GRANITE PEAK PUBLICATIONS: Books accompanying travelers to the Park since 2002

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Historical events in Yellowstone National Park, Montana, and Wyoming.

Yellowstone Gems We All Own

Categories: History, Thermal features
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    Post Two on My Favorite Hot Springs

Yellowstone Park is blessed with gems you can see but not purchase. Yet they are priceless. The ones I’m thinking of are Emerald Spring and Emerald Pool.

Most deep hot pools are blue, because their water absorbs all colors of sunlight except blue, which is reflected back to our eyes. Emerald Spring at Norris Geyser Basin, however, is lined with yellow sulfur, so when combined with the blue of the water, that gives us green.

Screen Shot_EmeraldSpg

This spring has a somewhat acidic pH, and its temperature has varied from around 181ºF to 196ºF over the years. Its frequent turbulence comes from gases like carbon dioxide, but on occasion it has heated up enough to erupt as a geyser. In fact, in 1931 its nearly constant eruptions could reach 60 to 75 feet, according to geyser expert T. Scott Bryan.

Much larger and even more beautiful is Emerald Pool at Black Sand Basin, near Old Faithful village. Its color comes not from a sulfur lining but—being too cool to act as a geyser (about 144ºF to 156ºF) and not acidic—yellow bacteria can grow happily here. This accounts for its gorgeous green color and yellow surrounding bacterial mats.

DSC_0501

Park Historian Lee Whittlesey tells us in his Yellowstone Place Names that Emerald Pool was named by members of the Hayden Expedition during summer 1872, just after Yellowstone became the world’s first national park. An 1894 writer called it “the most beautiful thing in the way of wonderland water I have ever seen” and pointed out that its rim looks like “rough-grained gold,” making it “an emerald set in gold.”

Black Sand Basin has got to be my favorite easy walk. In less than a mile of walking you can enjoy a welcoming geyser (Cliff Geyser), which may be erupting as you get out of your car, then Rainbow Pool and Sunset Lake to the north. Save the crown jewel, Emerald Pool, on its own short boardwalk, for the last.

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Connecting a Hot Spring Microbe and a Criminal Trial

Categories: History, On the Web, Science, Thermal features
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Thinking my blog followers might like to learn about the interesting connection between a microorganism found in Yellowstone Park and a notorious criminal trial twenty years ago—recent enough that some of you will have followed that trial—I’ll repeat here something I wrote last spring for another website.
– – – – –
One thing leads to another. So let’s play Connect Initials and Years. Specifically, let’s examine how a microbe found in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) related to evidence from a sample of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in the most famous criminal trial of the late twentieth century.

1966: Indiana University professor Thomas D. Brock (TDB) and undergraduate assistant Hudson Freeze collect a tiny organism from 73ºC Mushroom Pool in YNP. The bacterium, named Thermus aquaticus (TAQ), is subsequently found to thrive in the laboratory even in boiling water and is deposited with the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC).
Brock_MushroomPl [Photo of Brock at Mushroom Pool by Janet Chapple, 1996]

1975 and 1977: Doctor Frederick Sanger of Cambridge University and colleagues publish two papers that made DNA sequencing in the lab much less laborious than it had been previously—and for which he won his second Nobel Prize (in 1980).

1983–84: Researcher Kary Mullis and team at Cetus Corporation, Emeryville, CA, buy a sample of TAQ for thirty-five dollars from the ATCC. From this they purify an enzyme known as Taq polymerase. It proves to be so stable, even when repeatedly heated and cooled, that it can be used to conduct repeated reactions and produce a large amount of DNA from a minuscule example, a technique called a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).

For demonstrating this improved PCR technique, Mullis shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Cetus and later their successor company Hoffmann–LaRoche made hundreds of millions of dollars in patent rights and licenses.
Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 7.58.31 PM [Computer-rendered view of a random DNA double-helix by Geoff Hutchison
From Creative Commons.Freely shared with attribution; no derivatives.
from Creative Commons
]

1986–96: DNA sequencing becomes more and more important in several fields of endeavor, among them archaeological research, proof of paternity, prenatal health, the origins of species—and forensics. DNA evidence was used for the first time in a U.S. criminal court in 1987. However, note here that not until 1996 did the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) announce the reliability of DNA evidence.

