Alumnus David Johnston Remembered on Mount St. Helens Anniversary

Posted on 08.23.2015

The year 2000 marked the 20th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, which flattened 230 square miles of forest with the force of 5,000 tons of TNT, making this one of the strongest volcanic eruptions in the history of the nation. David Johnston, B.S. '71, was manning a United State Geological Survey (USGS) post five miles northwest of the mountain when the volcano erupted. He sent the now famous radio transmission to the world announcing the eruption.

At 8:32 a.m. on Sunday, May 18, 1980, Johnson called, "Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it."

Those were his last words.

Johnston, who specialized in volcanoes, was one of 61 people killed in the eruption.Though only 30 years old, Johnston had become one of the world's experts on explosive composite volcanoes. The USGS has named several of its properties after Johnston, including the post at which he stood watch during the eruption.

Many articles have been written about the eruption and Johnston's role, most recently in the C-U News-Gazette and in National Geographic magazine. More information about Mount St. Helens is available at and the Mt. St. Helens Nat'l Monument.