesterday. Temperature was in single digits when we arrived at Norris, and there were a couple of tour buses in the parking lot. Unlike yesterday, the tours were visiting the Back Basin instead of Porcelain Basin.

Set up on the upper platform again in anticipation of it eventually getting sunny, although that turned out to be several hours away. New Crater/Steamboat was more active than yesterday, but during those cloudy hours, it never had a good minor. (A good minor is one where it's time to use the camera.) Eventually clouds and fog broke and it started to warm up. Around noontime, moved down to the lower platform, as I can't tell what the South Vent is doing from the upper.

The activity did pick up a little, but it wasn't until 13:27 that it had a minor that showed that there was eruptive potential. That was followed four minutes later by another one, and then they started coming about ten to twelve minutes apart. All during this time the activity of the minors was concentrated in the North Vent, with the South not quite as strong as before other eruption. But at 14:11, a minor started and built, and at 14:12, we got the eruption.

Both vents climbed slowly to full height, and were clean for the first minute or so. Then the fun began. North turned reddish-brown, and began spewing out rocks. Large rocks thrown to great heights. More rocks than I've seen in all of the five previous eruptions. After a few minutes, the water there seemed so thick that the North Vent was only erupting 10 or 20 feet high.

When I was down at the runoff, I saw (and recorded) a large chunk of reddish mud plopping onto walkway. Surprised me, because I didn't think rocks would be flying that far, so it was probably thrown there by the torrent of water coming down the channel.

There was very little wind, and what little there was had the steam column drifting away from us. Because of this, later in the eruption the condensing steam made for nice rainbows which seemed to appear on either side depending on where the wind was drifting.

Ended the day by going out at sunset for one last One Burst Grand. Got there in time to see a Turban delay, so it was a Two-Turban Delayed One Burst Grand eruption that we eventually saw. The temperature was about 26°F, which was about the same temperature at which we saw New Crater/Steamboat last week.

October 15, 2018

Observations for 14 October 2018

Left the Old Faithful area where the temperature was 8°F and arrived at Norris at sunrise. Was probably even colder there. Turns out it is possible to sit and wait for a geyser at such temperatures, if you have a couple of blankets and are wearing lots of layers. The day never really got above freezing, although some places in sunlight did dry out a bit.

New Crater had some good surges early in our wait, then nothing much happened until a hour before we planned to leave. Even this activity wasn't encouraging, as I only got the phone out just in case, but never started recording. So it was mostly 9 hours of killing time.

Years ago I came across an interesting phenomena of hot ground, and encountered it again today. When warm, damp ground encounters frigid air, frost develops underneath pebbles and particles lying on that ground. That ice in turn causes the frost to grow, from the bottom, slowly pushing the top of the frost column up. I found large patches of this frost over by Echinus, on both sides of the boardwalk.

October 14, 2018

Observations for 13 October 2018

Nothing much happening with New Crater. Spent an hour and a half there and did see some strong surges, but they were separated by minutes of nothing happening.

It was after we left that things got fun. It was snowing heavily, but I thought things were okay until we got to the cutoff that rises up on the hillside where Tanker Curve used to be. There was a line of cars stuck there, unable to get up the slope. It was a mess, and we ended up spending an hour waiting because we had no idea if this was a local problem, or the end of a long line.

Tried to get past once, and some foreign idiot in a rental cut in front of us and immediately lost traction. Once we got past, it was clear all the way to Madison. There we talked our way past the barricade crew by saying that we had a cabin at Old Faithful and all our stuff was there. I think they were there more to keep the idiots from getting in deeper, and by the way I was dressed, and the vehicle I was driving, I showed that I might know what I was doing.

So it took the better part of two hours to get back. By then it was time for Grand.

Unlike the rest of the week, it was windy. Which, despite the temperature being just at freezing, made it the most unpleasant time we've had this trip. And the wind kept shifting during the One Burst Grand eruption. Often we could see the tops of the jets above the mass off steam coming off the runoff and Vent, other times it was just a mass of steam.

Again it appears that there are changes in the Sawmill Group. For the first time in two years that I can remember, I saw Churn below overflow. Again there appeared to be gaps in the snowcover where Sawmill's runoff channels used to be.

