THE COMPOSER AS GEYSER GAZER
My interest in sound extends beyond music. I have recorded the sounds of geysers, mud pots, and other thermal springs in Yellowstone National Park, creating the first digital recordings of such features in the Yellowstone archives. These recordings are featured in exhibits at Yellowstone museums and in the sound track of the film Yellowstone National Park: A Symphony of Fire and Water (see below) that has been shown at the Old Faithful Visitors Center. An avid geyser gazer and nature enthusiast, I am an editor of the newsletter of the Geyser Observation and Study Association and have published articles on Yellowstone's geysers and wildflowers.
Since my first to Yellowstone National Park in 1963 I have been enthralled by the beauty of its landscapes, the abundance of its wildlife, and, most of all, by its amazing thermal features. I have tried to capture the wild beauty and diversity of Yellowstone's geysers, hot pools, and mud pots through photography, audio recording, and the written word. This page will feature a changing series of photo essays, videos, and sound recordings of the park's many wonders. Drop in periodically to see what's new. The photo on my home page is a close-up view of part of Artemisia Geyser's pool and surrounding deposits.
GEYSER HILL SOUND COLLAGE
Back in 1996 I took some sophisticated recording equipment to Yellowstone to capture my favorite Yellowstone sounds. This recording was made on Geyser Hill, not far from the highly developed Old Faithful area. The first sound you will hear is water flowing under the Firehole Bridge, the entryway to Geyser Hill. It's early in the morning, so there are birds but no tourists. The chipping sound you hear is not a bird but a golden marmot who makes his home on Geyser Hill. The quiet is broken by an eruption of Anemone Geyser (see photo below). The larger vent (in the right channel) is the first to fill and erupt (as high as eight feet) but also the first to drain as the smaller vent (left channel) continues its smaller eruption. A crossfade brings in the sound of Aurum Geyser, a lovely twenty-foot spouter. What you hear is the sound of the geyser between eruptions, with its low growls and inhalations that suggested the earlier and alternate name of Dragon Geyser. The last geyser in the collage is Plume Geyser, another twenty-foot geyser that erupts in a series of four or more bursts. You will hear the rapid ascent of the water in the vent of the geyser, a short series of bursts, and the sound of the ejected water flowing over the sintered ground. Finally, there is a crossfade back to the sound of the Firehole River.
The two craters of Anemone Geyser with
Old Faithful erupting in the background.
Aurum Geyser in eruption.
While you are listening have a look of some of the other amazing features you can see on Geyser Hill.
All photos by Stephen Michael Gryc.
The beautifully scalloped edge
of Doublet Pool.
Heart Spring is in the foreground with Lion Geyser erupting in the background.
Beehive Geyser can erupt to a height of 200 feet. The little geyser to the right often plays before an eruption of Beehive. This small geyser is called Beehive's Indicator.
Further up the hill and away from the other geysers is Solitary Geyser.
Plume Geyser at sunset. Unfortunately Plume has been dormant since 2013.
Yellowstone visitors can see thousands of thermal features from the many boardwalks and trails maintained by the park service. There are yet more thousands of features in Yellowstone's backcountry. Park rangers once led groups to see some of these pristine areas, and the more adventurous and experienced hikers would explore these areas on their own. The park service has recently banned access to many of these areas, but I hope that they will find a way to make access possible once again. Some limits and supervision are necessary to protect these remote areas and the visitors to them from harm. Here are photos (taken over the course of many years) of thermal features from a dozen different backcountry sites.
Lobed Spring is one of the colorful features in the Fairy Meadows area near Fairy Creek.
Sulphur Spring is a spouter in the Crater Hills area.
Scaffold Spring is in the Rabbit Creek watershed.
The crater of Big Bowl Geyser at Geyser Springs is decorated with geyserite deposits in diverse forms.
This large boiling spring is in the West Nymph Creek Thermal Area which is difficult to access.
A dual mud pot that I call Dark Eyes is one of the many acidic features at Sylvan Springs.
Mound Geyser is a frequent performer in the River Group near the Firehole River in the Lower Geyser Basin.
Sunburst Spring is the most conspicuous feature of the Quagmire Group in the Lower Geyser Basin.
One of the large mud springs in the Forest Springs Group features beautiful flow patterns and an island of mud towers.
Five Sisters Spring lies along White Creek. The fifth spring in the group is hidden in this view.
Cinder Pool in Norris Geyser Basin produces small black spheroids of sulphur that float on its surface.
Buried Geyser is located in the Lone Star Geyser Basin.
"Wedding Cake" at Mammoth Hot Springs Dries Up
This photo that I took in August of 2017 shows the many-tiered formation known as either "the feature at Narrow Gauge Spring" (Narrow Gauge Spring is the steaming ridge in the background) or "the wedding cake." In the early part of this century an oval spring started flowing at this location and over a span of 15 years or so built this massive formation with water cascading down all sides. Bacteria living in the thermal water decorated the "cake" with a fantastical array of pastel colors. The water ceased flowing sometime in 2017. To see the wedding cake in its full glory, play the video below which was shot in August of 2016. The video shows many important features at Mammoth Hot Springs with the "wedding cake" appearing last.
Stephen Gryc's Photo Wins Book Cover Competition
My photograph of Old Faithful Geyser in eruption after sunset was selected through a competition to become the cover photo of the fifth edition of Yellowstone Treasures. I am particularly pleased since I consider Yellowstone Treasures to be the best general guide to the national park. The book's author, Janet Chapple, began visiting Yellowstone in 1939 when her father was a seasonal park employee. Janet had a career as a professional cellist, so maybe there is some link between musical aptitude and love of geysers. The book won a Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association in the category of travel for excellence in book editing and design. You can order Yellowstone Treasures from Granite Peak Publications or from Amazon.com.
Gryc Audio Recordings Featured
In Yellowstone Video
Audio recordings that I made in Yellowstone National Park in 1996 were used in this excellent video that explains the science of Yellowstone's geysers, mudpots, and other thermal features. I get the very last credit at the end of the film, but my name is spelled incorrectly (Gyrc rather than Gryc). You can order the video by name at Amazon.com.