This is not a picture of a meteor crashing into earth, or the aftermath of a forest fire. This is the everyday 24/7 view of part of the Upper Geyser Basin on Yellowstone Park. Walking through this area was definitely a “We’re not in Kansas anymore” moment. All around us were signs of our Earth as it appeared many eons ago. To set the mood, here are a few more images:
The Upper Geyser Basin contains the largest concentration and nearly one-quarter of all of the geysers in the world. There are a number of thermal hot springs as I talked about in last week’s post, along with spouting geysers and steaming fumaroles (an opening in or near a volcano, through which hot sulfurous gases emerge).
The most famous of the geysers is the ubiquitous Old Faithful, and as promised here it is in all its pristine glory:
Interesting tidbit: While Old Faithful can be relied upon to erupt on a regular basis from 145 to 185 feet in the air and its temperature has also remained fairly stable at 244 degrees, its timing has altered since its discovery in the 1870 due to earthquakes and other shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates. Still ol’ reliable still provides predictable entertainment every 60 to 95 minutes – and it was fun to watch while having a glass of wine on the rooftop gallery (wine was put down momentarily to take the above video).
Old Faithful resides in Yellowstone’s Upper Geyser Basin, a two square mile area. There are also many other basins containing not only geysers more powerful than Old Faithful, but also ones boasting fantastical shapes and striking emissions:
Don’t let the serene blue of the water or the convenient sitting rocks within tempt you.
Interesting factoid: This may be a fat fable – but I read that in the late 1800’s soldiers and park visitors would stuff their dirty clothes down the reliable geyser and wait for the boiling waters below to agitate and build up pressure until Old Faithful blew, spurting out a mass of very clean clothes. While items made of cotton may have withstood this uber-washing machine, most other fabrics would have simply disintegrated. And what would happen if they added starch?
Fortunately Old Faithful and its fellow geysers are now under more stringent do-not-touch rules and one can simply enjoy the stark beauty of the basins’ landscapes and the natural raw power of the geysers.
Not only powerful – but noxious – try to imagine walking amongst these geysers, many of which magically exploded just as we neared them (we think Nat Geo’s Ford Cochran may be the man behind the curtain):
The steam arising from these geysers smelled like a forest of rotten eggs exploded – in other words sulfur dioxide:
It was almost like visiting Hades or Dothraki – there is even a dragon’s mouth spring:
We didn’t wait around to see what might emerge from the depths – between the intense steam and inhaling the fumes one’s imagination takes flight.
A little less explosive but nonetheless fascinating are the mud pots, mudpools and mud volcanoes and as their names suggest, rather than steam, the double double toil and trouble here is hot liquid mix of ingredients:
These cauldrons combine heat, gas, water, volcanic rock, minerals, acid and even some of those thermophiles I talked about in last week’s post. The thermophiles “eat” the gas, help convert them into sulfuric acid which breaks down the rock into clay.
Yellowstone is the center of multi-colored pool springs, exploding geysers and bubbling mudpots. Pretty extraordinary. But there are more jaw dropping vistas, even more fantastical than the ones I have already described. Come back next week when I will show you some truly bizarre otherworldly landscapes.