Waiting for New Crater/Steamboat

Since the start of the latest period of activity of New Crater/Steamboat, I've managed to see fourteen of the eruptions, all from the start, and all from my chosen viewpoint (platforms or the bridge). The amount of time waiting for each has varied considerably. I've seen enough eruptions that some statistics on the waits can be gathered.

First, there are two ways to determine how long is a wait. It can either be the amount of time waiting for an eruption since the previous eruption, or the amount of time waiting since the last observed eruption. Going by the first, I've waited 24 times, and didn't see anything ten of those waits. Only three times did I see an eruption on the first day of waiting after seeing the previous eruption.

Since I have seen eruptions from the start, I don't feel the need to wait in the cold and dark to experience a lot of noise with not much of a view. So I'm not going to arrive much before dawn, and will clear out around dark. (That I'd rather drive as little in the dark as possible, especially in the evening, is another factor. I have no desire to encounter a bison on the road.)

The amount of daylight varies depending on the season, but even in October there can be as much as nine hours of daylight. In June I have put in close to fifteen hour days.

The shortest waits were less than a day. In October of the first year of activity I actually had a wait of 2h20m, and in several other cases I got the eruption in the middle of the day or early evening.

On the other hand, I've had long waits. The most for a particular eruption, without seeing it, was early in 2020, when I waited almost 55 hours without success. I've also had other waits well over 30 hours with nothing to show for it.

When looking at just the amount of time put in since the previous eruption, things get worse. I had to put in 154 hours, going back to the start of September last year, for the first eruption I saw in 2020. In the middle of the summer of 2019, there was another 62 hour stretch.

Date Seen? Days Wait Time Total Wait
2018 May 27 Seen 2 19h05m 19h05m
2018 Jul 20   1 9h45m  
2018 Aug 04 Seen 3 22h50m 32h35m
2018 Sep 07 Seen 2 12h50m 12h50m
2018 Sep 17 Seen 1 5h35m 5h35m
2018 Oct 08 Seen 1 2h20m 2h20m
2018 Oct 15 Seen 3 16h40m 16h40m
2019 May 20 Seen 2 12h05m 12h05m
2019 May 27   3 34h45m  
2019 Jul 24   1 12h20m  
2019 Jul 30 Seen 2 15h40m 62h55m
2019 Aug 27 Seen 2 17h10m 17h10m
2019 Sep 03   2 27h25m  
2019 Sep 11   3 37h35m  
2020 May 31   4 54h40m  
2020 Jun 29   2 26h00m  
2020 Jul 03 Seen 1 8h30m 154h10m
2020 Aug 03 Seen 1 3h40m 3h40m
2020 Aug 09   3 30h50m  
2020 Aug 14 Seen 1 9h30m 40h20m
2020 Aug 20   1 9h35m  
2020 Aug 26 Seen 3 40h10m 49h45m
2020 Sep 01   1 13h05m  
2020 Sep 09 Seen 3 30h15m 43h20m
Totals 14 (24) 48 471h30m Ave: 33h40m

That's a total of over 471 hours, not quite ten hours per day, spread over 48 days. Or 33h40m per eruption seen, or 19h40m for each wait.

The whole point of this is that there is no "luck" involved in when a person sees sees so many eruption. I wasn't the only person who spent a lot of time on that platform, and ended up seeing as many or more eruptions. We all put in a lot of time out there.

The wait time for the first eruption I saw also doesn't include the time I spent in 1982 and didn't see anything. It was late August/early September, and I was in Yellowstone for a two week vacation, before going back to work in Oregon. At the time there weren't that many gazers, so Fred Hirschmann, the head naturalist at Norris, let us sleep out on the old middle platform, as long as our gear wasn't visible when visitors were around. His rationale was that it was better to have us out where our locations would be known, rather than our skulking around in the woods and becoming bear bait. (Despite this, at least one person still insisted on skulking about during the night.) I ended up spending about 100 hours, straight, on that platform waiting for nothing to happen. Occasionally would wander over for Echinus, but didn't want to be out of sight any more than necessary.

That was the year some those of us waiting got so tired of the constant repetition of the same questions that we started pinning cards with answers to those common questions on the railing. (A FAQ before the term was invented.)

I finally gave up when I had just a couple of days left in my visit, just so I could see something else erupt. As it turned out, the eruption finally took place about two days after I left. Other than stopping by while visiting Norris for other reasons, I never did wait again until 2018.

So in some sense, I put in about 120 hours for that first eruption, in two sessions spaning 36 years.