Mount St. Helens Photos Surface
Father and daughter captured 1980 eruption
On May 18, 1980, 11-year-old Tara Bowen woke up to ash rising over her Portland home and told her father to look out the window. Richard, a retired geologist and photographer, reached for the phone and called a local pilot to see if he could get closer.
Then he looked at Tara and asked her if she wanted to come along.
Richard and Tara would fly daringly close to Mount St. Helens that day, capturing these photos, first published last week by the Oregonian. Richard’s flight log reads: “Flt around Mt St. Helens with Tara & K. Wheatley—Big one!”
Tara said she noticed both her father and the pilot were sometimes too engrossed in their photography to fly the plane.
“My dad never put us directly in harms way,” she said. “He knew the mountain was erupting.”
Simply put, it was something that happened. “Dad documented it and we moved on.”
The past was the past, Seth Walker writes, “and there was no need to promote or brag.” So the photos remained in Richard’s hallway closet for 34 years.
But he did capture something. Richard recognized what few outside the realm of geology do: That sometimes—seemingly without plan—the earth erupts and takes our breath away.