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Observations for 02 September 2013

It was clear when I went out for the nighttime Grand. Quiet too, as I believe this was the first time this visit that neither Percolator or any other of the noise makers were active. The distinguishing, and amusing feature of this eruption was that someone happened to make just the right turning the Inn parking lot to briefly illuminate the rising water column from the second burst.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I woke up a few hours later, and from behind the curtains I could tell that it wasn't bright and sunny. Instead it was a thick, gray overcast. So unlike previous mornings, I had to head out to Grand wearing some jackets and be prepared to get out the rain gear.

Had an almost classic sequence of Turban intervals. The first eruption I saw went long, after Grand had been sitting for quite a while with a full pool. The next eruption went short. (Not sure of the exact length, as was interrupted by an eruption of Uncertain.) That was followed by a short interval with poor runoff from Grand. Finally the pool filled and stayed up and we could easily see the full sequence of events for a long Turban start, from Vent overflow to Grand booping before finally starting.

The eruption itself was, as David Schwarz put it, was "an experience you normally get at night". Because of the coolness and the dampness, and the lack of any breeze, the water column was quickly shrouded in steam, a huge cloud that almost immediately started to precipitate on all the benches. To see anything required moving around.

Another feature of the wait was another short duration eruption of Rift which ended during Grand's eruption. I was standing down by it for the ending portions of Grand (due to the aforementioned rain.)

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Observations for 01 September 2013

Going out for the nighttime Grand shows some more obvious differences between September and July. Seeing Orion rising was one. Hearing an elk bugle was another. While waiting for Grand the crescent mood first was visible through the trees behind Grand, then cast a strange pearly glow above the trees until it finally made its appearance.I'm used to the moon rising much farther to the south, from behind Rift or Spasmodic.

I arrived with West Triplet in eruption. It was a while before Rift joined in,so I must have just missed Triplet's start. That was not encouraging, as it was so early in the interval, and Grand could take several hours and still erupt well within the window.

The thin crescent was surprisingly bright, easily casting shadows. It's position behind Grand also meant that it was almost impossible to tell what was going on there. Usually I can use the contrast in the thicker portions of the steam over Turban and Grand to gauge what is going on, but the moon was illuminating the whole steamy area. So it was a pleasant surprise when a nondescript overflow was suddenly interrupted by a sizable burst from Grand. There wasn't any preliminary boop that I could hear.

The moon also provided a new and different view of the eruption. Or at least one I haven't seen in years. Grand was nicely backlit, and with there being no wind, it was possible to get into a position to actually use that lighting to enjoy the eruption.

It was cool whenI went out for the next eruption, but quickly warmed up. There was also a distinct layer of smokey haze throughout the area. This time Grand cooperated again, with an interval well under seven hours. The pool filled and began having waves at about the twenty minute mark, then fluctuated between looking great, and looking like it was dropping. We just missed having a delay by about 15 seconds.

The eruption itself was nice, without any preliminary hoops, but with Grand staring with a nice large explosion. At around the ten minute mark Grand had one of the longer false pauses I've seen. For about ten seconds there was nothing more than a big boil over the vent-- not stopping, but not rocketing either. Then one of the bursts broke free, and Grand continued on for several more minutes.

After Grand stopped, West Triplet started up. The Vent & Turban pause was notable because on several occasions it looked like the restart was about to happen, then the steam from those two vents stopped. But Grand continued to steam heavily all through those times. Finally, once the restart happened, Grand within a minute started having some nice sized afterplay.

It turned out waiting for the end of the West Triplet eruption was a good idea, as instead got to see the start of another Rift. An interval of less than eight hours.

Heard a radio call about Penta erupting. Got out there in time for the last minute or so of a 33 minute eruption. That was about the only noteworthy geyser activity (at least for me) until it was time again to go to Grand.

I didn't have high hopes for the next interval. With the second Rift eruption, I expect Grand to try to have a long interval, especially because it had had so many shorts lately. The first Turban interval I saw was 30 seconds of being a delay, and the next few intervals showed no sign of Grand wanting to have a short interval.

