June 9th, 2014

This is the original, uncut, no noise reduction version of my recording of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens on May 18, 1980. The cleaned/shortened version is here: http://www.freesound.org/people/daveincamas/sounds/21432/ - see a full description there.

Over the years many people have asked for the original so I wanted to get that up on freesound too.

This version might be useful to people who are interested in the timing of the booms. The mountain erupted at 08:32, and we heard the first booms at about 08:43 (it takes sound about 11 minutes to travel 140 miles). I got the recorder started at about 08:45.

I just grabbed the first cassette tape I found, which had music recorded onto it. I included a bit of the music when I digitized the tape. My daughter just now used her phone app to identify the song: "Time to Hide" by Wings. Looks like the tape was a recording of the album "Wings at the Speed of Sound". What an appropriate album title!

Here are some notes on the recording:

00:00 Frying pan sound at the end of the song "The Cook of the House".
00:02 Next song fades in. I have no idea what song this is but I always thought it made a great intro for a volcanic eruption :-) UPDATE: The song is called "Time to Hide" - also a very appropriate title.
00:20 Recording begins
00:36 - 00:43 The sound of the door in the bedroom as I leave the room or someone enters or something. Recall, the tape recorder is sitting in a window box, outside an open bedroom window. I am pretty sure I went back outside after I started recording.
00:54 The 1st boom
01:04 The 2nd boom, with birds chirping in the background
01:55 3rd boom
02:00 4th boom. Note that this is actually a small boom immediately followed by a louder one. Also note how close in time this is to the previous boom.
03:24 I think this is the sound of the bedroom door being opened, i.e. I think I walked into the room.
03:54 I think I had originally stood the tape recorder up on its end and this is the sound of it hitting the back of the window box as I leaned it backward so it wouldn't fall over.
04:34 I think this is the sound of our neighbor's "baja bug" - one quick rev.
04:50 Someone in the neighborhood starts their car in the distance. The engine cranks for 4 seconds then starts.
06:29 5th boom
06:41 6th boom. This one was the loudest that I recorded. However as I recall, the booms before I started recording were the loudest.
06:45 7th and final boom, a pretty quiet one.
07:21 The baja bug drives away.
07:26 Another car starts up.
08:32 Starling or Stellar's Jay
10:40 - 11:12 An apparently bad spot in the tape. Muffled sound.
11:57 The magnetic tape ends and you hear the silence of the tape leader.
12:08 End

The 7th boom was the last one that we heard, i.e. I didn't "miss" any booms once I started recording.

I just found this scientific paper on the booms: http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/org_nws/NWSci%20journal%20articles/1985%20files/59-2/v59%20p79%20Dewey.PDF


  • avatar
    Pienaar 2 years, 9 months ago

    I was laying in bed as I had been out late. We only heard one boom in the northern Okanogan county. It sounded just like sonic boom from a low flying jet. I must say the sounds of history are much cooler then video of it.

  • avatar
    daveincamas 4 years, 5 months ago

    Here's a video of a volcano erupting in Papua New Guinea. Mt. St. Helens probably had a similar initial explosion which is what I recorded.


  • avatar
    joecacti 4 years, 5 months ago

    This is really very awesome, and thanks for including the link to the scientific paper. Fascinating that there is no conclusive evidence regarding the multiple sounds. I wonder if an analysis of the audio itself could yield clues as to whether they represent distinct explosions or something else.


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