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Press Release


For Immediate Release

August 23, 2003

Contact: Ron Mastrogiuseppe,

Crater Lake Institute Centennial Award for Excellence in Scientific Research at Crater Lake National Park to Dr. Charles R. Bacon of the United States Geological Survey

August 23, 2003

[Award Comments by K. Rodney Cranson]

It was a hundred and seventeen years ago this month that the first organized geologic party conducted field work at Crater Lake. Just a few hundred meters east of here a boat was lowered onto the lake to begin soundings. Their technology was basic - a heavy weight and a spool of piano-like wire lowered into the water along with ‘spotters’ stationed at strategic locations to fix the boat’s position.

The results of this first investigation, however, were startling! A maximum dept of more than 600 meters (nearly 2,000 feet) was discovered - one of the deepest in the world. United States Geological Survey geologist Clarence Dutton lead this first research party aided by William Steel who conducted the lake survey.  As word of this work spread, interest in Crater Lake grew rapidly.

Some ten years later another USGS party began field studies. This group led by geologist J.S. Diller and H.B. Patton used technology available to analyze the rocks and piece together the geological history of a volcano that stood where Crater Lake is now located. The outcome of their work established that this mountain’s summit had collapsed to form the basin that now holds Crater Lake. William Steel’s mountain climbing club, The Mazamas, also played a roll during this period when they gave their name to that mountain.

The first comprehensive formal report on the geology o Crater Lake was published in 1902, the same year that Congress created Crater Lake National Park. It was the seventh National Park established, a fore-runner of nearly 400 areas that now make up the National Park System.

While geological studies continued at Crater Lake during the next four decades, the next major work began in the late 1930s. Dr. Howel Williams, a prominent geologist at the University of California, initiated field work based on much better understandings of how volcanoes behave and improved technology. He spent several summer seasons in the park and surrounding region. William’s results, sponsored by the Carnegie Institute of Washington D.C., was published in 1942 as The Geology of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. In this classic work, he clearly established the geological history and fate of Mount Mazama. It has become the definitive geological study for Crater Lake, which is recognized world wide as the classic example illustrating how calderas form.

Since William’s time technology has improved by several orders of magnitude, especially in the areas of geochemistry and dating of rocks. Now it is possible to determine a rock’s chemistry to parts per billion. Many new techniques for determining when a volcanic rock formed have also been developed. Moreover, the science of Volcanology had progressed dramatically since the 1950s.

This is the happy situation that greeted Dr. Bacon as he entered the story in 1980. Building on the work of William’s and numerous other geologists that preceded him, Charlie brought these new ideas and techniques to bear. Through ten seasons of detailed field work coupled with these advances in understanding the nature of volcanoes, he added important details to geological history of Mount Mazama and the creation of the Crater Lake Caldera.

A clear picture of the growth of Mazama has been established with confined dates for many of the features seen in the caldera walls. He has made a number of new interpretations that provide much better understanding of both the construction of the volcano and its collapse. Especially interesting is the period of time just preceding he collapse when Red cloud Cliff, Llao Rock, Grouse Hill and the Cleetwood Flows were active.

The really exciting finding, however, are associated with Mazama’s climactic event that occurred some 7,700 years ago. Here he has clearly described great detail of the massive eruption sequence, dividing it into two separate phases. The initial phase immediately followed the Cleetwood Flow and produced a plinian column similar, but much larger, than that produced by Mount St. Helen in 1980.

Debris from this plume was carried across the U.S. and likely around the world. As this column enlarged the vent, pressure was reduced and part of it began to collapse. This hot gas-charged material flowed down the north slope of Mazama to become the Wine Glass Flow and marks the beginning of the second phase. Massive amounts of pumice began boiling out of Mazama’s vent and flooding the canyons flaking the volcano.

Today we see this material in Anne Creek Canyon and along the Pinnacles road.  Collapse followed quickly as the magma chamber was partially emptied removing support for the upper portion of the mountain. The Crater Lake caldera was born.

Charlie’s interest in Crater Lake has continued for this past quarter century and recently he has offered a detailed interpretation of the geology of the caldera floor.

For his dedication and work on the geology of Crater Lake National Park, The Crater Lake Institute presents its Centennial Award for Excellence in Scientific Research to Dr. Charles R. Bacon.






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