1) Is Old Faithful more likely to blow up as a supervolcano or to stop erupting all together?

Moderator: The debate will be conducted between Journalist Jack and Park Ranger Rick.

Journalist Jack: Certainly, erupt and blow up. I’ve heard that a supervolcano is the most destructive force on the planet earth. There are about 7 supervolcanoes on this planet, and a supervolcano eruption takes place on average about once every 100,000 years. I’ve also heard that Yellowstone is one of the largest supervolcanoes. The size of the Yellowstone caldera only became apparent from recent satellite photos, which showed it covered the entire Yellowstone National Park, 85 km by 45 km. It’s one massive reservoir of magma! The ground in Yellowstone is 74cm higher than in was in 1923 – indicating a massive swelling underneath the park. This underground reservoir is filling with magma at an alarming rate. The volcano erupts with a near-clockwork cycle of every 600,000 -700,000 years since approximately 2.1 million years ago. There have been 3 supereruptions within that time span, 2.1 million years ago, 1.2 million years ago and 640,000 years ago, about 6,000, 700 and 2,500 times larger than the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State, respectively. The last eruption was more than 640,000 years ago – we are overdue for an eruption by about 40,000 years!

Image illustrating the possible blast radius of a Yellowstone supervolcano

Park Ranger Rick: A supervolcano eruption sounds scary. But we National Park Service rangers, however, have been monitoring the Yellowstone volcanic activity very closely for the last 30 years. Our prediction? The chance of a catastrophic eruption in the next 1,000 -10,000 years, is “very unlikely.” On the other hand, studies have shown long term changes in the rate at which even Old Faithful Geyser erupts have occurred. It is therefore conceivable and much more likely that geysers in YNP, including Old Faithful, could cease to erupt for a time due to dry spells caused by climate change, than that another supervolcano eruption at Yellowstone National Park will occur.

Old Faithful Erupting

2) What interest if any did Hitler show in the American West and America?

Journalist Jack: If Hitler had won the war in Europe, he would have gone onto America next. He would have expected all those German Americans to join him in the streets of America, too. He would have liked to go out west. In The Edward Ware Thrillers at War novel Unlocking Trinity he moves to a dude ranch after escaping from the Fuhrer Bunker in Berlin and conducts operations from there. No wonder he had a train called America. He was planning on going there next.

Hitler in the Sudetenland.

Park Ranger Rick: Hitler did not show any interest in conquering or dominating either America or the American West. He gave an interview for one of the Hearst newspapers in the spring of 1940 to emphasize this, saying that America was for Americans and Europe was for Europeans. He was trying to buttress the isolationist sentiment in the United States so that the U.S.A. would stay out of the Second World War. Hitler, however, was interested in America and fascinated by the American West as an abstract idea. He named his special train Amerika and he was an avid reader of Wild West stories by the nineteenth century German author Karl May (pronounced “My”).

Mt. Vesuvius from the ruins of Pompeii

3) Is Vesuvius the same kind of volcano as the Yellowstone supervolcano?

Journalist Jack: Vesuvius has erupted violently in the past. One eruption in A.D. 79 buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in ash and pyroclastic flow. It was certainly a super duper volcano.

Park Ranger Rick: But while Vesuvius has erupted violently in the past, and remains an active volcano (the only one in mainland Europe; Mt Etna is located on the island of Sicily), it is not a supervolcano. Vesuvious erupts much more frequently than a supervolcano (last time was 1944), but its eruptions are far more tame than those of a supervolcano.

Eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD by Turner

4) Why was the movie King Kong so popular in 1933?

King Kong and Fay Wray

Journalist Jack: I have read that the film’s popularity stemmed in large part from the “groundbreaking animation by special effects master Willis O’Brien.” King Kong was actually an 18-foot puppet. O’Brien made Kong look real through the use of the then revolutionary technique of stop action motion. The movie also featured “a majestic, historic score by composer Max Steiner; a solid cast, featuring iconic screamer [Fay] Wray as Ann Darrow; and a great storyline of high adventure.” Also it was made and released near the beginning of Hollywood’s Golden Age, an era which began in 1930 and extended through the 1940s.

Park Ranger Rick: From a larger perspective, the 1930s was the origin of the classic horror film, with both “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” being released in 1931, just two years before “King Kong”. It was also the time when jungle films first became popular, including “Tarzan the Ape Man”, released in 1932 and starring Johnny Weissmuller. People wanted such escapist fare given the drabness of the Depression.

Still from Tarzan the Fearless (1933)

5) Could you find a Gila Monster in Northern Arizona at the Petrified Forest?

Journalist Jack: Gila monsters are native to Arizona, as well as several other southwestern states, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico, so why wouldn’t you find one at the Petrified Forest in Arizona?

Dora and Edward with a Gila monster in the Petrified Forest

Journalist Jack: Wow! An image from the alternative history thriller novel Old Faithful Plot that is being published today on Amazon.com.

Park Ranger Rick: Not so fast with the fake news, Journo Jack. Gila Monsters are found at lower elevation than that of the Petrified Forest National Park, namely at elevations lower than 4,000 feet. The Petrified Forest park’s elevation above sea level varies from a low of 5,340 feet (1,630 m) along the Puerco River to a high of 6,230 feet (1,900 m) at Pilot Rock; the average elevation is about 5,400 feet (1,600 m). So its much too elevated for a Gila Monster to dwell there naturally.

Journalist Jack: Too bad Hitler could not have met a Gila Monster!!!

Panorama of the Painted Desert

Moderator: You can purchase the novel that was the subject of today’s debate on Amazon.