Where did the Mystery Ash come from? Maybe YOU have the answer!

From the 24th to the 28th of November 1907, volcanic ash fell across the Seward Peninsula in western Alaska, but the source of the ash remains a mystery.

A report of the ash fall printed in the Nome Nugget on November 25, 1907

The ash reportedly blew in from the west and completely covered the snowy landscape, impeding travel, which was mostly by dog sled at that time. Some locations on the west end of the Seward Peninsula reported ash up to “an inch” thick, while it was closer to “one-quarter of an inch” thick outside the city of Nome.

Some at the time thought that the source was likely an eruption in the Aleutian Islands or Russia, or even from one of the closer volcano centers on the Seward Peninsula or near St. Michael in western Alaska. However, no large ash-producing eruption is known to have occurred in any of those areas at that time. Since no source has been identified on land, we postulate that this ash may be from a previously unrecognized submarine eruption in the Bering Strait region.

A sample of this mystery ash could help us determine if the eruption happened under water and better identify the source region. Samples of the ash were collected at the time and sent to the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington, D.C., but after 115 years, those samples have been lost. Almost certainly, some of those living in Nome, Teller, or other Seward Peninsula communities collected their own ash samples. Perhaps some of those samples got passed down through generations and survive today!

If you had family who live or used to live on the Seward Peninsula in 1907, and you happen to have some ash that fell there, we would love to analyze it. It may be the missing link we need to solve this mystery!

Contact Tim Orr at the Alaska Volcano Observatory on our website, through AVO’s facebook page, or call us at (907) 786-7497