What started as an earthquake at 8:32 a.m. on May 18, 1980, became within seconds the world’s biggest ever landslide – and after that, the most catastrophic volcanic eruption in the history of the United States. The Mount St. Helens disaster in Washington State killed 57 people, in fact, and forever changed the lives of thousands more. But only photographs can convey the true terror and devastation that was caused by this horrific event.
When explorer George Vancouver surveyed the Pacific Northwestern United States in the late 1700s, his journey led him to a peak reaching a height of more than 5,000 feet. And he called the geographical highlight Mount St. Helens in honor of his friend – an English diplomat named Lord St. Helens.
However, the mountain that stood before Vancouver wasn’t simply another stunning component of the Cascade Mountains; it boasted a fiery history, too. Mount St. Helens is identified as a stratovolcano, after all, with its steep slope made up of layers of lava, ash and rock fragments that have erupted and cooled over the years.