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Loowit Sceneries - The Official Mount St. Helens Experience.

As part of the recreation of Mount St. Helens in its pre-1980 environment, I have decided to rename the project a bit. It is now known as Loowit Sceneries, and is the official name for the entire Mount St. Helens set of pre-1980 packages that are now in final development.

Over the last few weeks (since my last update), I have been hard at work establishing contacts with several in the USGS and the United States Forest Service, as well as the historical archives of the Washington State Patrol, who have each graciously supplied more reference material from which to work. This reference material includes aerials of the peak during every clear weather day in April and May leading up to the cataclysmic eruption on May 18, 1980. This will allow custom sets of scenery to be developed, depicting the peak at various times prior to May 18, 1980.

Part of that development, currently underway and in the first stages of alpha testing, is the fine tuning of the May 4, and May 17, aerial image packages. In addition to the previous overlays mentioned in previous posts, these two were also aided by several high resolution captures of the peak provided by USGS monitoring aircraft, aircraft-gathered images by the U.S. Forest Service, and aerials of the peak provided by the Washington State Patrol. This results in a 95%-to-historically-accurate rendition of the peak, given limitations owing to portions of the peak that are unavailable for recreation in imagery already provided.

For the first subset of images, I recreated a set of aerial photographs taken by geologists Keith and Dorothy Stoffel, who did four clockwise passes over the volcano in a Cessna 182 in the preceding 15 minutes prior to the May 18, 1980 eruption. On their last clockwise pass, they made one last wide sweep of the peak, before flying directly over the summit at 8:32 a.m.

The first five images represent the final iteration of the aerial imagery depicting the afternoon of May 16 through the morning of May 18. The last image represents the final iteration of the May 4 image, showing a light dusting of snow on the bulge and upper north flank.

The last image, recreates the first frame of a 24-frame sequence of captures photographed by photographer Gary Rosenquist, who was on a log landing at the top of a clearcut 8 miles northeast of the peak. Twenty-two of his twenty-four frames capture the moment of eruption approximately fourty one seconds after the earthquake which initiated the eruption on May 18, 1980. One was at 5:40 a.m., and the other was captured at 8:27 a.m.







I remember watching this on the news when I was 8 at my grandma's house, wayback when. National Geographic magazine did some great coverage on St. Helens post eruption. I remember the large pullouts etc. Still wish I had those around. Congrats on the project changes. It looks very well done.
I remember watching this on the news when I was 8 at my grandma's house, wayback when. National Geographic magazine did some great coverage on St. Helens post eruption. I remember the large pullouts etc. Still wish I had those around. Congrats on the project changes. It looks very well done.

Thank you. It's comments like this that keep this project going in spite of several times lately in which I've thought I should cease development on it.

This project basically got started solely out of a personal desire to see what it was like around the volcano before its 1980 eruption. I live an hour an a half away from it and I've been there hundreds of times in the last two decades gathering research on a potential book I've toyed around with in that time. In every visit I've ever made, I've often visualized what it was like being there in times before 1980.

When I started development three years ago, I had no plans to ever release it to the public because I feared there wouldn't be any interest in basically what some (especially on the r/flightsim subreddit) have called a niche project. However, the Mount St. Helens area is the only area on Earth in modern times where a significant amount of topography - to the tune of over 70 square miles - was changed in an instant, and many of us who use Microsoft Flight Simulator X were alive before that event occurred. For others, like me, we were either too young to remember that event (I was six months and eight days old when it blew) and never experienced life before then, or weren't even born yet. And others, even still, were not only alive but lived in the area. It is those who've helped me on this project.

It was because of those factors, that I decided to make it a project for all Flight Simulator X users.

A lot has gone into this, and again, it's comments like yours that really keep me motivated to continue with development.

It is my hope that this project will be enjoyed by many, as it also represents a lot of unique - and lost - scenery that we cannot get to enjoy currently, as well as presenting a lot of general aviation treats to a whole host of Flight Simulator interests. I mean, hello? Float planes on pre-1980 Spirit Lake? Bush flying below an active volcano? Helicopter landings on the pre-eruption summit? The possibilities are endless.
In comes a fork in the road. This fork, is called "Bulge Discovery, and a pair of beer commercials"

A little backstory behind this particular "fork" in development:

As a child, the first documentary of Mount St. Helens I watched was a half-hour documentary called "Keeper of the Fire," produced by a Seattle filmmaker with the name of Otto Sieber. It is one of the first documentaries produced by a filmmaker who actually drew the ire of authorities early on for an illegal ascent of the peak in mid-April. Although he was sighted by Forest Service personnel by air for illegal entry above timberline, he was never cited for that as he was never formally caught or identified. However, records show that those USFS sightings included three men, one of them with camera gear, ascending the peak on April 12, and April 13, respectively. It should be noted here, that Sieber was ultimately fined for illegal entry into the devastated zone when he returned after the May 18, eruption to film its devastation, but the sheriff who cited him was unaware that at the time, Sieber and his five-men crew were three and a half miles outside the restricted zone.

