Inside USGS, No. 2, Patrick Muffler, Yellowstone

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Detailed Description

USGS emeritus geologist Patrick Muffler describes his career working on Yellowstone geysers and hydrothermal systems from the 1960's through 2014. Patrick's work along with his USGS colleagues revealed the details of Yellowstone's explosive volcanic past and how its spectacular geysers and other hydrothermal features work.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:46:11

Location Taken: Menlo Park, CA, US


Interviewer: Can you please spell your name
for me and explain your area of expertise?

Patrick Muffler: Okay, my name is Patrick

And the last name is M-U-F-F-L-E-R just like
what’s under a car.

It’s an old German name, and we traced it
back to about 1730 and I’m not going to

tell you what it means.

I’ve worked for the geological survey since
I was a freshman in college since 1955.

I started full time here in Menlo Park in
January of 1962 where I was affiliated with

the Alaskan geology branch where I was working
in Southeast Alaska where I was working with

3 other geologists.

I had a congenital hip problem and it got
worse in Alaska and so I got out of that kind

of boy scout work and was fortunate enough
to stumble into hot spring work with my mentor,

Don White, Donald E White whom you’ll be
hearing a lot about over the next day.

We got started working on the Salton Sea geothermal
system in southern California, and then kind

of out of the blue NASA decided they wanted
to use Yellowstone as a ground truth site

for a lot of their space exploration stuff.

They came to the geologic survey and provided
the geologic survey with then was a big hunk

of money and allowed a whole set of investigations
to develop up there, everything from geologic

mapping down to very detailed studies of the
hot spring areas.

And Don got immediately involved in that.

Bob Fournier had already worked in Yellowstone
consulting for the park service on barrel

spring and in doing silica solubility work
with Dr. Maury in Washington and Bob and Don

were kind of the nucleus and the leaders of
our group in Yellowstone and Alfred Truesdell

and I were the junior people out there trying
to find out what we could do that hadn’t

already been done by these geothermal gods.

So our first endeavor out here was mainly
the first year in 1965 when we basically went

up there, to get some geologic mapping in
a hot spring area, looked around, got a feel

for things.

And of course it was based what we did in
’66 which was when the drilling camp started.

It was based on the wire line drilling that
don had done at steamboat springs in Nevada

which had been a very successful endeavor
looking at the physical properties in the

upper part of the hot spring systems.

Well our Yellowstone work was predicated upon
that example.

So we developed a two-year diamond-drilling
program up there which was really the cornerstone

of the work that we did in Yellowstone.

The cornerstone in the sense that it not only
provided us with accurate temperature and

pressure measurements in the upper part of
the hot spring systems but also provided us

with drill core looking at what the water
had actually done with the rocks and it provided

us with fluid samples that control temperatures
and pressures and a whole raft of other collateral

data that made the endeavor I think truly
unique and a real tribute to Don White’s

vision in leading and organizing it.

So was there any resistance to scientific
drilling then in Yellowstone?

I’m sure there must have been some.

We had great support from the park service
staff particularly John Good, the chief naturalist.

I don’t believe we ever had a written agreement
with Yellowstone.

I think that it was just word of mouth.

We had good support all around.

There were certain individual, certain district
rangers in the park who clearly had some reluctance

and most of it had to do with surface scars
and this was particularly the case at the

drill hole we drilled at sulphur caldron which
it was a really rainy spring.

We got the drill rig stuck in the mud.

We got the flatbed truck stuck in the mud
over at the next drill hole.

We had to winch them out and it left a heck
of a mess that upset at least one ranger.

But in terms of significant controversy, I
don’t recall any whatsoever.

Obviously right now, if we were to go in and
do that sort of drilling project in Yellowstone

writing the environmental impact statement
would be a century long process if that ever


Uh hum
I think we are just under everybody’s radar

screen at that time
Why was NASAs interested in Yellowstone?

I don’t really remember the details of the
analysis but fundamentally it was just they

were using Yellowstone as an example of what
they might find on some other planet at that


And so they said okay were going to look at
it from space, see what we can see from space,

and then look at it on the ground and compare
the two and see how these two images, if you

will, merge.

