Volcano Watch — Director of the USGS announces retirement

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The Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Gordon Eaton, announced his retirement last week at the agency's National Center in Reston, VA. Dr. Eaton was appointed to the post by President Clinton in 1994. When he retires on October 1 of this year, Dr. Eaton will have completed over 17 years of public service under the USGS banner.
 

The Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Gordon Eaton, announced his retirement last week at the agency's National Center in Reston, VA. Dr. Eaton was appointed to the post by President Clinton in 1994. When he retires on October 1 of this year, Dr. Eaton will have completed over 17 years of public service under the USGS banner.

"Gordie" as he is affectionately known to his colleagues, has many friends on the Big Island. He was HVO's Scientist-in-Charge from 1976 to 1978, a member of the Rotary Club in Hilo, and a board member of the Hawaii Natural History Association.

A geologist and geophysicist by training, Gordie first came to Hawaii in November 1975 with fellow USGS scientist Bob Jachens to install a micro-gravity network on Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. The network was designed to monitor ground deformation associated with earthquake activity and magma movement.

Within two weeks' time, the initial baseline measurements were made. To Gordie's surprise, the network was given a grueling "test drive" less than a week later when the island was jolted by the largest earthquake of the century--the magnitude-7.2 Kalapana earthquake. HVO staff members didn't blame the new network for the disturbance, but the timing was a tad suspicious...

All kidding aside, Gordie's gravity network turned out to be instrumental in determining the void space created in Kīlauea's summit reservoir by the Kalapana quake. Subsequent gravity measurements helped track the gradual refilling of the fractured reservoir with magma as Kīlauea's plumbing system primed for the next eruption.

That eruption came on September 13, 1977, with Gordie at the helm as HVO's 11th Scientist-in-Charge. Voluminous `a`a flows coursed through the forest from fissures on Kīlauea's east rift zone, threatening the town of Kalapana and necessitating a three-day partial evacuation. The flows came within a quarter of a mile of Lokelani Street before the eruption shut down on October 30. Gordie's decisive leadership and his commitment to public safety is strong in the memory of the staff who served under him during the crisis.

Before leaving HVO in 1978, Gordie initiated plans for the construction of a new observatory building and the creation of a volcano museum for visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. His goal was realized in 1987 on HVO's 75th anniversary with the opening of the present-day USGS facility and the NPS Jaggar Museum.

Volcano Activity Update

The vent on the floor of Pu`u `O`o crater remained active throughout the week. Lava continues to flow from the vent to a "drain-hole" on the eastern half of the crater floor. Lava tubes carry flows from the vent area to the ocean entries at Waha`ula and Kamokuna in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. There were no felt earthquakes last week.