1994: A National Institutes of Health (NIH) website points out that “The DNA Identification Act of 1994 authorized the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to expand a pilot project into a national DNA database, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), as a tool for solving violent crimes.” Thus, this national database had just been authorized in 1994 and was not fully functioning until 1998.

1994–95: Football star O. J. Simpson (OJS) Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 5.04.52 PM [from Wikipedia Commons, 1990]
is the defendant in a widely televised eleven-month-long trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her companion Ronald Lyle Goldman. The prosecution presented DNA evidence to the jury. However, (quoting the Crime Museum website): “A major hurdle that the prosecution team failed to overcome was the lack of knowledge and understanding regarding forensic science, specifically DNA.” And, “This inability to understand key evidence made the evidence essentially useless; even some seasoned lawyers found the scientific testimonies to be incomprehensible. It is reported that the DNA evidence showed that the chance that some of the blood found near the bodies came from anyone but Simpson was one in 170 million. The chance that blood found on Simpson’s sock could be from someone other than Nicole Brown was one in 21 billion.”
The trial verdict was Not Guilty.
At the time of this high-profile trial even such responsible entities as the NAS and the FBI were unsure or did not yet fully appreciate the implications of DNA evidence. Thus, a murderer was not convicted.

Early 2000s: Taq polymerase becomes only one among a number of DNA polymerases that are used in sequencing reactions.

2014: Twenty years after the OJS trial, would a jury decide differently?

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Rebecca and Ryan Means from Florida are gradually fulfilling an unusual goal. They’re hiking “on a quest to identify and visit the most remote locations in each of the 50 states.”

Not just enjoying the out-of-doors far from civilization, they have a mission. The essence of their philosophy is shown in Ryan Means’ answer to a comment last year on his website, remotefootprints.org: “The conservation problem arises when loud, fuel consumptive, destructive, motorized vehicles enter wildlands. The landscape gets scarred. Habitat and wilderness character get lost. Another roadless wildland gets fragmented. Then development usually follows. We are basically calling for an end to the era of road building (and sprawling development) in our great country, especially in public lands.”

They hike carrying heavy packs—Rebecca’s includes a carrier for five-year-old Skyla. So far they have written up their visits to remote spots in 23 states. They don’t always find solitude, but they do get far away from roads and navigable rivers. They especially loved Wyoming’s most remote spot, the Thorofare corner of Yellowstone, 21.6 miles by their reckoning from the nearest road, even farther by trail. The Means’s experiences on this trip have not yet appeared on their website, but their trip was mentioned on October 4, 2014 in the Rapid City (SD) Journal.

Reading this, I thought of one of the selections in my upcoming book (with the working title, Magnificent Playground: Early Yellowstone in Words and Watercolors). I was reminded of Barton Evermann’s 1891 commission to find how trout got into Yellowstone Lake. He visited and carefully described a phenomenal place called Two-Ocean Pass, just south of the Thorofare and the park’s border.

My own related delight is in finding places—even in the hills just above my noisy downtown Oakland—where stopping on a trail you hear no sound, unless it’s a distant bird or a trickling stream. It clears the head. And there are so many such places to be found in Yellowstone. . . .

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Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the Park, part 3

Categories: Bio, History
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During the summers of 1940, 1941, and 1942, we stayed in a room in the bunkhouse. It was a long, narrow building divided into small rooms that primarily housed bus drivers for the Yellowstone Park Company. In our room, which, I think, had a window alongside the door, there was just room for two double beds, one or two chairs, and a small table with a wash basin and a cooking element, where Mother improvised meals for three, since Daddy ate with the other employees. A chamber pot was kept under one bed. I believe we had two such rooms one of those years.

Old Faithful Village map 1950s

Old Faithful Village map, center section, 1950s. Find the museum almost in the center; the bunkhouse was the small building southwest of there, marked “YPCO.”

