"We have no water," Orloff wrote in the correspondence, provided by the Kodiak-based Baranov Museum. "All the rivers are covered with ashes. Just ashes mixed with water."
The museum's curator of collections, Anjuli Grantham, said another man was alone at his cabin on Shelikof Strait. When the man awoke, he thought he had died and gone to hell, a belief he held for three days. The cascade of ash stung his eyes and the water tasted like sulfur.
"It wasn't until he was saved and recognized some of the people around him that he realized, it was like, 'Oh, I'm alive,'" Grantham said. "It was that surreal."
The volcanos in the region are still active, but none show any signs of imminent explosions, Neal said. They are among numerous volcanos in Alaska monitored by the volcano observatory with increasingly sophisticated instruments developed over the last century that enable early warnings of pending eruptions. Volcanology was in its infancy in the early 20th century, when Alaska volcanos were not monitored or well known.
Another eruption in the future could have a similar magnitude, but with a far greater impact in today's more crowded, technological world, scientists say.
"Because of the exponential increase in air traffic in the North Pacific region during recent decades, greater potential hazards are posed by possible encounters between jet aircraft and drifting clouds of volcanic ash from explosive eruptions," senior USGS research volcanologist Robert Tilling wrote in a forward of the Novarupta report. "The future occurrence of another great explosive eruption in Alaska is not a question of if, but when, and we should be better prepared in such eventuality."
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