In that April ascent, Sieber, who initially planned it as an attempt to film beer commercials for two widely-known Washington-based beer breweries, encountered difficulties in the form of melting snow mixed with ash deposits at the 7,400 foot level as the afternoon sun of April 12 began to warm the snow. It slowed down their climb considerably, which is seen at 2 minutes 40 seconds in on this YouTube upload of the Sieber documentary here:

What makes it even more noteworthy is that during their three-day ascent of the peak, the volcano erupted a total of fourteen times, ten of those times were during the afternoon of the first stage of their ascent on April 12. Late that afternoon, Sieber filmed an hour-long eruption from the 8,200 foot level at the same time ABC affiliate KATU in Portland, Oregon was filming it from a helicopter. The next morning, they reached the summit. As Sieber was filming Sterne and Witt examining a mile-long fracture at the summit, an eruption began deep in the crater, which lasted about twenty minutes. Sieber then focused his Arriflex camera, aimed it at Andy Sterne and Brian Witt, and taped cuts for beer commercials. At the same time they were at the summit on April 13, a photographer with National Geographic was on a ridge north of Spirit Lake, photographing the same eruption Sieber was filming from the crater's edge. His pre-eruption panorama, coupled with a post-eruption panorama from the same exact vantage point, was featured in the January 1981 National Geographic. The resulting images and look of Mount St. Helens in mid-April would later go to define USGS literature for the month of April, especially since it was on the afternoon of April 12 when the bulge was first officially discovered.

Recently, I discovered a trove of photos of the peak that were captured during those two days, both by private individuals and by the USGS. That allowed me to painstakingly create an entirely new terrain overlay image package using elements of all available reference material.

In this, fresh snow from a snowstorm on April 10 coats the peak, and ash from subsequent eruptions stains the peak in multiple hues of gray. Minor slab avalanche scars are seen, as well as moderate "ash dunes" that built up on the flanks of the volcano.





While not necessarily a development fork, I have added a significant scenery detail to which marks the dedication of this entire scenery development, to geologist Dr. David A. Johnston.

As Mount St. Helens' activity began to ramp up in April, geologists with the USGS sought a closer observation post. Their previous post, on a log landing a thousand feet above Maratta Creek (and affectionately named "Coldwater" due to its prioximity to Coldwater Ridge) was eight and a half miles northwest of the peak and too distant for accurate measurements of the growing bulge. The previous Timberline parking lot observation site also grew too dangerous with the ever-steeping north flank.

So, on May 2nd, geologist Rick Hoblitt, along with a forest service tractor, cut through 4 feet of snowbanks to eye a rock quarry on the south edge of a three-square-mile clearcut on South Coldwater Ridge. This view, in Hoblitt's eye (and from a position 900 feet higher and four miles closer) would provide ample accuracy for their geodimeters and their theodolites. Two days later, Hoblitt would haul a 22-foot, 1969 Holiday Rambler travel trailer atop this new post, which got the nickname "Coldwater II" early on. At the time, it would be staffed mostly by Hoblitt, but then it began to be staffed by geologist Harry Glicken, a young assistant to geologist and geochemist David A. Johnston. For the next two and a half weeks, Glicken would man this observation post.

On the morning of May 17, one day before the cataclysmic eruption, geologist Don Swanson agreed to take over for Glicken as the latter had to be in California that Monday for a speech. Late in the afternoon, however, the plans changed as Swanson realized he had to send off a young German assistant of his to a conference. So, Swanson asked Johnston, who agreed, to take over observation at South Coldwater's "Coldwater II" site. Johnston arrived at 6 that night, and Glicken would depart two hours later.

Before Glicken departed, however, two USGS hydrologists named Mindy Brugman and Carolyn Driedger stopped in, and paid a visit. They then asked Johnston if it would be okay to spend the night with him in the trailer. Johnston said "no" to the idea and shooed them off the ridge, saying it was extremely unsafe for anyone to be here, and that he would prefer to be the only one there. Before Brugman and Driedger, and before Glicken left, the three snapped off a series of photos of the site, Glicken's last a portrait of Johnston sitting on a chair taking field notes. As Glicken shot off that frame, he said to Johnston "Perhaps it's best you're here instead of me. If I died here nobody would remember an assistant. If you die here, they'll name this ridge after you."