Despite it being mid-afternoon on what was now a sunny day, we just weren't in the mood to be out in the weather any more. So tomorrow it's back to Norris, unless something happens overnight there.

October 13, 2018

Observations for 12 October 2018

Knew that today was going to be fairly uneventful, a good day to catch up on other things besides Giant. It was cloudy at first, but cleared and when the sun was out, felt warm, especially when the wind died down.

Got up early again to catch the morning One Burst Grand eruption. From there, it was down to Fan & Mortar to see if it had erupted, and wait around a while since it hadn't.

From there it was on to Fountain, where it was obvious nothing was going to happen any time soon. So we looped around past Great Fountain, where we had to stop because it was in overflow. There were some nice sized bursts, so it wasn't totally a Flounder.

Back in the Upper Basin it was time for both Grand and Beehive. But first, saw Aurum from the parking lot. Then went over to Geyser Hill and ended up seeing Castle instead. Over at Grand we heard someone call Beehive during the One Burst Grand eruption. Sounds like either no one saw the Indicator, or there wasn't one.

The One Burst Grand was a bit of a weird eruption. It was obvious that we were having a delay, and it was so steamy it was hard to see the pool. Then I saw a nice boop boil over the vent, but nothing much happened after that for about half a minute. Then, in quick succession, there were several more boops, one maybe two meters high. Then the pool was quiet. It was another minute before Turban finally started, and it didn't sound all that vigorous. But it got stronger, and it looked like Grand's pool was getting steamier. Finally it became obvious that we were getting waves, and about to get a delayed eruption start.

Finally went back to Fan & Mortar where nothing much happened, again.

Over the last few days, it seems to me that there's been evidence of some sort of over-trickle from Sawmill. The way the snow was melted was one sign. Another was that today there were wet spots and pools in the runoff channel, long after the snow had melted. The photo is an attempt to show this. Unfortunately, this is about as high a water level as I've seen, but this past summer, I never saw any evidence of any water down those channels. (Maybe it's just wishful thinking...)

October 12, 2018

Observations for 11 October 2018

The snow picked back up in the morning as we were loading up to head out. We were the first to head down basin. It was time for Grand, and the snow was deep enough that we decided to walk and not use the bikes. The boardwalks were really slick, especially on the older, polished plastic boards. But the view was wonderful, because it was dead calm and the clouds were actually starting to break, despite the snow.

The One Burst Grand didn't make us wait, and then it was time to head on toward Giant. That's when we noticed that not only was Bijou off, but there appeared to be a surge from Mastiff. Getting down there was slow going, thanks to the slippery walkways, but when we arrived it seemed obvious that there was some sort of medium to weak hot period activity. While there was a bit of water running down on the far left, that could have been from Feather and not Mastiff. In any case, it gave us a time to return for the next activity.

So there was time to check out Fan & Mortar, which did nothing while we were there, and see an eruption of Riverside. We trudged back to my truck at the Lower Ham's by the biketrail, not wanting to deal with the slippery walkways a second time.

Returned to the Giant platform by bike about 2-1/2 hours after the activity we saw, and then waited. It was pretty nice by then. Some sun, and absolutely no wind, which after this past summer, was quite a relief and made the cold easy to take. Grotto was in eruption, and there had't been sort of activity from the Southwest Vents recently.

It was the third pause after we arrived that things got interesting. It was only a minute from when we saw water in Mastiff until the start of Feather. Within a minute Mastiff was overflowing, and unlike the last few days, was surging and boiling up nicely. Saw at least one that was about 2 meters high, It took a while, but eventually Cave started to erupt, the first real activity we'd seen from it. There was no wind, so other than the steam coming from Mastiff's overflow, there wasn't any obscuring of the activity.

When Mastiff finally dropped, it took a minute for Bijou to finally restart. Feather never really calmed down, and with Bijou back on, Posthole started up too. Giant began surging, with long, sustained boil-ups from what seemed like a high water level. There were distinct pauses between the surges, but each on was little bigger then the previous, and they were putting out more and more water.

