Yellowstone Geo Blogs

Les Davis Film Project

Sadly, my friend and collegue Les Davis died just as we were beginning to develop our proposed documentary film Discovering First Montanans: Portals to the Past.  I have committed to finishing the film with a slightly different approach.  The new working title is Les Davis and the Search for First Montanans.  This is a significant task for a structural geologist with limited exposure to archaeology.  This past April I attended the Montana Archaeological Society Annual Merting and presented my proposal.  We were awarded a $5000 matching fund by MAS for finishing the film.  Watch the trailer here:




 If you would like to help us to finish this important film, please send your contributions to:

Montana Archaeological Society
Les Davis Film
P.O. Box 1123
Manhattan, MT 59741


You can view the full proposal here.


Here is an excerpt from the proposal:

Montana is a notoriously big place, the big sky country. It contains the entire upper Missouri and Yellow- stone River basins and spans an area of over 147,000 square miles. When you add the dimension of time, it gets even bigger.

One man spent much of his Montana life exploring the fourth dimension in his search for the first Montanans. Les Davis was a giant of Montana archaeology and anthropology. He was involved in many excavations and research projects across the state for the last 50 years.

The proposed film centers around Les and his work across Montana, but it also explores the question: Who were the people who occupied the rapidly changing post-glacial tundra, grasslands and forests of Montana? What were their lives like, and how do modern researchers discover the secrets of the early inhabitants of Montana?

The film will utilize archival footage from excavations around the state including Blacktail Cave, Barton Gulch, Sheeprock Springs, MacHaffie, Dry Creek Headwaters, Portal Creek, Mill Iron, Indian Creek, An- zick, the Lindsey Mammoth site, and others.

In collaboration with Dr. Sally Thompson, anthropologist and former University of Montana researcher, and long-time associate of Les Davis, we will conduct interviews with archaeologists, anthropologists, geologists, Native Americans and landowners who collaborated with Les, and the field technicians who meticulously excavated and cataloged artifacts and other clues to the early occupation of Montana and the Greater Yellow- stone area.

We are seeking interest and funding sources to create a one-hour documentary film to be released in the Fall of 2017.

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

Yesterday the YVO staff wrote:

We have received enough concerned emails and phone calls that we've spent some time tracking down a few of the statements made on various "alternative Internet news sources."

1) First, everyone should know that geological activity, including earthquakes and ground uplift/subsidence is well within historical norms and seismicity is actually a bit low at present.

2) Concern over road closures is much overblown. There's been one road closure of a small side road - just over three miles long - that was closed for two days. As one can imagine, it is not easy to maintain roads that pass over thermal areas where ground temperatures can approach those of boiling water. Roads at Yellowstone often need repair because of damage by thermal features as well as extreme cold winter conditions.

3) The park has not been evacuated. This one is pretty easy to verify by everyone. If the Old Faithful webcam shows people, or if news articles are coming out about a hobbyist's remote control helicopter crashing into a hot spring, Yellowstone is certainly open for business.

4) No volcanologists have stated that Yellowstone is likely to erupt this week, this month or this year. In one recent article, a name was attributed to a "senior volcanologist", but that person does not appear to exist, and a geologist with that name assures us that he did not supply any quotes regarding Yellowstone.

5) Finally, we note that those who've kept track of Yellowstone over the past decade or so, have seen a constant stream of "predictions" regarding imminent eruptions at Yellowstone. Many have had specific dates in mind, none had a scientific basis, and none have come true.

We will continue to provide updates on geological activity at Yellowstone, and educational materials to help understand the science around Yellowstone monitoring.

Virtually everything known about Yellowstone's spectacular volcanic past comes from the scientists who work at this observatory, at all our eight member agencies. We're the ones who mapped the deposits, figured out the ages of the eruptions, measured the gases, located the earthquakes, and tracked the ground movement. A few of us have been doing it for over forty years. We will continue to help you understand what's happening at Yellowstone now, and what's likely to happen in the future.

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory

Mother Nature Never Loses

I'm thinking this Sunday morning about the souls lost in the catastrophic mudslide in Oso, Washington last week. Our species, indeed, all species on earth are so fragile.  The slightest hiccup in earth processes, barely noticeable in a macro view can devastate a population.  A collision of air masses, shifting of a small crack in the earth's crust, a subtle warming of the ocean all can devastate organisms be they human, avian or marine invertebrate.

As a dominant species on our frail planet, common sense would seem to suggest that we be cautious about manipulations of our environment.  Injecting lubricating fluids into the earth to force out potential fuels is a revolutionary idea.  We all use and need energy for our existence and the pursuit of innovation.  But, we should be extremely selective about where we execute such a procedure when the health of a community's drinking water might be at stake?  In our world, profits grossly outweigh common sense - especially when the profiters or profiteers are not directly affected by the consequences.

The sad outcome of the mudslide in Oso could have been prevented.  There were strong warnings of the potential for a large earth movement in the area.  Yet, many of the houses were built in the last few years.  Some owners, it appears, had no idea of the risk.  I would say that it is incumbent upon the realtors and land owners who would profit from the sale of such lands to be aware of the risks and to convey that information to the potential purchaser. Knowing this information and not conveying it should be a criminal act in my estimation.

My thoughts are with the families who lost loved ones in the devastating debris flow.  We can only hope that we come away with a better understanding and more thoughtful view of our interaction with the dynamic earth on which we live.