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Author Topic: What happened to Dr. David A. Johnston?  (Read 6592 times)

Offline Eric A. Taylor

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What happened to Dr. David A. Johnston?
« on: 18/12/2010 12:03:21 »
Might be odd to ask this question under geology, but bare with me.

David A. Johnston was the geologist assigned to observe Mt. St. Helens on 18 May 1980. He was camped on a ridge just south of the volcano when the eruption began and had just enough time to radio "Vancouver, Vancouver this is it!" (Vancouver, Washington, not B.C.) He never responded to the question of "What is it?" but it was soon clear why he was unable to respond.

Clearly he was killed, his body was never found. I imagine he was covered under hundreds of feet of ash and rock. Amusing he wasn't blown to bits, is it possible that his body could be fossilized? What would have been the forces he was exposed to?

I've heard of a young girl in Montserrat who was running into a house to escape a pyroclastic flow. She was one half step to late to completely escape. She survived but was badly burned on he back. Would death by pyroclastic flow be instant or will it take a few seconds?

Some of the people of the city Herculaneum, in 79 AD show evidence of there heads exploding when exposed to high temperatures. Did these peoples heads explode while they stood, or were they already dead on the ground?


 

Offline Bass

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What happened to Dr. David A. Johnston?
« Reply #1 on: 11/01/2011 17:02:16 »
Eric
I knew two people who perished during the Mt. St. Helens eruption.  One can only speculate as to what happened to David Johnston- but he was probably impacted by several conditions during the eruption.  First, these lateral pyroclastic flows are dense and move at relatively high speeds (up to 120 mph). One just has to look at all the snapped trees to appreciate the forces involved.  Secondly, it is hot (hot enough in some pyroclastic flows to "weld" or melt the ash together).  Thirdly, and this probably was the culprit in most fatalities, there is no oxygen in the volcanic gasses in these pyroclastic flows- people who would have otherwise survived the impact and heat suffocated. 
 

Offline Eric A. Taylor

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What happened to Dr. David A. Johnston?
« Reply #2 on: 16/01/2011 04:50:47 »
Eric
I knew two people who perished during the Mt. St. Helens eruption.  One can only speculate as to what happened to David Johnston- but he was probably impacted by several conditions during the eruption.  First, these lateral pyroclastic flows are dense and move at relatively high speeds (up to 120 mph). One just has to look at all the snapped trees to appreciate the forces involved.  Secondly, it is hot (hot enough in some pyroclastic flows to "weld" or melt the ash together).  Thirdly, and this probably was the culprit in most fatalities, there is no oxygen in the volcanic gasses in these pyroclastic flows- people who would have otherwise survived the impact and heat suffocated. 

I meant no disrespect at all to those who lost their lives on that day. I saw an interview with the geologist who had original been assigned to watch the mountain that day. He had had an interview at Berkley so Johnson took his place. He witnessed the mountain erupt just as he approached Portland.

From your description it sounds very horrible. I can only hope death came quickly indeed for the victims. I can't imagine burning to death while suffocating AND being stoned to death. Personally I'd like to imagine he (along with everyone else who died there) was killed instantly when the blast wave hit him.

I've seen a video, taken by a reporter caught in the eruption. He was walking through a gray nothing. You can't really see anything and the reporter even wonders if he's in Hell. Wonder if he cleaned up his life after, just in case...
 

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What happened to Dr. David A. Johnston?
« Reply #2 on: 16/01/2011 04:50:47 »

 

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