Then Turban tossed in one of its short duration eruptions, and Grand's pool did look like it could be having low pool waves. So now I was hoping for a long-short series, and for Grand to attempt to erupt on the second Turban following. Which is what it did. Grand looked good, with a high pool, but no waves, at the start of Turban. But over the course of the next 50 seconds, the pool rose and waves got bigger. FInally there was a series of at least 4 boils and hoops (one at least 2 meters high) before Grand finally did begin the first burst.

Of course during this time the sun managed to disappear behind a single small cloud. It did reappear for a while during the eruption, but was again hidden when the first burst ended at nine minutes. Or I should say the eruption ended, as despite the sort duration, Grand made no attempt to refill and give us a second burst.

Here are the bear footprints I mentioned yesterday. The bear passed by Economic, headed north toward the Purple Pools, it appears.

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Radio Rant

Seems that I have to make this post, or something like it, every few years. Maybe I'm just too sensitive to what's wrong, and actually do care that the status quo is bad, and no one else seems to care enough to make it better. Maybe I'm just old and cranky. Anyhow---

This time it's the play by plays at Fan & Mortar. It's one thing to announce the occurrence of a possible event-- Bottom Vent eruption or Main Vent splashing or something definitely out of the ordinary. But there is no reason, especially this year when those geysers are semi-dormant. There is no reason to keep announcing the exact same sequence of events, down to the timing in some cases, when none of them has ever lead into an eruption. At some point you've got to conclude that the sequence of events doesn't lead to an eruption, no matter how hard you wish for it.

The same goes for walking up onto what you think is an event, and beginning the play-by-play. The people who tend to go to see Artemisia early in the morning are the worse culprits in this regard. Last year, when F&M were active, one person reported several events, in loving detail, the day after an eruption. There has never been an eruption on an interval anywhere close to that short since the late 1970s, so there is no reason to think that you are the lucky person who just happens to walk up on the one that establishes the new record short interval. The proper conclusion upon seeing such activity is assume that you are not going to see the eruption, to wait, and enjoy your incredible good fortune of seeing activity with Powerball level odds.

One the main culprits told me that I could always turn off my radio. Fine. I'll do that. And I'll also not announce any unusual activity I do see. And I've seen more than just about anyone. When I get on the radio to make an announcement, it's because it matters, and I want people to know about it. Last year it was for the long delay in Vent's start. At the time, it was something so new in Grand's behavior that I had absolutely no idea what could happen next. After bursts? No Vent at all? I wanted to make sure that anyone who cared had the chance to share in what could be a unique event. (That it turns out nothing else happened is beside the point.)

This year I have called out as many F&M eruptions as anyone else has. True it was in the middle of the night, but people were listening, and were able to act on that info. But if people think the solution to their stupidity is for me to opt out, then I will opt out all the way. And I will enjoy those eruptions of Giant, and Giantess, and Link, and Splendid and Purple Pools and not feel any guilt about no one else there with me.

What is the point of the play-by-play? Years ago, when Giant was active, we (and I did it too) gave out play by play of the activity during a Giant hot period. I know that in 2001, it became almost a joke about how every hot period was the same, lasting about 4 minutes and ending in disappointment. But it was the time that Dave Leeking announced a hot period that lasted longer that got my attention. Something different happened, and that meant that hanging around in the Lower Ham's parking lot was not a reasonable thing to be doing. I got only bike and got down to Oblong and saw the start of one of the few Giant eruptions that year. (Several people saw me take off, and figured out that something unusual was going on, and got down there right behind me.)

I'm not looking forward to that part of the reactivation of Giant, because it is going to also get the play-by-play treatment, especially in the early years when eruptions are infrequent. On the other hand, when it or Fan & Mortar are active, and the opportunity that this could be the eruption is great, I do want that info.

It's true that I don't announce mundane geyser times. Mostly for two reasons. One is I don't feel the need to be first to announce any time (even before the eruption actually starts, in some cases.) There always seems to be someone, somewhere, who ends up making the announcement, so why should I contribute to the noise and chatter I find so distasteful. The other is that I don't think the radios should be used as some sort of electronic log book with the VC acting to transcribe these announcements. If people want an automated log book, there are better, more efficient and less obtrusive ways to do it with modern phones. (I know, I'm in the mobile applications development biz and have done some of those things, and investigated others.)