We finally got the eruption on a surge that was well above the cone, one that put out enough water to roll the log signs. There was still no wind, so the steamcloud rose straight up from the water column. The water discharge was not being pushed to the north, so Feather & co. weren't being inundated, but instead were actually erupting fairly strong steam.

Because of the conditions, there were very few people out and about the whole duration. At the start, a group of a half-dozen tourists were there to join us.

Grotto quit during Giant's eruption, but started again shortly before that last water from Giant was visible. The duration was long because everytime it looked like Giant had finished, it would put a spray of water out of the cone and on the platform.

After Giant, of course the thing to do is go and catch the next One Burst Grand eruption.

At Sawmill, I noticed what were either some changes, or the way the snow behaves in old runoff channels. In the morning, I could definitely see gaps along the runoff channels, as if the snow had been melted there. The water level in Sawmill was low, but it looked like there was a high water mark high enough for runoff. In the afternoon, all the snow had melted from the area, and there was water running down those same channels, with the water level in Sawmill high, almost at overflow. Will keep a watch on it for the few days we have left here.

October 11, 2018

Observations for 10 October 2018

Today looked like it was going to be a repeat of yesterday, and it was and it wasn't.

It wasn't because the weather was different. The snow last night was over quickly, so there wasn't much accumulation. But it did mask a bit of ice, which made the boardwalks interesting in areas. The day started clear, became partly cloudy, and then warmed up as the sun came out. Warmed up enough for much of the ice and snow to melt, or turn to slush.

But Giant was a repeat of yesterday. We got out to find something probably happened shortly before we got there, then had to wait several hours for the next attempt at a hot period. In this case, it was Grotto, which was off for over four hours before it started at noon. For over an hour, Bijou looked like it was off all the time, with an occasion splash or two to let us know that it wasn't paused. It was like in years past when Grotto had just had a marathon eruption. Finally, there was some sort of real pause, with a lot of steam from Mastiff, and then Bijou started jetting heavily. Twenty minutes later was when Grotto started, followed at almost the same time by one of those long Feather eruptions where nothing much else happened. Pretty much a duplicate of yesterday's first hot period.

At least we got to see a couple of Grand eruptions with almost no wait. The first started as we were picking our way through the ice near Economic. (There were also coyote and goose tracks that preceeded us.) That eruption had a long second burst, which in the steamy cold was nicely backlit. It was impossible to see anything from most of the benches, though, especially near West Triplet. Then the second One Burst Grand eruption started before we even had a chance to get settled onto the benched. The snow was just starting up, so again it was a lot like a nighttime eruption, in that it was easier to tell what was going on by sound than by seeing anything.

Back at Giant, waited in the increasinly heavy snow showers. After about an hour, it was starting to stick to the boardwalk. Four hours almost exactly after the previous hot period, we got a repeat of yesterday's second hot period. The only real difference was Cave did erupt for a while. There was a feeble attempt at a restart, with Posthole and Feather blipping along for a few minutes, but Giant never had any surging during that time.

It's beginning to look like Giant has changed since the last eruption. I've yet to see any hot period that had any activity that looked encouraging, oras if Giant was trying to erupt but just not quite there. There's been little to no surging from Mastiff, even when it overflows heavily. Cave has been seen only once, and the restarts look like the first couple of minutes are missing, and are going directly to the after-effects where all the vents are splashing around.

Between hot periods Giant just looks quieter. The water level seems lower and there doesn't appear to be as much of the angled jetting as before.

The last couple of days there's been a crew putting together the edge logs along the new pavement. At first it looked like there were going to be buried in the dirt along the pavement edge, but as the photo shows, they are going be the low barriers like they have in places where parking is being discouraged.

I think this is a mistake. All these barriers are going to be used as seats, especially when they face a geyser like here at Grotto. People are going then be scuffing the ground in front of those logs. And then stand up and walk around, "off-trail". A better arrangement would have those barriers on the pavement, so that people seated on them would still have their feet on pavement. But, we'll see how things work out next year.

October 10, 2018

Observations for 09 October 2018

So after yesterday's excitement, today wasn't much.

