Olson’s book Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens, depicts the buildup to the eruption from the points of view of scientists, government officials, and also of Weyerhaueser, which was conducting logging operations in what became the blast zone. It reveals terrifying effects of the Sunday May 18, 1980 eruption, as a superheated flow of pulverized rock, wood splinters from smacked down trees, and anything else in the blast’s path flowed at hundreds of miles per hour over the mountainous topography, even ridges miles away. Every living thing in its path died.
Eruption provides accounts of many of the fifty-seven victims of the blast, why they were there, and what (likely) happened to them when the volcano blew. Most were campers who thought they were safe where they were. A few were scientific observers there in official capacities, and a handful were loggers, unlucky enough to be working that fateful Sunday. Olson’s account also includes some harrowing rescues.
Eruption won the 2017 Washington State Book award for History/General Nonfiction, and Amazon named it one of the twenty best nonfiction books published in 2016. Olson also is the author of Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins, which was nominated for the National Book Award. He has written for the Atlantic Monthly, Science, the Smithsonian, and many other magazines. Since 1979, he has been a consultant writer for the National Academy of Sciences, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and other national scientific organizations. A native of Washington State, he now lives in Seattle.