May 18, 1980 - For the two months leading up to this day, moderate tremors had been rattling the area around Mount St. Helens in Washington state. Steam vents and a large bulge had appeared on the mountain's north slope. At 8:32 AM on May 18th an earthquake caused a massive landslide and exposed the highly pressurized molten rock beneath the surface. Then came the largest explosion in United States history.
More than a cubic mile of rock blasted into the sky, leaving behind a gigantic horseshoe crater. The force of the blast was equal to 1600 atomic bombs. The mountain's elevation dropped by 1300 feet. 57 people and hundreds of thousands of animals were killed.
One survivor was photographer Gary Rosenquist who was camped 11 miles from the summit. One of his fellow campers was looking through binoculars when he commented that the mountain looked "fuzzy." Rosenquist started snapping a series of photos that captured the catastrophic eruption.