What we need is the use of some actual judgement (I understand these days that being "judgmental" is a mortal sin for a lot of people, but I don't belong to that religion, either.) Make the event call. Maybe make a second call like we started doing with Beehive's Indicator. (Note that I was one, if not "the" person who suggested doing that, after I missed an eruption because I missed the first call.) Then not say anything until either something different happens, or it become obvious that no eruption is going to happen. (The latter provides some closure.)

The judgement in this case is on actually providing useful information. It's obvious, by the lack of anyone actually going down to F&M to see these events in person that the information is not useful.

But another solution would be to make the event announcement, then switch out to a separate channel for the play-by-play. Switch back if things look good, or maybe just every 15 minutes or so give a quick update, especially if there really is a chance of activity. Then anyone who doesn't want to go down to F&M or Giant or whatever feature it is can hear the play by play, and maybe change their mind. And the rest of us won't have to listen to as much radio chatter.

I've also got a solution to the Visitor Cathedral's incessant "repeat the call", but it's a nuclear option that I will give another year before I exercise it. But I'm putting on notice, that come next year this time, if a solution there isn't found, I'm using it.

As for "switch to 5"-- don't be so furshlugginer cheap and buy a radio with a scan option. You get a good one for the price of a single night in a Lodge cabin. Stay on your private channel with all your friends and hangers-on and scan both it and 4 for info. Switch to 4 to announce a time, then switch back. Or use your phones, especially in the off hours when calls usual get through.

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Observations for 31 August 2013

Have really gotten used to coming here in July and early August. Was a bit surprised when I came out for the early Grand and it was still dark, without a hint of dawn to the east. A month ago I probably wouldn't have needed a light to take notes. The crescent moon had a slight reddish color, and the stars seemed to be not a prominent as a few hours earlier, too.

As it was, Grand was fairly cooperative this time. While it did wait a bit, by the time it did erupt, it was light enough to see the eruption. Unfortunately, that eruption as a short, single burst.

Since I had no excuse, I went out to Fountain on the off chance that Morning might try to do something. An hour's wait, and Morning didn't erupt, so it was time to come back in and have something to eat.

Middle of the day brought another Grand eruption. Like last night, the difference between now and July was noticeable. A month ago the clear sky would have been unbearably hot. This time it was just bright, and the breeze made it comfortable. In the lead up, Turban had a series of intervals where each of the durations were about 30 seconds shorter than the previous, going from about six minutes to just under four. The intervals also decreased from about 22 minutes to 18. Then Grand made what looked like a feeble attempt to erupt, finally going two Turban eruptions later.

The eruption itself was another one burst, at least it was a full ten minutes this time.

Went out for the next Grand eruption at sunset, which was earlier than necessary, but I had nothing better to do. Turned out to be useful, as it was almost 25 minutes from the time I arrived until Turban finally erupted. The duration of the Turban eruption itself was almost 7 minutes. Since this delay was so early in Grand's interval, I figured that it would not have a great effect on Grand, and even if it did, Grand still could erupt well before the middle of the prediction window.

I also learned, too late to take photos, that there were a nice series of fresh grizzly bear footprints between Economic and the boardwalk. Not the kind of news that I wanted to hear, as previous reports of bear sightings this summer had been well away from the Grand complex.Will try to take pictures in daylight tomorrow. (This is not the first time I've seen grizzly bear prints at that particular spot. Years ago in mid-May I saw a nice fresh print on the boardwalk during a snowfall.)

As it turned out, the delay was only for three Turban intervals. It was again one of those cases where Turban started, and suddenly one could hear the intensity of the eruption pick up. At the same time, the grayish glow of the steam in the dark seemed to pick up, and within 90 seconds Grand started.

The first burst was short enough, well under ten minutes, that there seemed a good chance for another burst. The pause itself was so short, and the burst duration also short, that I hoped for a third, but no such luck.