- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - One of Yellowstone National Park’s largest geysers shot to life early Monday morning, an eruption that would have occurred in the dark if not for a full moon.

A park webcam captured Giant Geyser blowing steam and water into the air at about 5:03 a.m. and lasting for nearly an hour. The geyser is located northwest of the more popular Old Faithful Geyser, right next to the Firehole River.

“Any eruption of a geyser is pretty darn amazing,” said Hank Heasler, Yellowstone’s lead geologist. “For me, each eruption of Old Faithful is as impressive as the first.”

With 500 geysers and 1,300 thermal features under his purview, Heasler is often notified by social media of activities like Giant’s eruption, or inquiries about such posts. That was the case on Monday.

Giant last erupted in 2010 and was active between 2005 and 2008, according to the Geyser Observation and Study Association’s website.

“One of the things about geysers is that they are absolutely fascinating things to behold,” Heasler said, but from a monitoring standpoint he’s more interested in looking at the factors involved in the eruption, like studying a whole wolf pack instead of just one wolf.

Giant is a cone geyser, as opposed to a fountain geyser that erupts from a pool, with a large tree-trunk-like mouth built up from the silica ejected during eruptions. According to GOSA’s website, Giant is the second-largest geyser in the world, capable of ejecting an estimated million gallons of water 250 feet into the air. Steamboat Geyser, also in Yellowstone, is considered the largest geyser in the world.

Although Giant’s height declines as the eruption continues, it can spout for as long as an hour while maintaining a height of 100 feet for half that time, GOSA said. Whether “geyser gazers” can stake out the spot in hopes of seeing it erupt again is uncertain because Giant is so unpredictable. For that reason, Giant is not one of the 12 geysers monitored by the park’s staff.

Will Boekel, of the GOSA, said he wouldn’t be rushing to view the geyser, even though its eruption is rare.

“At this point, we don’t kill ourselves waiting for it,” he said, although admitting that its eruption is “really cool.”

“It’s one of our rare performers,” he said. “But there are times in history when it’s been one and done. There are other times, though, like in 2008, when it’s erupted every four to 10 days.”

Giant Geyser was named by the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition in 1870, an Army-escorted scientific, exploration and mapping journey. The group also named Old Faithful. Two years later, due in part to the information collected during the expedition and another a year later, Yellowstone was named the first national park in the United States.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com


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