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At that time I was standing about 75 feet from the rim of the crater, a distance that had proved safe during previous eruptions. Meek had his camera set up considerably farther away. There was an eruption of some 30 feet and then Sapphire remained quiet for three-quarters of an hour. Water bubbled in the crater and small plumes of steam rose over the rim. Suddenly there was a loud sound, a great thump. The ground vibrated enough to buckle my knees. Then the whole pool seemed to rise, with jets of water shooting high into the sky. A wall of boiling water rolled toward me.
Feet got the better of curiosity. I turned and started sprinting down a path of cinders which had been put there for closer access to the pool. I could hear the hissing wall of water close behind. Glancing skyward I could see nothing but white steam. Looking down as I ran I saw fingers of bubbling water boiling up onto the cinder path from either side. Running this gauntlet, I at last reached the safety of a boardwalk.
Breathless, I turned and looked back. The entire mound was awash with hot water. It covered places which had not been covered by previous eruptions. It cascaded in sizzling waterfalls into the craters of other thermal pools and it was still steaming when it washed into the Firehole River 100 yards away. The eruption had sent water jets at least 175 feet into the air—probably higher.
George D. Marler, the park naturalist who has made a two-year study of the park's thermal basins, told me that in previous eruptions Sapphire had thrown out 30 to 50 tons of water each time. This eruption obviously threw out a good deal more.
McIntyre and his aides are keeping a chart of the pool's surges and by next spring expect to have wooden walks established at a safe distance for visitors. If Sapphire continues its violent activity, it will be one of the prime attractions of the park.
Another day we joined Ranger Naturalists Robert Alan Mebane and Richard Frisbee on a hike to see what had happened at Sylvan Springs, a thermal basin some distance from the road. After walking for a mile and a half through the woods and across a marshy meadow, we came to a small valley. It was a place, the park men said, that had shown some activity before. Now it looked like an illustration for Dante's Inferno.
On one slope of the valley a small cone belched up gray, steaming mud. Near it was another cone which was filled with boiling, pale-greenish paste. From both sides of the valley sulphurous fumes issued from rock fissures. At one level spot bright-yellow water boiled in a circular pool. Up near the head of the valley big clouds of steam rose from other boiling pools.
As we climbed a ridge, we could see massive clouds rising from the forest. Making our way through the trees we came upon a violent mud geyser which had not existed before the quake. Large trees had fallen into a hole 75 by 50 feet, their roots and limbs tangled and steaming. As the pool rose and fell with a pumping action the mass of trees went up and down with it. Trees around the pool were covered with gray mud thrown there by previous bursts. It was evident that more trees would topple into the caldron as the heaving action ate away the banks. We named this brand-new steamer "The Mudslinger."
On other trips we inspected rock-slides and climbed up slopes to see how the big boulders had cut paths through the forest as they careened down from their mountain anchor ages. In some places the trees literally were pulverized by the weight of the moving rocks.
Miraculously, all these particular changes in the face of nature occurred without loss of human life, despite the fact that there were 18,000 visitors in the park the night the earth began to move. Superintendent Lemuel A. Garrison attributed this good fortune to two things: the fact that the earthquake occurred late at night when park roads were empty, and the quick and efficient work of the rangers and other park personnel in handling frightened visitors, quieting incipient panic and clearing a road the next morning for the thousands ready to flee. There was only one injury; a woman sprained her ankle during the nocturnal rush to get out of Old Faithful Inn.