The bunkhouse was located behind the ranger station and away from the back door of the Inn, an area now part of the big west parking lot. I was happy to find the exact location on an old map, since the bunkhouse would have been torn down long ago. I snapped this photo of the map during Lee Whittlesey’s June 2006 Southern Park History class.

Calling Old Faithful Inn our home

Some of my most vivid memories center around the Inn. We spent relatively little time inside the lobby. In fact, I believe Mother made sure we were never in the way of the tourists or the Inn employees. But I remember that occasionally a bellhop would pop some corn in an oversized corn popper in the lobby’s huge stone fireplace. A few times during our summers in the park we were taken up the many stairs to the top of the lobby and out to the roof. I remember the many flags always snapping in the wind and the unique two-person wicker chairs, shaped like an S. From the roof I saw an Old Faithful Geyser nighttime eruption lit by a spotlight a few times, but that was usually too late for us little ones to stay up. It was thrilling to see.

balcony desk

Partner writing desk on an Old Faithful Inn balcony.

Another thing that made a big impression on me was the unique style of the balcony desks. Joan and I would often sit at these and play–or perhaps she would read to me by the light of the center lamp. The desks there now are not the originals designed by Robert Reamer, but they are very similar to those I remember.

Sometimes we would watch Daddy as he got out his large red megaphone and called out the names of people who were to ride in the big yellow buses. I remember feeling that he was a very important person indeed with that responsibility.

Returning to the Inn many years later, I realized that the area around Daddy’s transportation office had been changed. Where you now find a large window and the porters’ stand was a door to the back of the Inn and the place where we could find Daddy during working hours.

More from Janet’s memoirs in the next post in this series . . . .


CREDIT: The photo of the partner writing desk is by Leslie Kilduff. You can find it on page 77 of Yellowstone Treasures, fourth edition.

The full article “Celebrating an Old Faithful Area Seventieth Anniversary,” was published in August 2009 in The Geyser Gazer Sput, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 5-8.
Janet wrote a longer version of these memoirs at the instigation of Park Historian Lee Whittlesey, and they are now preserved in the library of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana.

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Janet celebrates her 75th anniversary in the park, part 2

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In the summer of 1939, Mother (Margaret Inabnit Orvis) played in a small musical group they called the Ladies’ Ensemble. That was a group of musicians from Billings, probably organized by Melville Moss, who was a daughter of P. B. Moss, a prominent and wealthy Billings banker. The Moss family sandstone house was the most elaborate dwelling in our town and is now open for public tours.

Melville played string bass and also harp, but I think she left the harp at home. Other members of the ensemble were Jean Todd, viola, Mary Vaughan, clarinet (if I remember correctly), and Elsie Spencer, violin. Mother was the pianist when they played for tea in the afternoons, and she hastily learned to play the drums so she could be a part of the dance band in the evenings. There was a sixth lady who covered the piano part for dancing: Marguerite Behrendt.

Ladies Ensemble Morning Glory Pool

The Ladies’ Ensemble of Billings at Morning Glory Pool, National Geographic Magazine, June 1940, Vol. 77, p. 777.

The first five women I named are immortalized in a picture I found in about 1998, while researching for Yellowstone Treasures. I was reading the June 1940 issue of the National Geographic in my local library. There on the page was a picture of Morning Glory Pool with eight people, five of whom were members of the ensemble. The one seated to the far right is my mother, next to her Elsie, a good family friend and my sister Joan’s violin teacher. Imagine my amazement in finding my mother in an old Geographic!

The Ladies’ Ensemble did not play from the crow’s nest near the top of the Old Faithful Inn lobby as some musical groups did. Naturally, they could not hoist a piano up there, so they set up near the fireplace. While the musicians rehearsed in the Inn during the quiet time of late morning, Joan and I would sometimes make the halls our playhouse, hiding from each other and trying to be invisible to the maids.

More from Janet’s memoirs in the next post in this series . . . .


The full article “Celebrating an Old Faithful Area Seventieth Anniversary,” was published in August 2009 in The Geyser Gazer Sput, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 5-8.

Janet wrote a longer version of these memoirs at the instigation of Park Historian Lee Whittlesey, and they are now preserved in the library of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana.