What was the principle focus of your research?

I was focused entirely on the hydrothermal
systems although we did interact extensively

with Bob Christiansen in terms of the geologic
mapping particularly where it got in the hot

spring areas.

We actually found lava creek tuff first in
one of the drill holes in rabbit creek.

We didn’t know it existed in that part of
the world.

And that led to a very interesting interaction
between me and Don White.

Don came up and I said that, you know, we
found this ash-flow tuff in there” and that

I’d taken it down and showed Bob Christiansen
and he agreed that it was ash-flow tuff.

And Don said “ it couldn’t possibly be”
and this darned near lead blow that you know

he was just adamant that it couldn’t be
possible be ash flow tuff and it indeed turned

out to be everything worked out ok but it
wasn’t all sweetness and white.

What was the geologic understanding of Yellowstone
when you began working there?

It was only a few years before that Joe Boyd
had recognized that indeed it was a caldera

up there that basically was filled with rhyolites.

Nobody else had ever recognized this and of
course then Bob Christiansen went in there

and mapped it in detail and showed that not
only was there just one caldera, there are

actually three major calderas separated by
about 600,000 years between each one.

So our geologic knowledge of it was really
predicated on the work of very early surveys

that had been done, the Hayden surveys and
work a lot of work that Allen and Day did

on hot springs work.

But the first really modern geologic studies
were Joe Boyd’s and Bob Christiansen and

his colleagues.

And then the peripheral studies on the Paleozoic
rocks and Mesozoic rocks by people like Harry

Smeeds and Ed Rupple and a batch of others.

And then at the same time we had a group looking
very carefully at the glacial history of that

led by Gerry Richmond with Ken Pierce and
Harry Waldrop on it.

So it was quite a diverse group of USGS scientists
were involved.

I haven’t mentioned all of them by any means
and we were fortunate in being very well supported

by the management of the geological survey
at that time.

This mega project got exceptionally good support
all the way up and the real critical person

was a branch chief by the name Art Campbell
in Denver whom we didn’t work for but was

clearly an instrumental person in making the
work of people like Christensen and Rupple

and Smeeds possible.

Describe working with your colleagues on Yellowstone

Well we had a lot of visitors up there.

We had people coming through all the time.

And in fact, as I go back through my field
notes I’m amazed that some of the people

that I actually showed around up there that
I had completely and totally forgotten.

We had a lot of interaction not only among
the four of us but we get down and stop in

and see Bob Christensen every time we could.

He’s always been kind of a geological god
to me, so it was always fun to go down and

see him and there was a, not a formal network
but you just made every opportunity you could

to talk to people.

I didn’t use to phone that much, a lot of
letters, back then it’s amazing how communication

and interaction was indeed by typewritten

Tell the story of the lava creek tuff and
your mentor Don White

Ok, well first of all the context of this.

This was a disagreement with Don but you do
have disagreements with your close colleagues.

And I want to be sure that I’m absolutely
explicit that Don White was my mentor.

He got me into geothermal energy.

He got me started on the Salton Sea area,
which was the first major thing I did in my


He got me involved in Yellowstone.

He supported me in all of the subsequent work
I did in geothermal energy and without Don

White I would be lord knows where at the moment.

But this particular one that I was up there
on one of the drill holes and we found this

rock, which I thought was an ash-flow tuff
an ignimbrite if you will.

So I, knowing Christiansen was down at Flagg
ranch near at the Tetons’.

I drove down there with it and I showed it
to Chris and I said, “Chris I think this

ash ash-flow tuff and Chris said, ‘yes,
it is’.”

So we were quite excited about this because
of its structural position.

This was well within the major caldera there
and you think of a caldera as a subsidence

structure but to see the stuff that has subsided
somehow getting pushed up near the surface

was almost statistically impossible particularly
since it never is exposed at the surface there.

And that was the only exposure of this particular
rock that we yet ever found was in the drill


And so, we actually went in with Bob Christiansen
and we got a bunch of some rangers to go with

this and some workers from the Old Faithful
Inn to go into this area and blitz it in terms

of looking for ash flow tuff.

The reason we did it with the great huge group
of people is this country was just rife with

grizzly bears.