At 8:32 the next morning, Mount St. Helens was rocked by a magnitude 5.1 quake. It initiated the collapse of the north flank of Mount St. Helens in the largest landslide in recorded history. The landslide slammed into South Coldwater Ridge and Spirit Lake at a speed of 150 miles per hour, then was followed almost immediately by a pyroclastic blast surge with temperatures of over 1,000 degrees closest to the peak. It wiped Coldwater II clean. The only remnants of the 22-foot Holiday Rambler, found in 1982 and subsequently in 1993 by WSDOT crews building Highway 504, were shreds of aluminum siding and a propane tank.

Glickens words were prophetic. For a year later, the ridge in which Johnston was stationed at, and this observation post, would be named "Johnston Ridge" in his honor.

This scenery here, depicts Coldwater II as it appeared on the afternoon of May 17, 1980.



After I had completed modeling Dave Johnston's Coldwater II location, it became apparent to me that the May 17/morning of May 18 subset package was going to be a heavily-involved affair. An affair in which I decided, upon further thought, that I would model as close as possible (and within reason), and dedicate their locations - to the victims whose bodies were never found (and some who were), by modeling their vehicles as they were last reported and/or found.

In this particular example, I've modeled a 1971 Superior motorhome. It was owned by a 64-year-old Concrete, Washington man named Gerald O. Martin (or Gerry, as he was known). Martin, a local HAM Radio operator, had volunteered to be at Mount St. Helens for a week, monitoring the volcano via HAM radio to an emergency services network known as Amater Radio Emergency Services, or ARES. It was contracted by the state Department of Emergency Services to provide warning incase a major eruption began.

On the afternoon of May 17, Gerry Martin drove down to the volcano, four and a half hours from his home in Concrete, and was met by a Washington State Patrol cruiser manning the upper roadblock gate. Soon after, photographer Roger Werth from local newspaper Longview Daily News, stepped aboard Martin's RV, to which Martin asked if he knew a way around the gate. "I'm monitoring for the state, is there anyway around this roadblock?" Martin asked Werth, a former Weyerhaeuser logging ranger who knew the back roads like the back of his hand. Werth responded, "Go up the 3500. In five miles it crosses 504, then shortly after that you'll take a left on the 4000 line. It takes you up a ridge."

In half an hour, Martin was parked on middle Coldwater Ridge, at the edge of a clearcut on a saddle overlooking both Dave Johnston's post, and Mount St. Helens itself.

On the morning of May 18, Gerry Martin, unwittingly and unknowingly, would broadcast his last words. His broadcast began and ended with a sense of calm. That broadcast, recorded by HAM Radio repeater Reade Apgar at DES in Olympia, is harrowing in its final minutes. It goes as follows:

"Oh, I just felt an earthquake... A good one... Shaking... Uh, there's a w.. (transmission cuts off due to a device limiting the length of transmissions)"


"Uh, northwest side..."

<long pause; Martin switches to a different, unrestricted frequency with no limit on transmission length>

"Uhhhh, now we got an eruption down here... Now we've got a big slide coming off... The slide is coming off the west slope. Now we got a whole great big eruption out of the, uh, the crater. And another one opened up on the west side.. The whole west side ... northwest side is sliding down..."

<long pause>

"Boy we got it boys, the whole northwest section, and uh, north section blowed up right into.. It's coming up over the ridge towards me, I'm going to back out of here...

<long pause>

"Gentlemen, the camper and the car sitting over to the south of me, is covered. It's going to get me too... I can't get out of here..."

Gerry Martin's broadcast ends with those words.
While no known photos exist of the exterior of his 1971 Superior motorhome, I did some extensive research and modeled it based off of research into what a 26-foot Superior may have looked like. I also chose a more pleasing color (a bit of creative license here), as the most popular color ordered for Superior RVs back in the day was a two-tone blend of avocado green and olive green or brown.

Suffice it to say, Gerry Martin's view of that event, like Johnston's, was likely incredible and awe inspiring. I've added two views of Martin's post. One is annotated, showing where David Johnston's post was in relation to Gerry Martin's. No shred of Gerry Martin's camper was ever found, although the USGS documented Johnston's camper remains in 1982, and WSDOT work crews rediscovered those remnants of Johnston's trailer in 1993 during the grading of the last mile of Highway 504.

