Novarupta: The largest eruption few have heard of

While most are familiar with the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980, the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, releasing 30 times the amount of magma emitted by Mt. St. Helens, is comparatively obscure. Novarupta, located about 290 miles southwest of Anchorage on the Alaskan peninsula, erupted in 1912 and covered the vicinity in over 3 cubic miles of ash. No confirmed deaths were attributed to the eruption, but any individuals nearby would have perished instantly. Months passed before residents of the lower 48 states were even aware of the eruption.

Four years after the eruption, an expedition in the area revealed that the surrounding valleys were secreting large clouds of steam strong enough to use to cook meals. This geothermal anomaly was called “The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes”, and its marvelous beauty was documented in pictures taken by the expeditioners.