We were drilling at a dump and at that time
the dumps were just opened things sitting

in the park and the grizzly bears came in
every night and they slurped up all of the

garbage that came and, of course, you walked
around the area and it was just full of droppings

of blue plastic bags and glass, what have

You could understand why the grizzly bears
were very unhappy people.

And so we went in there with bells and whistles
and everybody screaming and yelling to basically

try and be safe while we’re in there because
no way was either I or Bob Christiansen going

to map in there individually.

We would have been dead meat.

And so that was the resolve but we couldn’t

And so, we left with this one occurrence in
the drill hole which is an improbable situation

but once we look at the whole drill hole carefully,
looked at the thin sections did the geography

on it there wasn’t any question.

It just was, you know, Don came up and he
didn’t believe it and he got very mad and

it blew over.

That was just life.

Why did NASA care about your hydrothermal

Well Jake’s question was your question excuse
me was didn’t NASA pay for the drilling

and to my knowledge; they did pay for the

They were interested in what was the nature
of the hydrothermal systems to understand

them such that if they saw certain things
at the surface of another planet they would

have some ideas as to what they meant other
than just at the very tuff surface.

Ant the other question was what did the survey
kick in to the salaries.

I would assume the survey just paid our salaries.

But I don’t know.

I was a very junior geologist at that time
and I didn’t worry about any of that bureaucratic

Was it exciting to work in Yellowstone?

Oh spectacularly exciting.

First of all, to visit not just as a tourist
which I had done before but to actually have

some raison d’être for doing things, looking
at hot springs, walking around with people

like Bob and Don, and learning what they did,
what they had done up there, what their knowledge

of hot springs was.

And of course Yellowstone is the premier hot
spring area of the world.

I mean any feature that you want to see in
a hot spring you’re going to see at Yellowstone

and a lot more that never occur anywhere else.

So it was you were just thrown into geology
heaven up there.

There were just so many things to do and look
at and out interest went in so many different

directions among the four of us.

We were not clones up there by any stretch
of the imagination that of course Bob and

Alfred were very much involved in the water

I got involved in the nature of rock alteration.

I got involved in the geophysics up there

something called AF-MAG which I couldn’t
tell you what it is anymore but we were trying

to look at the subsurface aspects of the hot
spring areas with detailed magnetic surveys

if you will.

It was a very exciting stimulating time and
we were going in 65 different directions.

How did the theories of plate tectonics developing
in the 60s affect your work at the time?

At that time it impacted it very, very little
because this was in the middle of the continent

and, if you will, people hadn’t really focused
on, for example, the track of the eastern

Snake River Plain to Yellowstone.

They were still busy looking at defining what
are subduction zones and spreading ridges

were in the major tectonic features and we
were just in the middle of the plate.

And plate tectonics really didn’t enter
much into our thinking.

Now Chris may have a very different answer
to that.

He may have been thinking about, “well,
you know, why do you have this major volcanic

anomaly sitting in the middle of a plate here?”
and that’s of course consumed people for

generations since.

But as far as I’m concerned, I was focused
on the hot spring phenomenon in the upper

few hundred feet below the surface.

Have you examined the question of hydrothermal
explosions in Yellowstone?

Well, I was aware of hydrothermal explosions
because Don White had studied a major hydrothermal

explosion at lake city in northeastern California
surprise valley.

I believe it was in 1955.

And basically, this innocuous hot spring area
in the middle of the night went up in the

air and scattered itself all over the landscape
and Don got up there a little while later

and wrote a very interesting paper in the
bulletin of the geological society of America

on that.

But that was kind of in the back of his mind,
and my mind when we went up there.

But then we started finding these crater-like
features in the hot springs area particularly

something called pocket basin which is in
lower geyser basin which is, oh, something

like three quarters of a mile in diameter,
half a mile by three quarters, I forget the


And it turned out to make a long story short
that this turned out to be the classic hydrothermal

explosion feature.

Hydrothermal explosion feature meaning that
the upper part of a hot spring system that

is everywhere at the boiling point becomes
unstable for a variety of different reasons

and basically explodes.

No magmas involved.

