Sunday, February 22, 2009

Will it eat me?

I'm certain that many people in Greater Vancouver would be very surprised if the volcano in their back yard went kerblooey.

What? There’s a volcano in our back yard?

They may be forgiven for their surprise, slightly, for even though Mount Baker is huge, snow-covered, and only about 60 miles away, much of the time it isn’t visible because of frequent rain, fog, and other atmospheric murkiness. However, on a clear day, it is a conspicuous feature of the southeastern horizon, and viewable from any hilltop, open space, large bridge or tall building.

There are mountains ringing the area, but only Baker looks like a volcano. It is, in fact, an andesitic stratovolcano, the top-of-the-line type of volcano.

Peering between the overpasses.

Driving north from Seattle, which has its own back-drop volcano (Rainier, pronounced Ra-neer), Mount Baker starts popping out at you somewhere north of Lynnwood. This was the first time I’ve travelled up the I-5 on a gloriously clear day. I found myself watching for its summit, like a kid watching for the moon through the trees.

Will it eat me? That was what a little girl named Betty kept asking on a rocky shore nature program. Every time someone discovered a crab, or worm, or snail, Betty would ask, “Will it eat me?” which to me encapsulated the common reaction of so many people to nature. Will it bite me? Will it attack me? Will it send a choking, burning, pyroclastic cloud on top of me?

Peeking above local landforms near Mount Vernon, WA (33 miles southwest of summit).
We don’t have a lot to worry about, regarding Mt. Baker. The biggest hazard, as far as I can tell, is that it draws your eyes from the road as you zoom along the interstate. On a larger scale, an eruption could cause part of the snowpack to melt, which could lead to flooding in whichever drainage basin(s) the water and mud flowed. In Canada, flooding might occur in the area south and west of Chilliwack. Here is information on the mountain, its composition, historical behaviour, etc.

This is the view we are used to, and the banner image for this blog, the long view across Boundary Bay with the summit about 55 miles to the southeast.


Tatyana said...

I enjoyed reading your post, maybe because all the names sound familiar.

Crafty Gardener said...

We were lucky to catch glimpses of Mount Baker when we were in Victoria. None of my photos came out really clear though. What a gorgeous site.

Anonymous said...

Every time someone discovered a crab, or worm, or snail, Betty would ask, “Will it eat me?”

I've never seen Mount Baker but I've seen this reaction in people often.

Another great post!

Anonymous said...

Both of us have memories of the first time we heard someone say "the mountain is out today." Mt. Rainier is a stunning sight and has nearly caused accidents before by suddenly emerging from a shroud of fog. It looks so close on a clear day that you believe you could walk right over to it.

Likewise, it is an equal hazard to drive across the 520 floating bridge on a clear day when you can see Baker to the left and Rainier to the right. It is rare, but when it happens there is a noticeable slow down in traffic.

What a gorgeous (and, yes, potentially explosive!) area we live in... thanks for the reminder...