Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Friday, April 15, 2016

M is for Mount St. Helens

When I first began writing Rivers of Stone, I was daydreaming about the connections between Hawaii and the Northwest Territory in the 1840s. We traveled along the Columbia River, discovered petroglyphs overlooking the river, and walked our feet off.


At this early point, I kept asking what did Hawaii and the Northwest Territory have in common? The answer -- volcanoes. Lava. 
USGS Photo of Mount St. Helens' Eruption
Source: Wikipedia

Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, at 8:30 in the morning, just a few years before we moved to Oregon.

We visited Mount St. Helens on one of those memorable family vacations. Aunt Yetta hid under the blanket as we drove through the newly opened, one-way gravel roads. 

We stopped at overlooks, in awe at the sweep of the damage, the destruction and loss of lives. 

At the visitor's center, I spotted a small dark painting of something unexpected -- Paul Kane had captured a night eruption of Mount St. Helens when he traveled by canoe along the Columbia in the spring of 1847. 


Paul Kane, "Mount St. Helens Erupting at Night"
March 1847 (source: Wikipedia)
Kane's journals reveal that the volcano was not active when he stopped to sketch the volcano from a distance of about 30 miles, but as he drew the mountain, a great burst of white smoke blew out from the left side. Kane learned the volcano had exploded violently three years previously. Despite offerings of bribes, none of the Indians accompanying Kane would explore the mountain. 

I was fascinated by Paul Kane. Who was he? How did he get to the Northwest? How did people react to that eruption? And so the research began, and the title to my third book in the McDonnell series came along. Rivers of Stone

If you write, have natural catastropes influenced your stories?

Check out what others have written for the April A to Z Blogging Challenge HERE.