Its not like there it’s not an explosion
like the phreato-magmatic explosions they

get in Hawaii.

This is just an inevitable happening in the
upper part of a hydrothermal system where

the temperatures along the boiling point curve
are increasing very rapidly with depth and

of course that creates a very unstable situation.

It turns out that we found a number of these
things that’s seemed to have happened at

about the time of deglaciation up there.

So we reasoned in a paper that Don and I and
Alfred wrote, we reasoned that basically well,

you had a very rapid decreasing pressure on
the hydrothermal system owing to the draining

of a lake impounded by glaciers by a jokulhlaup
if you will.

And the fact that the lake went from such
and such level to such and such a level down

here with the hot spring underneath it.

The hot spring at that time then became way
above the boiling point curve and simply exploded.

And this seems to have been a pervasive phenomenon
not only in the geyser basins but also over

at lake been worked on extensively by other
scientists subsequent to our work.

Well, we got involved in that and that was
probably the most interesting and exciting

paper I’ve ever written.

I mean, it was just you couldn’t wait to
come to work to work on that paper.

You were so excited about the nature of the
stuff you found and it was pretty new stuff


And you could document a lot of it.

I men you could show that the fragments in
the hydrothermal explosion breccia were hydrothermally

altered rock.

They weren’t, you know, it all made sense
and it was great.

Then and Alfred did a lot of really neat analytical
work on it that built into it.

So that was the thing and of course that’s
led to an analysis currently going on.

Ok now what is the nature of the hazards at

And I think most of us would agree that one
of the more likely happenings are hydrothermal

explosions for various purposes.

Were you worried about pressure releases during

You bet.

We had the experience of a guy by name of
Clarence Fenner from Carnegie institution

and they drilled several holes in the geyser
basins in 1929.

And wanting Yellowstone in particular, they
really had problems with and threes wonderful

pictures of here’s this old wood drilling
platform with just steam coming out all around


And there’s a wonderful quote from Clarence
Fenner there that he was describing a particular

series of events where steam started coming
out and Fenner’s comment was “and the

driller became apprehensive.”

Well, that definitely got our attention and
we went in there with our eyes open that there

was a real potential.

We were drilling into systems which had the
potential of exploding both through the drilling

pipe itself but also if we didn’t case them
properly and didn’t drill the well properly

around the drill hole that was in the back
of our minds.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to write an
environmental impact statement but it’s

not like we were neglecting it.

And indeed we learned as we earned on this
one that we had a wonderful drilling crew

from Sprague and Henwood particularly a guy
by name of Max Kingsley and his helper Lem


And these guys just became absolute pros at
working at drilling in this high temperature


We developed equipment on the fly to be able
to, for example when you got a very high temperatures

and pressures, the water inside this water-cooled
drill rods, the water was over the boiling


So if you had to add another rod to the drill
string, you basically had to erupt the water

out of the drill string, add the rod but you
didn’t want to have the water keep coming

up the drill bits, so we developed a one-way
valve that went in down there.

And I would say was fabricated on the fly.

We said we need this and either Sprague and
henwood would developed it or bob developed

it back here and there was all sorts of these
things and there’s, it became very routine

particularly drilling at the last Norris hole
where you expected the drill rods to produce

this spectacular eruption every time you pull
the core, every time you add a section of

rod, or every time you did anything.

Now, the really dicey one was at the second
hole we drilled where we found that the nipple,

the bit of pipe that attached the valve to
the casing had developed a crack in it.

I remember Don White down on his hands and
knees looking at that and finding that crack.

How do you fix that?

Basically what they designed was a wood plug
which they put on the drill string, put it

down, removed the valve, removed the offending
crack nipple, put a new nipple back on, put

the valve back on, and then pull the wood
plug and shut the valve.

I think I’ve got that right.

But that was regardless of the details of
that, it was an exciting business and when

we were drilling up there it wasn’t that
we just had the two drillers sitting up on

the rig.

We were up there horsing around the drill

I mean, it was other duties as assigned commensurate
with abilities and if I’m not mistaken Bob

cracked a rib upon their hauling around drill
pipe at one time.

And of course Don White was up there, he had
a bad hip, I was up there, I had a bad hip.

