Novarupta, Katmai National Monument. The largest eruption in the world this century occurred in 1912 at Novarupta on the Alaska Peninsula. An estimated 15 cubic kilometers of magma was explosively erupted during 60 hours beginning on June 6-- about 30 times the volume erupted by Mount St. Helens in 1980! The expulsion of such a large volume of magma excavated a funnel-shaped vent 2 kilometers wide and triggered the collapse of Mount Katmai volcano 10 kilometers away to form a summit caldera 600 meters deep and about 3 kilometers across. Extrusion of the lava dome, called Novarupta, near the center of the 1912 vent marked the end of the eruption.
Little was known about the spectacular effects of this great eruption until 1916, when a scientific expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society visited the area. To their amazement, they found a broad valley northwest of Novarupta marked by a flat plain of loose, "sandy" ash material from which thousands of jets of steam were hissing. The eruption had produced pyroclastic flows that swept about 21 kilometers down the upper Ukak River valley. The thickness of the resulting pumice and ash deposits in the upper valley is not known but may be as great as 200 meters. In 1916, the deposits were still hot enough to boil water and form countless steaming fumaroles; hence the expedition named this part of the Ukak River the "Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes."
Trident Volcano. Eruptions of andesitic lava flows between 1953 and 1960 built a new cone on Trident's southwest flank, adding yet another to the volcano's older complex of three overlapping cones (hence the name Trident). A huge cloud of rising ash was seen on February 15, 1953, in the direction of Katmai National Monument; 3 days later clear weather permitted U.S. Navy pilots to spot a blocky lava flow emerging from Trident's southwest flank. Slow extrusion of lava during the next 4 months built an irregularly shaped lava dome about 1.5 kilometers long and 600 meters tall. Trident continued to erupt intermittently through 1960, generating three lava flows as long as 4.5 kilometers from the same vent and numerous ash-producing explosive eruptions.