AVO Logo
Site Map | FAQ |
Alaska Volcano Observatory
About Alaska's Volcanoes | Hazards from Alaska's Volcanoes | Map & Alphabetical List | Interactive Map | Eruption Search | Volcano Search 
You are here: Home > Volcano Information

Augustine reported activity





Event Name : Augustine 1883/10

Start:October 6, 1883 Observed
Stop: 1884 Observed

Tephrafall: BibCard BibCard
Debris-avalanche, volcanic avalanche, or landslide: BibCard BibCard BibCard
Lahar, debris-flow, or mudflow: BibCard BibCard BibCard
Pyroclastic flow, surge, or nuee ardente: BibCard BibCard BibCard
Lava dome: BibCard BibCard
Tsunami: BibCard BibCard BibCard
Tephra plume: BibCard BibCard
Central eruption: BibCard
Eruption Type:Explosive
MaxVEI: 4 BibCard
Duration: at least a year BibCard
Eruption Product: andesite BibCard

Description: Waitt and Beget (2009) summarize the 1883 eruption as follows: "1883 is the first Augustine eruption documented to some extent by contemporaneous written accounts: an unpublished logbook of the Alaska Commercial Company post situated atop the spit at English Bay, published summaries by Dall (1884), Davidson (1884), and Becker (1898), an unpublished letter and an unpublished mission report both of 1884, and field notes by J.E. Spurr in 1898.

"On the 6th of October 1883, Augustine Volcano -- or Chernoburoy (variously spelt) as the Russians knew it -- generated a tsunami and an ash plume experienced from English Bay 85 km away on the east mainland. The record book of the Alaska Commercial Company (1883) at Alexandrovsk (English Bay) records various routine data for 6 October 1883. Then this entry:

'At this Morning at 8.15 o'clock 4 Tidal Waves flowed with a westerly current, one following the other at a rate of 30 miles p. hour into the shore, the sea rising 20 feet above the usual Level. At the same time the air became black and foggy, and it began to thunder. With this at the same time it began to rain a finely Powdered Brimstone Ashes, which lasted for about 10 Minutes, and which covered all the parts of Land and everything to a depth of over 1/4 of a inch, clearing up at 9 o'clock A.M. Cause of occurrence: Eruption of the active Volcano at the Island of Chonoborough. Rain of Ashes commencing again at 11. o'clock A.M. and lasting all day.'

"And for 7 October:

'Volcano ejecting fire and heavy black Clouds of Smoke all day long.'

"The geographer William Dall (1884) rushed into print summary information derived from George Davidson (USCGS) and from a Capt. Sands and a Capt. Cullie (Alaska Commercial Company) observed from English Bay and then the sea:

'Smoke first arose from the peak in August. On the morning of Oct. 6 the inhabitants heard a heavy report, and saw smoke and flames issuing from the summit of the island. The sky became obscured, and a few hours later there was a shower of pumice-dust. About half-past eight o'clock the same day an earthquake wave, estimated at thirty feet height, rolled in upon the shore, deluging the houses on the lowland, and washing the boats and canoes from the beach. It was followed by others of less height. The ash fell to a depth of several inches, and darkness required lamps to be lighted. At night flames were seen issuing from the summit. After the first disturbances were over, it was found that the northern slope of the summit had fallen to the level of the . . . shore, and the mountain appeared as if split in two. . . . The cleft . . . crosses the island from east to west.'

"George Davidson, who for the USCGS mapped much of the Washington-Oregon-California coast in 1850-53 and the Alaska coast in 1867-69, was experienced with coastal ship captains and eyewitness reporting. Having been partly scooped of his own story by Dall, Davidson (1884) gives a more detailed account of Augustine's effects partly derived from 'settlers and fishing-parties' at English Bay:

'About eight o'clock on the morning of Oct. 6, 1883, the weather being beautifully clear, the wind light from the south-westward, and the tide at dead low water, the settlers and fishing-parties at English Harbor heard a heavy report to windward (Augustin bearing south-west by west three-fourths west by compass). So clear was the atmosphere that the opposite of north-western coast of the inlet was in clear view at a distance of more than 60 miles.

'When the heavy explosion was heard, vast and dense volumes of smoke were seen rolling out of the summit of St. Augustin, and moving to the north-eastward; and at the same time (according to a hunting-party in Kamishak Bay), a column of white vapor arose from the sea near the island, slowly ascending, and blending with the clouds. The sea was also greatly agitated and boiling, making it impossible for boats to land upon or to leave the island.

'From English Harbor . . . it was noticed that columns of smoke, as they gradually rose, spread over the visible heavens, and obscured the sky, doubtless under the influence of a higher current (probably north or northeast). Fine pumice-dust soon began to fall, but gently, some of it very fine, some very soft, without grit.