And Alfred was up there with a bad ankle.

[laughter] it was really, but it was a very
effective team collaboration with the drillers.

There’s another guy Buddy Tony that was
involved also.

That was pretty darn exciting and very rewarding
for everybody concerned and ultimately very,

very successful.

Do you remember the first hole you drilled?

Oh yeah
Tell us about that

Oh, you bet.

It was the Y-1 out at whistle geyser in black
sand basin and I remembered drilling it and

I remember it was the first one where we were
in high temperatures and we learned a lot

and it was successful and we set up a water
sage recorder on whistle geyser which is right

next to it.

And we were able to demonstrate the effect
of the drilling on the geyser and it was a

good scientific project.

I remember in great part because it was very

This was in April of 1967.

And I have a wonderful picture of the phone
booth at old faithful with the snow level

about 5 feet above the top of the phone booth
and I remember calling me wife in there and

she telling me that she had bought a house.

Why drill in April?

Well, because the placed that were very exposed
to tourists you wanted to drill in the very

early spring or late fall to the extent weather
it would allow you.

The last thing you wanted to do is to be drilling
at the whistler geyser or black sand basin

in the middle of summer.

It just would not have worked.

And even then, you still had a lot of interaction
with tourists so while we’re drilling in

the parking lot at Norris Geyser basin and
virtually one of us at all times was talking

to somebody who would stop and want to know
what we were doing.

It was an inevitable distraction of resources.

Did you look for magmatic evidence in drill

No, not the drill materials but in the materials
that were expelled from these craters.

The craters were obvious.

The question was were they related to a magmatic
event or were they strictly the explosion

of the upper part of a hydrothermal system?

And the default explanation would be magma.

So we looked very, very carefully for any
evidence of these and found none.

And most people were not aware of the fact
that boiling at the surface at Yellowstone

was say about 91 degrees Celsius but the boiling
temperature increases very, very quickly with

depth along the boiling point curve.

And that provides a mechanism for explosion
which most people, other than people like

Bob Fournier were simply not aware of.

In fact, I probably got that idea from Bob
and Don.

They were fully aware of the importance o
the boiling point curve in the upper part

of the hydrothermal systems and it was just
a step from that to visualized that as a mechanism

for this explosion.

And I fact, if you went back you probably
find it’s inherent in half a dozen papers

Don White wrote.

They’re very, very new things.

There’s a one little vignette about new
things that Alfred and I were so excited about

the fact that we found these big flats in
lower geyser basin were actually not alluvium

as some of our colleagues in math 10 or 15
years before but were actually nothing but


They were 10, 15, 18 feet of diatom mud.

And we thought this was a wonderful discovery.

It made sense all the high silica water coming
out the diatoms love to live there etc., etc.,

etc. and we had roughed out a paper we were
going to write then I had the brains to go

back and look at the literature and found
out that Harvey Walter Reed had actually published

that in 1868 or 1886 or something like that.

There’s very little that’s new under the

So the diatoms were in the hydrothermal system

No, no, no, no.

The water is coming out of the hydrothermal
systems went over the silica terraces, they

evaporated if you will or deposited the hard
silica that makes up the geyser cones in the

silica terraces.

But then as the water cools, it drifts down
into these broad flats.

They’re called fountain flats in this particular

And the diatoms love high-silica water.

The water is nice and cold by the time it
gets there.

It’s an absolutely ideal environment for
diatoms to flourish.

And they do.

Were there any epiphanies in studying Yellowstone?

Well, the light bulb obviously went off with
all of these with respect to the hydrothermal

explosion features.

I remember rather unimportant time when the
light bulb went off for me that we were talking

about what were going to be the dangers when
we moved on to drilling at Norris because

we were all concerned about drilling at Norris
because that’s where Fenner had had all

the problems.

So I would stand in a cabin at old faithful
and just reading Fenner’s stuff in great

detail, I finally tumbled some of the temperatures
and pressures that he recorded.

And I went charging over to Don’s cabin
and said “Don, do you realize what fenner’s

data shows here?” he says “yes” [laughter]
like you know “ok”.

He finally figured it out kid.

