Mount St. Helens stirs America’s northwest … and creationist community
26 October 2004
Mount St. Helens in southwest Washington State, USA, has awakened, and lava is oozing out. The volcano’s renewed activity is being keenly watched by creationist geologists, who point to its 1980 eruption as a key event in the creation/evolution debate about the earth’s geology and the real age of our planet.
After 18 years of quiet (and before that, the famous, massive—and deadly—explosion in 1980), thousands of tiny earthquakes began shaking the mountain on September 23, 2004. By the 29th, scientists reported larger quakes (2.0–2.8 on the Richter scale) coming at the rate of four a minute. The first steam eruption came two days later.
Then on October 2nd, authorities ordered thousands of sightseers to evacuate Johnston Ridge, near the mountain, and raised the volcano alert status to the highest level: level 3, eruption imminent.
The following day, over 1,700 “volcano gawkers” per hour arrived at Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center, the new closest outpost (8.5 miles from the crater). Cars lined the shoulders of the highway and waited for a parking spot at the center.
On Thursday the 7th, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the new lobe swelling high on the southwest slope of the lava dome had grown to 250 feet. By the next day, USGS scientists estimated its volume to be 20 million cubic yards (16 million m3), 1/5 the size of the lava dome. The following Tuesday, lava began oozing from this new bulge at the rate of three cubic yards a second, or 1/4 million cubic yards a day.
The oozing continues as of this writing. Putting this new volcanic activity into perspective, the eruption on May 18, 1980 spewed out 300 million cubic yards of new lava in nine hours. Still, the current activity is not over, and there is no way to predict what will happen over the next weeks, months or years.
The significance of the volcano to the creation/evolution controversy
The eruption in 1980 opened a large window for creationists to confirm that the earth is as young as the Bible teaches. Creationists have used its eruption to help educate the world that geological formations such as those created by the 1980 explosion (e.g., a large canyon system and thick sedimentary layers) can take place rapidly and dramatically, and do not require millions of years to be formed. For more details, read our web article ‘I got excited at Mount St Helens!’
Creation scientists such as Dr. Steven Austin of the Institute for Creation Research [(ICR)] and Harold Coffin have carefully researched the geological events associated with the 1980 eruption. Dr. Austin reported them in the fascinating video Mount St. Helens: Explosive Evidence for Catastrophe. Now, that video’s information, and much more, is available in the 2003 book Footprints in the Ash, co-authored with Dr. John Morris of ICR.
In 1998, our 7Wonders Creation Museum, located en route to the crater observatory on State Route 504, opened with displays on the volcano and the geologic formations it created twenty-four years ago, comparing them to those formations (e.g., at Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA) which evolutionists claim took millions of years to form. Because we have observed what has been happening at Mount St. Helens since 1980, we know that canyons and sediment layers can form in hours, days or months, and do not require the long ages (millions of years) that evolutionists would insist would be necessary. These observations and mentions of our museum have recently received media attention from a major Seattle, Washington newspaper and the Associated Press (AP) news agency.
The museum is open most days of the year (but please call first). Supported by donations and book sales, its services are free—admission to the museum, the slide presentation and step-on guide services (by appointment). The museum offers over 40 creation papers for free and offers creation books and videos for sale.
For more information on the museum and the formations nearby, log on to www.creationism.org/sthelens/ or call 360-274-5737.
This week at the mountain
People have wondered if our museum is in danger (someone even wrote with the hope that we were already back, incorrectly assuming that we had been evacuated). Actually we are 27 air miles from the mountain, and it would take an eruption four times larger than the 1980 one to reach us. The volcano’s current activities are about 1,000 times smaller than that one. The people who were evacuated were just five miles from the mountain.
Mount St. Helens Creation Information Center/7Wonders Creation Museum and Bookstore
4749 Spirit Lake Hwy
Meanwhile, snow has collected between the lava dome and the south rim to form the mountain’s newest glacier. It is 600 feet (180 m) thick. If that 1,000-degree Fahrenheit bulge on the south slope of the lava dome superheats the glacier, it could cause new explosions or simply melt the ice to form local mudflows or floods moving into the valley below (and perhaps carve out additional canyons, although probably much smaller than the ones formed in 1980).
We continue to wonder what God will teach us with this recent activity. For example, will God cause us once again to tremble at His presence as spoken of in Isaiah 64:1? Whatever happens, we are told that God only needs to look at the earth to make it tremble, and that when He touches the mountains, they smoke (Psalm 104:32).
The new eruptive activity should cause us to pray for those who still mock God in their rejection of creation and the Bible’s account of a recent creation, urging them to pray and commit their lives to the Creator who alone is worthy of all praise.