Another thing I did, and this was more of an Easter egg/helpful hint, is to go in and use some slight creative license, and mark the outline of present-day landmarks. In the second photo, U.S. Forest Service Road 25 (in 1980, it was U.S. FR100), snakes along the eastern crest of Windy Ridge. Mount St. Helens looms in the distance, seen in this May 17, 1980 simulation.

Just off to the lower right, is the outline of the present-day Windy Ridge viewpoint and interpretive center parking area.



After I had posted the last update to this, I made a discovery that ultimately made me revise one model.

Unbeknownst to me, there had been a documentary that aired a decade ago on Mount St. Helens' 30th anniversary, and in that documentary was one sole photograph showing Gerry Martin's RV. It was taken two weeks before the devastating May 18, 1980 eruption when Martin had been parked on a ridge 14 miles further to the north. The discovery of this one sole photograph resulted in me entirely overhauling the color scheme of Martin's RV based on this new evidence.



In addition, I've also completed three other vehicles that were caught up in the blast. In one of them, was a survivor - a KOMO News photographer.

First, is this 1972 Chevrolet C-10 pickup with a canopy. It was discovered on the afternoon of May 18 with its occupants - a couple with the last name Parker - dead in the cab from the force of the eruption. Its driver, William Parker, still had his hands on the steering wheel, and his wife Jean, was discovered with her head towards the volcano, as if she were staring down the blast cloud that ultimately took both of their lives.

It should be noted here, that the Parkers were five and a half miles outside the restricted area, and were in an area that was deemed to be safe by officials.



Next up, is the noteworthy story of one Reid Blackburn. A photographer with the local newspaper (the Vancouver Columbian, to be exact), Reid Blackburn was on assignment covering the volcano for both the Columbian, as well as on a split contract with the USGS and the ever-venerable National Geographic magazine. He was stationed on a log landing high atop logging road 3533, at an observation post code-named Coldwater I. Being it was 9 miles away from the peak, and 1,000 feet above the Toutle valley below, it was at a site that was determined to be well beyond the realm of what Mount St. Helens' most historic eruptions had ever reached.

Reid Blackburn's car was spotted two days after the eruption, when a National Guard SAR pilot noticed the roof sticking up out of a four and a half-foot-deep ash deposit. Blackburn's carbonized body was retrieved a week later. His car, recovered six months after the blast, would ultimately end up in a volcano museum that opened a year after the eruption.

It took five days to model his 1969 Volvo 144.



Finally, we have the story of KOMO photographer Dave Crockett. He is the only survivor I am paying homage to, in this work, partly because I've been a lifelong viewer of KOMO News, and partly because I nearly ended up with the car in which he drove down and ultimately got trapped in.

The previous day, on May 17, he'd convinced news director Jim Harriott that something big was about to happen at Mount St. Helens because a couple days prior, Crockett and the entire news crew at Mount St. Helens had been rotated out and KOMO was going to have their sister-station KATU Channel 2 in Portland handle Mount St. Helens coverage. Crockett was angry, and so were the reporters who'd been assigned to cover the volcano.

So, on the morning of May 18, Crockett woke up at 3:30 a.m. He packed an Ikegami HL-79A, a 35mm camera, and a 16-mm Arriflex into the trunk of a white 1978 Mercury Monarch, and headed south. At 8:30, Crockett had just arrived on road 4170 on the south fork of the Toutle, three miles from the base of the peak. Seeing the volcano erupt, he fired off a few stills, then realized his perilous situation was dire. Gunning down 4170 he glanced into his rear view mirror, seeing a wall of debris full of rocks, car-sized boulders and full-size trees racing downvalley at 60mph. Crockett couldn't outrun it so he took a left onto a dead-end spur that went down a swale and up a ridge. Before Crockett reached the swale, the flow burst a bridge in front of him. As he backed out, it overtopped the island he was on and it left him trapped.

Crockett then got out, and shot on film, a record of the volcano's eruption from his vantage. Several minutes in, he begins a video recording as ash begins to descend lower, cutting out light to a small sliver on a ridge. He then starts walking uphill, through the steaming mud, through the falling ash cloud... He turns on his camera, and starts to talk...

"Dear God, whoever finds this... I'm walking towards the only light I can see ontop of a ridge. I can hear the mountain behind me rumbling... A huge mud and waterslide came down and washed out the road... I never thought I'd believe this, or say this, but at this moment, I honest to God believe I'm dead..."

Eight hours later, a rescue team filmed by a KOIN TV crew out of Portland plucked Crockett to safety. His video became a worldwide sensation, and snippets were used in a Hollywood remake. After the eruption, his car became a tourist landmark on Highway 504, where it sat for almost 40 years.






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