ARES, Kilauea, and the 38th Anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens Eruption

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by W0PV, May 13, 2018.

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  1. W0PV

    W0PV Ham Member QRZ Page

    The recent news of increased lava flows and alarming near future predictions for Mt. Kilauea, and now the involvement of ARES in preparing to assist, reminded me of the previous tragedy. Hopefully nothing of this sort occurs in KH-land.

    This coming Friday, in 1980, Mount Saint Helens in Washington state exploded. The following text is copied and (adapted) from a K7CEM ARES newsletter of two years ago,


    (Soon it will be the 38 year anniversary) of the Mt. St. Helens eruption. For those of us that lived and worked here, it was an amazing time. For some, when Mt. St. Helens erupted at 8:32am, time had run out.

    Did you know that in addition to Dr. Dave Johnston who worked for the USGS – Johnston Ridge is named
    for him – there were also two ham radio operators on the mountain and lost their lives that morning?

    On a ridge two miles behind Dr. Johnston, Jerry Martin, W6TQF was also sitting watching the mountain
    for the Washington State Emergency Services. Jerry was a ARES/RACES officer and the state had asked for amateur radio volunteers. Also present on the mountain was Reid Blackburn, KA7AMF. Jerry and Reid went into the field to help the U.S. Geological Service and the National Geographic Society set up remote cameras in order to make scientific observations.

    On May 18, 1980, Sunday, 8:32am, Mt. St. Helens erupted. Jerry was at his post 10 miles from the
    volcano using the tactical callsign “Coldwater 2”. He radioed in the emergency that the volcano had erupted. Jerry witnessed the devastation overwhelm Dave Johnston’s position and quickly radioed in the information. Jerry’s last words were “Gentlemen, the camper and car sitting to the south of me is covered. It’s gonna get me too. I can’t get out of here.” There was probably more but Jerry’s radio went dead at that moment.

    Reid was a few miles closer to Mt. St. Helens than Jerry. No signal was ever received from him.
    Later that afternoon a helicopter found his car burning in several feet of smoldering volcanic ash. It was not safe to recover his body for three days.

    With Jerry and Reid’s death, however, hams were not done. Dr. Johnston’s famous last words
    “Vancouver, Vancouver… This is it!” were never heard in Vancouver. Instead a ham radio operator monitoring the frequency (2m FM repeater) recorded those last words. By the end of the operations hams had passed over 3,000 messages.

    We do not normally think of ham radio as something one can die from. Jerry and Reid made the ultimate sacrifice by using ham radio to help. Let’s remember Jerry and Reid as we also remember the others who were lost when Mt. St. Helens erupted that day (38) years ago.

    Presumed author Bob Willey KD7OWN

    Other sources state the call sign W7W is often activated and used for commemoration during the anniversary.

    John WØPV
    Last edited: May 13, 2018
    N0TZU and N4AAB like this.
  2. W2MYA

    W2MYA Ham Member QRZ Page

    I was never aware of the ham ops that lost their lives that fateful day.One can only imagine the horror
    of being swallowed up in that mess. May they now rest in peace! Respectfully,
    Gregory L.Mitchell-W2MYA, West Caldwell,N.J.
  3. K6CLS

    K6CLS Ham Member QRZ Page

    The folks that lost their lives, while regrettable, to wanted to watch the eruption up close. The were warned and fully understood the situation.

    They happened to have 2m radios.
  4. N7AE

    N7AE Ham Member QRZ Page

    To K6CLS, your perspective on that morning is probably much different than the people who were there doing their job. Yes, we knew the potential danger but we didn't fully understand the situation. Nobody did, including the scientists. Notice I said we. I was their that morning working with a crew of tree planters. I know of one other tree planting crew that was their as well. Fortunately we survived, unfortunately 57 people did not, including Dave Johnston. He was doing what he loved, as was I. We weren't their to site see.
    N7SIJ, N0TZU, W5WTC and 2 others like this.
  5. AA9FQ

    AA9FQ Ham Member QRZ Page

  6. NX6ED

    NX6ED Ham Member QRZ Page

    Most people forget that Mt. St. Helens erupted a second time a week later. Not as tremendous as the first eruption, but the second eruption put inches of volcanic ash on western WA...
  7. G3SEA

    G3SEA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Truly a Tragic event for the folks in the area and the Hams mentioned.

    Here is an interesting general comparison between Kilauea and mt St Helens.

    Kilauea and Mt St Helens Comparison Essay - 803 Palabras | Cram

    Our thoughts are with the folks on that south east area of the Big Island and donations to the Red Cross and Salvation Army plus
    boxes of useful items are being sent over there by individuals and organizations.

  8. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks Mike:)
    NU4R likes this.
  9. N7WR

    N7WR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I fault the government agencies that put volunteers in harms way without a safe escape route. Granted they did not know the extent of the potential eruption but emergency managers are taught to always plan for the worst case scenario. RIP those who lost their lives. When a huge eruption takes place (and it eventually will) at Mt. Shasta or one of the volcanoes in the Cascade Range (Portland Metro and Seattle) the loss of life is likely to be huge. They are all very close to heavily populated areas with minimal escape routes even with advanced warning--which may or may not happen.
    N0TZU likes this.
  10. W0PV

    W0PV Ham Member QRZ Page

    St. Helen's event - the worlds biggest historic landslide triggering a blast equivalent to 24 MEGATONS of TNT. :eek:

    Holding individuals and governments responsible for risks taken is expedient but IMO the magnitude of this tragedy easily crossed into the philosophical realm called an act of God.

    73, John, WØPV
    NL7W likes this.

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