'At about twenty-five minutes past eight A.M., or twenty-five minutes after the great eruption, a great 'earthquake wave,' estimated as from twenty-five to thirty feet high, came upon Port Graham [English Bay] like a wall of water. It carried off all the fishing-boats from the point, and deluged the houses. This was followed, at intervals of about five minutes, by two other large waves, estimated at eighteen and fifteen feet; and during the day several large and irregular waves came into the harbor. The first wave took all the boats into the harbor, the receding wave swept them back again to the inlet, and they were finally stranded. Fortunately it was low water, or all of the people at the settlement must inevitably have been lost. The tides rise and fall about fourteen feet.

'These earthquake waves were felt at Kadiak [Kodiak], where they are doubtless on the register of the coast-survey tide-gauge at that place.'

"An indirect but independent record of the sea waves striking the Kenai Peninsula mainland exists in a report of the Russian Orthodox priest heading the Kenai mission, Heiromonk Nikita, who after a visit of his southern parishes wrote on 28 May 1884:

'Influenza Kenai, Ninilchik, Seldovia, Alexandrovsky [English Bay], nearly all children up to 2 years of age were swept away. At the same time this region suffered from innundation caused by the eruption of Chernabura volcano, which is about 60 miles across the straight from Alexandrovsky. The innundation so frightened natives of Alexandrovsky that they moved their huts to higher ground in one night [Russian Orthodox church records, Diocese of Alaska, Library of Congress, microfilm copy of Reel 1, Box 400, University of Alaska Anchorage Archives].'

"This report is consistent with Davidson's and Dall's that the largest sea wave was high enough to 'deluge the houses' at English Bay.

"The volcano evidently continued in eruption at least intermittently for weeks or months. Some time after 10 November 1883 (when in schooner Kodiak Captains Cullie and Sands approached Augustine Island), Davidson (1884) includes in his account:

'The condition of the Island of Augustin or Chenaboura, according to the latest accounts, is this: --

'At night, from a distance of fifty or sixty miles, flames can be seen issuing from the summit of the volcano; and in the day-time vast volumes of smoke roll from it.'

"Another entry in the Kenai Mission record by Heiromonk Nikita on 27 May 1885 reads:

'Earthquakes still quite frequent here [at Kenai?] and Chernabura is still smoking.'

"Davidson's (1884) account includes several obvious errors of observation or interpretation, including a Capt. Cullie description rendered into a fanciful figure (Davidson, 1884, p. 188). A chagrined Davidson later tried to rectify this in a letter (unpublished) dated 5 November 1884 addressed to Prof. J.E. Hilgard, Superintendent of the USCGS. One of Davidson's late-1883 sources, Capt. Cullie of the Alaska Commercial Company at English Bay, had sailed past Augustine Island in June 1884. As reported in Davidson's November letter, Capt. Cullie saw from the north that:

'. . . from the summit a great slide of the mountain over half a mile broad had taken place towards the rocky boat harbor on the northnorthwestward.11 It appeared as if there had been a great sinking of the rocks under the summit leaving a face of wall overlooking the slide. Down this had poured the lava [sic] and erupted material to the base of the mountain and had pushed into the boat harbor and filled it up. In the upper part of lava [sic] outflow was issuing great volumes of white smoke . . .'

"A later record about Augustine's preeruption 'boat harbor' exists in the field notes of USGS geologist J.A. Spurr (USGS archives):

'Oct. 17 (1898) Trader says here at Katmai that eighteen years ago [sic] three families from Kodiak went with families and baidarkas to St. Augustine Island to spend the winter. Built barabaras on the shore of a bay. The mountain began to shake continually and finally they took their families off, while they stayed on themselves. Finally the mountain began to shake so violently that they put all their effects in their bairdarkas and started on a stormy day. Scarcely were they at the mouth of the bay when an explosion occurred, ashes, boulders, and pumice began pouring down and the barabaras were buried and the bay filled up with debris. At the same time there were many tidal waves, so the natives nearly perished with fright, yet finally escaped.'

"Becker's (1898) published account mostly reiterates information in Davidson (1884) and Dall (1884) about events of 6-7 October 1883 but includes a few details from a climb in 1895 by Becker and his assistant Purington nearly to the summit and to the new dome (Becker, 1898, p. 29):

'. . . Steam escaped from countless crevices, most of them on the inner cone [that is, a new dome] . . . . Masses were from time to time detached, rolling down to the bottom of the deep moat which separates the outer crater from the inner cone . . . . The inner cone [is] nearly as high as the outer rim.'"

Waitt and Beget (2009) describe the Burr Point debris-avalanche deposit that formed during this eruption, evidence for a tsunami, the 1883 pyroclastic flow and surge deposits, and the 1883 lava dome in detail.

Simkin and others (1995) also calculate the volume of the lava flow plus the volume of the lava dome to be 0.13 cubic km. Simkin and Siebert (2002- ) give an estimate of 0.13 +/- 0.04 cubic km for lava from this eruption, and 0.51 +/- 0.5 cubic km as a tephra volume.

Contact AVO Privacy Accessibility Information Quality FOIA
URL: avo.alaska.edu/volcanoes/activity.php
Page modified: March 30, 2017 14:36
Contact Information: AVO Web Team

twitter @alaska_avo
facebook alaska.avo
email Receive volcano updates by email: USGS VNS