As a former Yellowstone ranger, I’ve seen firsthand the public’s fascination with the park, a captivation that never seems to wane. Nearly every week, the press is filled with stories out of America’s first national park. Yellowstone clearly has the ability to touch virtually everyone who visits it. It as if Walt Disney designed the park himself. This remote northwest corner of Wyoming has it all. Spectacular scenery, towering waterfalls, massive canyons, and abundant wildlife give it a special place in America’s heart.
Throw in the park’s quaint historic buildings and visitors are whisked back to a more romantic time. Add the other worldly aspects of the park, its geysers and hot springs, and one had the nearly perfect Disney created environment with a new vista or discovery around every corner.
But Disney didn’t design Yellowstone. The park isn’t Disneyland. Yellowstone is, in fact, a super volcano and beneath the park’s postcard setting is a killer, capable of unleashing hell.
The park’s super volcano lies at the heart of my new novel, Unleashing Colter’s Hell. The novel is a gripping thriller about a terrorist attempt to ignite the volcano and quite possibly destroy the United States. A single park ranger, Grayson Cole and a rookie FBI agent Dianne Harris are all that stand between the world and apocalypse.
According to scientists who study Yellowstone, the volcano erupts roughly every 600,000 years. Previous Yellowstone ash clouds have buried the eastern 2/3 of the country in dozens of feet of debris. If Yellowstone were to erupt today entire cities would be buried, crops would be destroyed, and the sun would be blotted out for weeks if not months, possibly throwing the world into a mini Ice Age. Millions would die.
According the geologic record, Yellowstone’s last eruption was 600,000 years ago. The volcano is due for another blast.
Strict adherence to scientific theory was one of the side boards of my novel. Except for taking artistic liberty with a few aspects of the story, like the formation of a new geyser, I wanted the story to be based on reality as much as possible. This gives the plot more credibility, and in my opinion, more terrifying implications.
Federal scientists, as well as researchers from state and private universities are watching Yellowstone very closely. Ground deformation, rising lake levels, or increased geyser activity and volcanic gas release could all be indicators of a pending eruption. However, since no modern human has ever witnessed a Yellowstone eruption, scientists are left with untested theories on what would truly precede an eruption. Moreover, once an eruption became inevitable there would likely be little we could do but make a concerted effort to get people out of harm’s way.
Unleashing Colter’s Hell is a work of fiction. My intent in writing the thriller was to tell a scientifically accurate story that was compelling to readers. As one Amazon reader review put it “You will enjoy this book but beware it may pique your interest in going to Yellowstone or scare you away forever.” I believe I achieved this goal.