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Janet Joan Orvis and Yellowstone bus

Yellowstone bus at Gallatin Camp way station, 1937. Janet is on the right, her sister Joan is in the center, and her cousin Judy on the left.


The summer of 2014 marks 75 years since author Janet Chapple first spent a summer season in Yellowstone. To celebrate, YellowstoneTreasures.com will serialize excerpts from her memoirs of her experiences from 1939 to 1942.

Living within sight of Old Faithful Geyser

Residing in Billings, Montana, my parents both made their livings as music teachers when I was a small child. In the summers they found jobs near Yellowstone Park, including managing the 320 Ranch in the Gallatin Canyon one year and working in the office of the Gallatin Gateway Inn another. Around 1937 and for either one or two summers, they ran the “Gallatin Camp” way station to service the park buses that brought Yellowstone visitors from Gallatin Gateway Inn to the West Entrance.

From looking through the Yellowstone Park Company payroll books held at Yellowstone’s archives, my sister Joan Orvis and I learned that my father, L. Worth Orvis, was employed as Assistant Transportation Agent for Old Faithful Inn in 1939, and that he advanced to be Transportation Agent in 1940. We were surprised to be reminded that we stayed at Old Faithful, not just in 1941, but also in 1942, when the war had begun to cut drastically into people’s summer vacation habits.

I cannot remember which events and impressions took place in which years, except that 1939 was quite different from the others. I believe we stayed in one of the tourist cabins that year in the group of them that were east and south of the ranger station/museum, long since torn down.

The main difference for us in 1939 was that that summer Mother (Margaret Inabnit Orvis) played in the Ladies’ Ensemble. More about that small musical group in the next post in this series . . . .


The full article “Celebrating an Old Faithful Area Seventieth Anniversary,” was published in August 2009 in The Geyser Gazer Sput, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 5-8.

Janet wrote a longer version of these memoirs at the instigation of Park Historian Lee Whittlesey, and they are now preserved in the library of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardiner, Montana.

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Sharing facts

Categories: History, Science
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Janet’s guidebook reveals many historical and geological facts to the reader. For example, here’s an excerpt from the road log for a point six miles from Fishing Bridge Junction on Yellowstone Lake:

Turnout at Holmes Point, named for W. H. Holmes after the initials W. H. H. were found on a rock here. Holmes was the artist and geologist with the 1872 and 1878 Hayden Surveys.

From this point the road follows Mary Bay of Yellowstone Lake for a while. Mary Bay was named for Mary Force, the girlfriend of Henry Elliot, artist with the 1871 Hayden Survey. Mary’s name remains on the bay, though when Elliot returned home, he married someone else.

The rounded forms and steep sides of Mary Bay attest to the fact that it is an explosion crater. The Mary Bay crater dates back about 13,800 years. The bay has lots of underwater hot springs and the hottest spot in the lake, measured at 212°F (100°C).

What if you have never heard of the Hayden Surveys? The Chronology chapter at the back of Yellowstone Treasures tells you about the 1871 one: “Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden leads the first of three congressionally funded Yellowstone expeditions” (p. 321).

And what if you would like to know more about what an explosion crater is? Look in the Glossary and you will find:

explosion crater
A feature found in volcanic terrains. A sudden pressure drop causes hot water to flash into steam and blast a hole in Earth’s surface.

Sincerely,
The editor, Beth Chapple

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Dead Indian Pass

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Yellowstone Treasures tells you a lot about the history of the Yellowstone area. If you ever travel to the Northeast Entrance via the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, you’ll drive over Dead Indian Pass. You may wonder,

Why Was This Route Named Dead Indian Pass?

The marker at the summit of the Chief Joseph Highway attributes the name Dead Indian Pass to an incident in 1877 involving the Nez Perce tribe and the U.S. Army. Chief Joseph led his people that year from their home in Idaho, across Yellowstone and the Absaroka Range, then down through Clarks Fork Canyon, a route considered impassable by the pursuing army. One Nez Perce was killed in the area, but about seven hundred members of the tribe successfully evaded the troops. The group attempted to flee to Canada but was eventually forced to surrender to the army not far short of the Montana-Canada border. Where their route is known, an occasional marker now points out the Nez Perce National Historic Trail.