The day started at dawn with a trip down basin to see what had happened at Giant. Seeing Bijou active meant no eruption, and the depth charging without a wet, steaming platform implied that we had just missed a bathtub. Ended up waiting several hours in light, windless snow for a strangely weak hot period. Feather was on for a bit over 8 minutes, yet there was no overflow from Mastiff, and none of the other vents joined in. This activity also came well after Rocket and Grotto had finished.

Came back a couple of hours later. There was still intermittent snow, but the wind had picked up, making observations a bit more difficult and the wait much more uncomfortable. Again, probably arrived just after some sort of long pause from Bijou, as it didn't stop for the next hour. Grotto had close to a six hour interval, and it was an hour into that eruption when we finally got the hot period. (At the same time as Grand.) Mastiff flooded the area, and did have some meter high surging, But the restart was weak, with no activity from Posthole, and no surging from Giant. At that point, it was time to go in.

With the cold and with the Lodge closed, have reverted to driving to the Lower Ham's parking lot and biking from there. So it was right after we'd loaded up the bikes for a trip back to our Snowlodge cabin that Beehive's indicator started. We learned the hard way that a five minute indicator is not enough time to drive over to the Lodge cabins and go to Geyser Hill. Saw the start of Beehive just as we parked.

And that was it for the day. The expected snow, the kind that sticks and accumulates, started about then, and continued on until it got dark.

October 09, 2018

Observations for 08 October 2018

Had to choose, so went to Norris. New Crater/Steamboat's interval was slightly long, but it sounded like it could erupt soon. Giant was way too long, and acting like it could still be a while.

We arrived a little after sunrise, to find not one, but two Asian Invasion tour buses in the parking lot. But it seemed that they had gotten their selfies overlooking Porcelain Basin and were heading out.

The walk out to the platform wasn't too bad, despite the heavy frost. At Old Faithful, when we left at dawn, the temperature was about 25°F. Only when we got to the platform itself did it become icy, and that was because of the mist coming from New Crater/Steamboat having frozen during the night. Settled in for a bit of a wait. The chair was on thin layer of ice, but the board cracks kept it from slipping around. It was about an hour later that the ice really started to form, as it warmed up enough so that instead of ice crystals, it was water droplets coming down.

For that first hour, nothing much happened. There was a surge around 09:36 that caused me to get my phone/camera out and recording, but that was it. It was pretty quiet, and I realized that this might be a good opportunity to do some video recording from places besides the platform. It should be easy to move around.

At around 10:05, an loud, obnoxious student tour group showed up. They seemed more interested in the icy platform that the geyser. About five minutes later, there was a large surge, one that stopped just as I was about to start the camera. I was actually a bit relieved that the eruption didn't start then.

Just before they arrived, I was cold enough that I decided to put on the rain pants as an extra layer of warmth. The wind had started up, and it was occasionally in my direction. Also got out the extra blanket and wrapped it around myself. But after they left, I decided that a quick walk around might help warm up. So I went up to the upper platform and then headed back. Just about as I reached the junction, another surge started. It was sudden, and it was big. I managed to get my camera started seconds before the water column started climbing.

First instinct was to head back to the lower platform to continue recording. I didn't get far, as the platform was being drenched. The wind and spray from the eruption was forceful enough that I did get to see my chair, sitting on the ice sheet, start sliding across the empty platform, all the way to the far railing.

I did stop recording and quickly moved our packs up out of the wet area. Then I rushed, as much as the slippery boardwalks would allow, back to take a height measurement. I got 60% at 130 meters, which comes to 78 meters or 256ft. This eruption did look a bit smaller than the previous one I measured. Still, that's still the second highest measurement I've ever made.

And as planned, I did do a grand tour. I continuously recorded the eruption from there to the upper platform, to the lower, down to the runoff channel (where it was raining heavily) then back to the lower platform, where a crowd had finally gathered. All that video will have to wait for our return before it gets posted.

I retrieved my umbrella and went back to record the runoff at the bottom. Turns out there were some really nice, bright rainbows in all that rain, especially once you got past Echinus, or on the far side.

