become either quiescent or extinct. Their eruptions may cease
and they become pools of boiling water or steaming vents. They
may become mere mounds, to all appearances cold and dead. The
Giantess and the Beehive as well as the Lioness and the Big
Cub geysers are not as active as they once were and their
activity may cease altogether at some distant day. The
Excelsior and the Splendid geysers have already ceased their
play. The White Pyramid Cone and the cones about Old Faithful
are but the cold monuments of what was once interesting
thermal activity, although on cool mornings a light steam
vapor may be distinguished at times.
Geysers become inactive
in at least five different ways. First, the deposition of
silica may build up the cone to such a height that the volume
of water in the tube is increased considerably. This increase
is sufficient to overcome the pressure of the steam generated
at depth in the geyser tube and no eruption can take place.
Second, an additional source of cold water may be tapped thus
cooling the water in the geyser tube sufficiently to keep the
water from attaining enough heat to cause an eruption. Third,
the water which is supplying the geyser may find another
outlet, causing the geyser "plumbing" to become dry. Fourth,
the silica may seal the geyser tube and prevent further
activity. Fifth, leaks may occur in the steam chamber allowing
the steam to escape before it builds up pressure sufficient to
cause an eruption.
Although geysers and hot
springs are becoming dormant or ceasing their activity
altogether, frequently there are new springs breaking through
the earth's crust, some of them later to become active
geysers. The Daisy Geyser, one of Yellowstone's most beautiful
geysers, is a current example, it having become active about
1896 when the Splendid Geyser became too dilatory. While
stationed at Old Faithful during the summer of 1936, it was
the privilege of the writer to watch the birth of a new hot
spring in Black Sand Basin.
The scene of this new
activity is just northwest of Sunset Lake, a few feet to the
right of the walk between this lake and Rainbow Pool. As we
visited this area, a point of interest on the famous Geyser
Chasing Caravan, there was no sign of activity in the early
season. During the last few days of June a hissing sound was
heard in the decomposed sinter which has the appearance of
sand, and upon close examination the exact spot was
For the first three
weeks in July the hissing sound continued without any
perceptible change in volume or in the surface of the ground.
By the middle of July, however, a small depression, barely
noticeable, began to make its appearance. This was about the
size of a saucer and with its appearance there came an
increase in the volume of the steam. This volume was growing
stronger every few days until by the end of the month the
steam was visible through the lowest portion of the
depression, now the size of a dinner plate. There was as yet
no sign of an opening. A few days later, one of the members of
the Caravan stepped on the depression and it gave way
slightly, deepening to about three inches in the center. On
each successive trip, about four times a week with the writer,
the hissing became louder. The steam was accompanied by little
string-sized jets of water about one or two inches in height.
Then, as we passed over the area on August 13 the pool had
forced its way through the surface. Sandy water was bubbling
up through the center of the pool which was about a foot deep
and some fifteen inches in diameter. It is a boiling hot
spring, clear about the edges and in the center plays a "sand
fountain" from which bubbles rise to the surface.
This process is
duplicated in the Mammoth Hot Spring area to a greater extent
than in the geyser basins. There the formations are softer,
being composed of travertine, while in the geyser basins the
harder material, silica, is predominant.
So, as in the case of
humanity where deaths are balanced by births, Nature destroys
and creates these marvels of thermal activity.
A new book, "The Story
of Yellowstone Geysers," by Park Naturalist Bauer and
illustrated by Jack Ellis Haynes has been published this
spring by Haynes, Inc. It is available at Information Desks
and stores in the park for $1.50
(NOTE: Please remember, this article is re-printed from 1937 -
this book is probably a collector item now and if available
would be priced higher than $1.50).