Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Great Salt Lake volcano hoax of 1897

           The Great Salt Lake and Promontory Mountains as viewed from Fremont Island.

By Lynn Arave

IT was a hoax of mountainous proportions -- there was supposed to be a large volcano steaming in the north arm of the Great Salt Lake, northwest of Corinne, Box Elder County, Utah. That was the widespread word initially.
However, the Salt Lake Tribune of March 8, 1897 reported: ""That volcano story; It is proved to be complete humbug. Nothing of the sort there."
A Tribune reporter went out to the remote area west of Corinne and found it to be false. No volcano, no earthquakes and no meteors (volcanic bombs?) were found. No people interviewed had reliable testimony of such and occurrence either.
-This was NOT to be the last volcanic hoax in Utah.
In Washington County, Utah, likely in the 1920s or 1930s, Southern Utah historian Bart Anderson of St. George often talks about a similar hoax in his historical lectures.
Although no exact date is known, it took place in the ancient volcano cinder cone, located between Snow Canyon and Veyo.
Teenagers carried old tires, or brush into the top of the volcano and then lit them on fire as a group of dignitaries were traveling by on Highway 18 (or by another version of the story -- as local church goers were departing their meetings one Sunday).
A few sticks of dynamite might have even been used for more special effects.
Either way, that fake eruption caused such area excitement that some geologists were called in before it was determined to be a hoax.
-A Salt Lake Telegram newspaper headline on Nov. 2, 1902 reported "Live volcano reported in Beaver County in Southern Part of Utah."
A Dr. D.A. Turner of Milford claimed some local earthquake disturbances were "probably due to eruption in Mt. Baldy," a 12,00-plus-foot-high elevation peak in the Tushar Mountains, east of Beaver.
Although it is true that there is ancient volcanic activity evident in that area, his conclusion was proven inaccurate. Still, there were local resident claims of smoke and dust rising near the peak in the fall of 1902.
It is apparently true that earthquakes did rattle the Beaver area that autumn. Puffer Lake's level was lowered by one quake, that also increased the flow of the Beaver River. Some homes had dishes fall out of cupboards and windows broken during a quake a year earlier, in 1901.
So, yes, there was likely earthquakes around Beaver in 1901-1902, but no direct volcanic activity has happened there since prehistoric times.

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