Unlike previous eruptions, the water columns never turned brown. Because of the wind direction, the hillside above the North Vent was dry. It was also a short water phase. At some point in my recording, I realized that I was no longer seeing water, just hearing the powerful steam roaring out. This also confirms my previous observations that the brown columns are due to the surface runoff back into the vents (especially the North Vent.) The choking we saw previous was probably due to excess water stopping up the system at the surface, nothing deep.

When it came time to pack up the folding chairs, I discovered something else about the start. Both chairs had blankets (now thoroughly soaked) in them. Both blankets had various rocky debris on them, ranging in size for flecks and flakes, to a couple of chunks about the size of x. There were a number of the larger chunks scatter along the boardwalk edges and under the benches, too.

After about an hour of the steam phase, we decided it was time to head back and see what Giant had done. Still, the best part of the wind direction is that the parking lot never got hit. For all the eruptions we've seen this summer, we've never had to pack up in the rain. But we still had quite a bit of wet gear in the back, our chairs and blankets and umbrellas and outer coats.

And the lot had empty parking spots, despite it being the middle of the day. Quite a change from just a few weeks ago.

We returned to the Upper Basin at about 13:00. Last night we'd left our bikes in the Lower Store racks figuring we might want them today. Had just finished rearranging the packs to head down to Giant, with the expectation that we could dry a few things out down there, when got the call that there was a hot period starting. Is an nice, easy ride from that point, especially when you don't have to thread through the people wandering around Old Faithful. I got to the area while the Giant Indicator Pool was still full because Mastiff had not yet dropped.

This hot period seemed similar to the one we had seen the night before. Again, Feather didn't quit, and Giant had some surging, but never looked like it really wanted to erupt. Left the area with the expectation that there wouldn't be much happening out there until after dark.

So the rest of the day was pretty quiet. Finally got around to seeing a One Burst Grand. This one featured a wind direction that was constantly shifting, but getting wet some portion of the benches. Definitely something that doesn't happen there much.

Also paid a quick visit to Geyser Hill, just to see what it looks like. Disappointing the way the NPS has overreacted to the breakout under the boardwalk. Disappointed, but not expected. They always overreact. In this case, they could just close things from Pump to Doublet, and enforce it by pulling up the boardwalk over the outbreak.

Noticed that there are minor changes to the Sawmill Group. The runoff from Crystal and Old Tardy is diverting itself at the boardwalk to flood the grass on both sides of the walkway. I even starting to use the Penta runoff channel. Spasmodic was down well below overflow, while at the same time Sawmill seemed as high as I've seen it all summer. There's also steam visible in the little crack feather to the northeast of Spasmodic, something I cannot remember ever seeing before.

When we got to Norris, I wanted to visiting the indoor plumbing, but the door was locked. I had to visit again later, and it was unlocked. (And the parking lot almost empty. Definitely a high percentage of vehicles for people out to see one geyser in particular.) I noticed on the first visit that the cleaning crew truck was parked nearby, so I assume they locked them until the buses left, so they could stay clean for bit longer.

October 08, 2018

Observations for 07 October 2018

In October, you are pretty much on your own. We arrived at the Lower Ham's empty parking lot at 16:45, and all we knew is that there wasn't any report of any activity down by Giant for the day. So despite the weather, and not yet having checked in, we went down to check things out.

Arrived at the tail end of some sort of long Bijou pause at 17:00. Probably just a bathtub, as while the platform was wet, the water wasn't moving, and areas near the Southwest Vents were drying out. Grotto started at about 17:09, so it was definitely worth waiting around until it ended, or there was a Rocket eruption.

The next pause was almost an hour later, and Bijou was quite strong. Giant seemed quieter than I remembered from a few weeks ago. there was very little splashing and surging in the conem and what there was, was barely visible. It just sounded like the water level in Giant was low, as if it was a day or so after an eruption.

After the first short pause, there were a couple more at 10 and 19 minute intervals. Then we got a pause with water in Mastiff, just as Rocket started. This hot period was pretty strong, with Feather never shutting down, and lasting exactly 14 minutes. But the Giant surging was never all that strong, There was a good, sustained push at one point that filled the cone, but otherwise it just seemed that the water level wasn't there.

By then, the sun had set and it was time to head in, warm up, check in and unpack.