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The Year the Park Service Blew Up Mount Lassen

Friday, January 6th, 2012

The headline on the cover of the November 1931 issue of Popular Science magazine says, “Sleeping Volcano Flames at Touch of Electric Key”.

Inside, the magazine tells the story of the opening ceremonies at the National Park and just how many thousands of pounds in explosives you need to simulate a Mount Lassen Eruption.

Man Made Eruption in Lassen Crater Seen for Miles
Popular Science November 1931

With an explosion that threw columns of smoke five hundred feet into the air and detonations that reverberated thunderously among the surrounding peaks of the Cascades, Mt. Lassen, California’s dying volcano suddenly sprang to life recently, with the strangest eruption ever witnessed.

For probably the first time in history, the spectacle of a mighty volcanic eruption was reenacted by man. With rumblings and heavy explosions the aged peak flung a plume of smoke high above it’s 10,000 foot summit and belched forth fire, smoke and steam, in a spectacular display visible miles away.

This man-made volcanic demonstration was patterned after Lassen’s 1915 eruption. Behind the brilliant display that thrilled thousands of spectators lay weeks of patient study and preparation by pyrotechnic experts.

For days, pack trains, laden with rockets, mortars and a vast quantity of other equipment, including 6,000 pounds of powder, toiled up the steep trail to the summit.

Waiting at his electrical switchboard on the mountainside some distance below the crater, Fred G. Hitt, engineer in charge, watched for the signal rocket to be fired from King’s Meadows.

When he heard the distant boom, and saw a puff of smoke float upward from the meadow, his hand moved over the controls. Upon contact of a single switch a mighty roar sounded from the old volcano’s top.

Following this activity, old Lassen seemed to quiet down for a period. But at eight thirty o’clock in the evening, engineer Hitt, working the electrical controls, again released tons of pyrotechnic material from the crater.

 

There you have it! Now you know all about the time the National Park Service blew up Mount Lassen.

 

 

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