POD: Set in the future
|Type of Appearance:||Direct|
|Affiliations:||U.S. Geological Survey|
Larry Skrtel was a geologist employed by the U.S. Geological Survey for over twenty years. He headed a team of geologists, which included Kelly Birnbaum, that was studying the increased geothermal activity in Yellowstone National Park. He was a calm, cautious man with more field experience than the rest of the team combined.
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. Larry's cautious approach kept the rest of the team from getting too close and possibly injured.
After a conventional volcano began erupting at Ranger Lake, Skrtel's team traveled across the park by snowmobile to study it. Skrtel drove one machine with Kelly Birnbaum behind him while Daniel Olson drove a second with Ruth Marquez 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. Skrtel contacted Heinrich, a colleague of his at the USGS, to try to get them out. After several conversations, Heinrich called back to tell him that two helicopters would try to fly in the next morning to pick them up. The team set up several signal fires in trash cans in the parking lot they were in and were picked up the next morning. As they flew off towards Butte, Montana, Skrtel recommended the pilot try to put some of the mountains between them and the eruption.
The helicopters managed to land at Bert Mooney Airport before the supervolcano erupted. As the geologists trotted to a rental car, Skrtel stopped and stared at the black cloud of ash that rose to 100,000 feet. Skrtel advised everyone to get down onto the ground before the shock wave arrived. It did hit 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 Skrtel driving, headed to Missoula where Daniel Olson lived.
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. The second December after the eruption, Skrtel attended a geologists' convention in Portland, Oregon. During a presentation by Kelly (now married and named Ferguson), he sat beside Marquez in the audience which might or might not have meant they were an item.
In the fall, two years after the eruption, Skrtel led an overland expedition to the supervolcano caldera from Missoula. Kelly Ferguson, Geoff Rheinburg and Daniel Olson also participated as expert geologists. 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.