The Nez Perce story is commonly accepted as the source of the old name for this pass, but another conflict occurred near here the following year. Col. Nelson A. Miles surprised a camp of Bannock Indians, killing and capturing many of them. Also, one of the Bannocks was killed and buried here by Crow scouts. 1878 was the last year of troubles between Native American Indians and the U.S. government in and around the national park.

—from Yellowstone Treasures, updated fourth edition, pages 195–96

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Welcoming Yellowstone, Land of Wonders to the BLC

Categories: History, Janet Chapple's Other Writing, Yellowstone, Land of Wonders
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Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West greets The Land of Wonders

A very responsive audience, essentially all of whom indicated they had visited Yellowstone some time in their lives, listened to Suzanne Cane and me this past Monday at the Bill Lane Center. We read them some of our translations of Jules Leclercq’s well-crafted paragraphs and showed engravings from his 1886 book, La Terre des Merveilles, and contemporary photos of Yellowstone scenes.

Created and endowed by long-time publisher of Sunset magazine Bill Lane, the BLC’s goal is to advance “scholarly and public understanding of the past, present, and future of western North America.” With Yellowstone and all 400 of the other National Park Service units temporarily closed due to the government shutdown, everyone there enjoyed reminiscing about visits to the park and hearing Leclercq’s words, such as these that show his sensitivity to preservation of the wonders of the park:

The crater of Old Faithful is already covered with hundreds of names carved by visitors on the smooth surface of the rock. In a few hours the inscriptions are covered with a siliceous coating, which preserves the most insignificant names.

The crude hand of vandals does not stop there; it is truly revolting to see them taking the brutal ax to the fragile and delicate concretions under the pretext of searching for specimens of geyserite.

In building these admirable monuments, in artistically fashioning them, in sculpting and ornamenting them, nature has employed a slowness, a meticulousness, a patience of which men would not be capable, and it takes but one minute for irreverent hands to disfigure the work of thousands of years. There are few craters that have not been damaged by ax and spade, and, if care is not taken, they will gradually crumble to pieces under the attacks of these ruthless destroyers.

It is the duty of the American government to halt these devastations, to prevent the criminal profanations of a sanctuary wherein no mortal should enter without a religious feeling of respect.

I got a hearty laugh here when I interspersed, “And it is the duty of the American government to reopen the parks!”

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Coming up next month are two events centered around the newly published translation of a really old and fascinating travelog about Yellowstone Park.

Belgian travel writer and judge Jules Leclercq visited the park when it was only eleven years old, arriving by train and horse-drawn carriage, and riding horseback in a loop around the park for ten days with a guide. In those early days, that was the only way to see these wonders that had just been set aside by an 1872 act of Congress, establishing Yellowstone as the first national park in the world.

land-of-wondersLeclercq’s book, La Terre des Merveilles, although published in French in 1886, has never before been fully translated and published in English. He was already an accomplished travel writer at age 35. As one reviewer wrote, he was “enthusiastic, energetic, observant, curious, and companionable.” In addition, he studied the existing literature about Yellowstone and included a great deal of the knowledge he gained in his book.

Leclercq describes camping near geysers, washing clothes in a bubbling hot spring, and meeting such diverse characters as local guides and tourists from the United States and Europe. He is aghast at the vandalism he sees around him and advocates for military protection of the incomparable features he describes so aptly.

With Suzanne Cane from Rhode Island, I spent about five years translating and annotating the book, which we call Yellowstone, Land of Wonders in English. Now it is available from the University of Nebraska Press and all online and brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Suzanne and I will be giving presentations, including showing some of the book’s engravings and related contemporary photos of Yellowstone. We’ll also read a number of our favorite excerpts from the book. Join us at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Map Room on Thursday, June 27, 8:30 pm or at the Old Faithful Inn third floor mezzanine on Saturday, June 29, at 8:00 pm. We’ll also be signing books in the Old Faithful Inn lobby on June 29 and 30 from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm. See you there!

2013

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