[laughter] so there was lots of epiphanies
of if you will greater lesser one of the real

epiphanies that developed to the whole thing
that Bob will talk about is how he and Alfred

were able to develop this number of techniques
to look at the chemical composition of waters

and predict what the reservoir temperature
was at depth.

Overall that was not so much an epiphany as
a development of knowledge that had tremendous

impact in the whole geothermal industry.

Describe some of your geothermal work
We were drilling in the very shallow areas

of geothermal systems.

We were not drilling at commercial geothermal
depths, say, 10,000 feet but we were drilling

and seeing phenomenon that could be extrapolated
to whatever depth you wanted.

And I guess what I would say is what really
the product here was this professional paper

that documented the temperature, pressure,
depth, relationships for these 13 drill holes

in at least three different geothermal environments.

You have the classic water systems of the
upper geyser basin.

You had the vapor-dominated system at sulfur
Calderon then you had the calcium-carbonate

system at mammoth.

And they all gave very different results but
the thing that I would say illustrates the

impact is we never got any static whatsoever
on this professional paper.

It was simply accepted, as this is what it
looks like in the upper part of high temperature

hydrothermal systems end of discussion.

Now, with the exception of Don White’s work
at steamboat springs in Nevada, very few other

areas in the world have had this sort of investigation
at shallow depths.

Most of the time, of course, in commercial
drilling, you’re trying to get through shallow

stuff just as fast as possible.

You want to get down to a thousand feet in
case, thank you, and then drill on to where

you’re going to get your production at depth.

So this was and is, I believe, a unique data
set that is comprehensively documented and

in particular documented not only in terms
o the physical parameters particularly temperature

and pressure which are measured very systematically.

But in terms of also studying the core that
came out of the wells that was studied extensively

by me, by Terry Keith, by Keith Barger, and
a variety of other people that came in and

worked on specific aspects of it.

And there were other spin offs that came off
of this but the real core of our results is

in that drilling professional paper I think.

Summarize the range of work that took place.

Overall this was a very comprehensive effort
of the USGS with the financial support from

NASA to develop a comprehensive understanding
of Yellowstone national park and vicinity.

And it encompassed not only the study of the
active process as these processes which we

were involved in primarily, but worked back
through the glacial history, through the volcanic

history, through the early volcanic history
of the Absoroka volcanoes and then into the

Paleozoic and Mesozoic stratigraphy and structure.

It was an effort to look at this elephant
from a variety of different sides and see

what it really looked like and that was the
context that came to us from NASA.

They obviously, although I never met any of
the program managers there, they obviously

looked at this from a very broad scientific

They didn’t have any preconceived answer
that they wanted here.

They were interested that if they had the
opportunity to look at a Yellowstone on another

planet, how would they interpret what they

And they were smart enough to know that they
need to do more than just look at the hot

springs that they need to look at the whole
Yellowstone phenomenon if you will.

Now, of course, this just spawned a tremendous
amount of subsequent effort.

Much of which turned out to be geophysical.

The geophysical work took off when we developed
our geothermal research program in 1973.

And we put a lot of money into Yellowstone
as essentially a test bed.

I mean you try things where you know there
is hot water before you try it in some area

where you’re just looking for it.

And we tried a lot of geophysical techniques
up there some of which were successful, some

of which were an absolute bust.

And then pretty much the same time; Bob Smith
of the university of Utah had long time interest

in Yellowstone got involved in that in terms
of the seismology, in terms of the geodetic


We started finding out that the Yellowstone
caldera is indeed a living and breathing thing

that expands and collapses.

Our colleague Dan Dzurisin was very heavily
involved in there and there’s a lot of continuing


And then the whole question when we go back
to plate tectonics is the fact that Yellowstone

is at the head of this path of calderas that
has come up the eastern snake river plain

over the last 15 million years with the head
of it, if you will, being at Yellowstone right


In fact, being in the eastern part of Yellowstone
under the sour creek dome and Bob Smith has

done a lot of work trying to look at the geophysical
aspects of that part of Yellowstone east of

where I did any work at although bob has been
in there.

