POD: Set in the future
All Fall Down
|Type of Appearance:||Direct|
|Date of Birth:||20th century|
|Occupation:||Teacher, Geologist, Research Doctor|
|Professional Affiliations:||Montana State|
Daniel Olson was an instructor on a tenure-track at Montana State in Missoula. He was part of a team of geologists, which included Kelly Birnbaum and led by Larry Skrtel, that was studying the increased geothermal activity in Yellowstone National Park. During one expedition into the park, the team discovered that Coffee Pot Springs had "gone nuts": a brand new geyser threw water a hundred feet into the air and springs were no longer just pools but blorping boiling water 8-10 feet high along with new, agitated springs forming.
After a conventional volcano began erupting at Ranger Lake, Skrtel's team traveled across the park by snowmobile to study it. Olson drove one machine with Ruth Marquez behind him while Skrtel drove a second with Birnbaum as his passenger. They found that the volcano was spewing ash and chunks of magma into the sky. In addition, the lava had caused the lodgepole forest surrounding the lake to burn despite the winter snow cover. While wondering whether to approach closer, a boulder the size of a school bus was ejected and landed only a couple of hundred yards short of the team. Skrtel elected to move the team away from the volcano to Olson's disappointment, but he didn't argue.
The team continued their research and were at West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake when a second volcano began erupting at Coffee Pot Springs. This caused severe earthquake activity including several that were estimated at 7.0. Olson tried to get help from a colleague at Montana State but was unsuccessful. A subsequent earthquake knocked down a cellphone tower preventing him from reaching anyone else. However, Skrtel succeeded in arranging for two helicopters to pick them up in the morning. Olson got into one with Marquez and Skrtel and Birnbaum got into the other for a flight to Butte, Montana.
The helicopters managed to land at Bert Mooney Airport before the supervolcano erupted. As the geologists trotted to a rental car, it did go off and threw a black cloud of ash that rose to 100,000 feet. The shock wave arrived a few minutes later in the form of a massive earthquake followed by a strong wind and loud explosive noise that knocked over the terminal building. The car was unharmed so when things settled down a bit, the geologists got in and, with Olson in the front passenger seat giving directions, they headed to his place in Missoula.
Olson let the other three stay at his place since Missoula was packed with refugees and with no empty hotel rooms for them. Birnbaum and Marquez shared the bed in the one bedroom apartment while Skrtel had the couch and Olson used a cot he brought in which was better than the tents others were using. Birnbaum managed to get back to Berkeley a few weeks later but the others were put up for some time.
About a year later, Olson met Kelly (now married and named Ferguson) at a geologists' convention in Portland, Oregon. He told her Missoula was still hanging on with electricity but no natural gas. The residents had cut down a lot of trees to get through the previous winter and expected to do so again for the next. The two had breakfast together the morning of Kelly's presentation on the Supervolcano eruption and Olson managed to calm her jitters prior to her talk.
In the fall, two years after the eruption, Olson took part in a USGS project, an overland expedition to the supervolcano caldera from Missoula. Larry Skrtel headed the expedition with both Kelly Ferguson and Geoff Rheinburg also participating. The expedition succeeded, both in collecting samples of minerals and vegetation along the route as well as photos of the surrounding mountains, and reaching the caldera to view the still erupting floor along with collect samples on its walls.