That trying to looking for evidence of magma
in there that we may be having another eruption,

I mean it would be reasonable to say that
if this melting anomaly has been marching

up the eastern snake river plain for 15 million
years that were not fortuitously here when

its stopping.

In other words, the chances are it’s going
to keep migrating to the northeast and the

question is when?


This is not a scare tactic, as we all know
that we’ve had three major caldera eruptions

in Yellowstone separated by 600,000 years.

So were not saying ok next week there’s
going to be a caldera eruption.

But I would be amazed over the next million
years if something pretty big didn’t happen

up there.

But that’s over the next million years.

How did this work draw attention to the hot
spot path leading up to Yellowstone?

This is one of the aspects that has evolved
from the initials studies up there that after

the studies that Bob Christiansen did at Yellowstone,
people started realizing that yes indeed the

Yellowstone was the youngest of a series of
calderas that had migrated off the eastern

snake river plain over the past 15 million

And that the three youngest ones are actually
in the general Yellowstone area.

Well, it would be a little fortuitous if we
were living at the exact time when this particular

process decided to end.

So given the fact that the last three eruptions
of these calderas were separated by about

730,000 years, it would amaze me if sometime
within say the next million certainly 2 million

years, we didn’t have another eruption of
that sort of magnitude, but a million years

is a long time.

I don’t think I’m going to make it.

How did you and your colleagues communicate
your findings?

Ok you’re asking what kind of documentation
that we had.

Well, of course, I do have my field notebooks.

I’ve maintained them religiously as you
saw up here.

For the drilling logbooks and where we kept
very close records of everything we did with

the drill hole in terms of temperatures, pressures,
we we’ve pulled core, what the percentage

of core recovery was, and so on and so forth.

And those were essential in terms of both
writing the professional paper on the physical

results but also in terms of the studies we
did on the core themselves.

In terms of the bureaucracy of this if you
will, or the management much of that was probably

contained in typewritten letters that went
back and forth not between us particularly

but would be between say don and the management
back in Reston and I think most of those have

probably been lost in the dusty archives of
somewhere or other.

I still have a lot of the original geologic
maps we did at the geyser basins.

I have a magnificent orthophotograph of pocket
basin that I’ve never managed to finish.

I could spend not only the next 10 years but,
probably the next century finishing up stuff

from everything that’s lying around in this

Describe Bob Christiansen’s Yellowstone
paper that was so eagerly anticipated

Well, it was where Bob was trying to tie everything
together in terms of the young volcanic geology

of Yellowstone national park and vicinity.

It was intended to be if you will like classic
professional paper, which dotted every I and

crossed every T. now, it did take a long time
to get out for a variety of reasons which

are really not important.

It is out and it is an absolutely classic
reference document for anyone that’s working

in Yellowstone.

Describe some of the hazards of working in
the park.

Well you’re asking thing that memories come

One that comes up to me is the fact the grizzly
bears all around us when were drilling that

Y-5 in biscuit basin.

And you come out in the morning and you have
to repair your waterlines because the grizzlies

had chewed them.

And you’d be standing on the drill rig and
you’ll be seeing grizzly bears wandering

around oh 100 or 150 feet away from the drill

I mean this was a dump we were drilling in
and the grizzly bears basically were attracted

to the dump.

You got other interesting things.

I was looking down at the ground and trying
to follow whether it was a cane or a gravel

bench or till and looked up and 10 feet in
front of me was a big bull bison.

I looked there and I said “good evening.”

And I backed up and walked away.

If I were to walk 10 feet further, I would
have bumped noses with him and that could

be reasonably dangerous.

The only time we were really ever chased by
any animals was in elk birthing season.

And for a few days there, the female elk got
very, very aggressive about protecting the

new born.

And Alfred and I, no Mel Beeson and I had
some real problems with that one-day we just

happen to stumble into things when there was
some problems and they go way around to get

away from these guys.

Oh, what else?

I’m sure Bob and Chris will come up with
other things but you got to remember that

I’m working on memories now that are 43
years ago.

And a lot water has gone under the bridge
and its kind of hard to remember what some

of the details were other than the generalities.

It is clearly was an extremely exciting time
for all of us involved up there.

We were really very privileged to have this