ONCE upon a time—and a long, long time ago it was, many thousands of years before the serpent tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden—a baby volcano was born on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Smoke had long been struggling up from the intense heat far under the surface, and had found vent here and there through cracks in the rock and the softer earth. There had been an uplifting of the surface nearly to the present elevation of the Cascade Mountains, and hot gases had expanded and pressed upward, until at last a hole was torn in the earth's skin; and through this hole the struggling gases and the molten rock called lava burst forth.

That is how the baby volcano was born.

It was probably a pretty big baby right from the beginning. The hot dry ash thrown high in air upon the first explosion fell back around the hole, heaping up a cone-shaped mound. Up through the apex of this cone rose the boiling, seething lava. The lava poured down the sides and hardened, building the cone higher. Then followed other explosions from below and more ash fell upon the lava, building the cone still higher. Then came more lava, then more ash, and so on until after that very first series of eruptions the baby volcano was perhaps several hundred feet high.

A big fat baby, indeed.

Thus it grew. No one now can make even a fair guess how fast it grew. There may have been long periods when there were no eruptions and it did not grow at all. There were probably periods of many years during which eruptions succeeded each other almost continuously, and then its growth must have been extremely fast.

Meantime, all along the Pacific coast, where now are the great States of Washington and Oregon, other baby volcanoes had been born on the crest of the uplift and were growing just as fast. There must have been an enormous family of them, because in the course of a great many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years they grew so big that their sides overlapped and the hot ashes which the wind caught and blew for many miles in all directions filled up the valleys between them. When that time came, instead of perhaps hundreds of detached volcanoes, a great mountainous range thousands of feet high paralleled the Pacific coast. Men call this to-day the Cascade Mountains.

But all of these many volcanoes did not continue to live. Most of the babies died in childhood and were buried under the growing slopes of their bigger brothers and the immense masses of ash which the wind deposited in the hollows.

As the smaller volcanoes choked up and disappeared below the growing surface, the lava which had been finding vent through them sought other doors of escape, and found them in the volcanoes of larger vent. This, of course, made the larger volcanoes grow all the faster.

It was an example of the survival of the fittest, which is one of the first laws of nature. Those children who study the hardest become more and more able to study, and inevitably near the top of the class—another example of the survival of the fittest.

The baby volcano which is the hero of our story was one of the fittest of its own great family; it became one of the survivors. It grew enormously, climbing always above the range as the range itself climbed higher. It was an ambitious volcano. When the growing mountain range had swallowed most of the others and perhaps was approaching its own greatest size, this was among the very biggest of the fifteen or twenty peaks which continued to spout fire and float dense volumes of smoke hundreds of miles to sea upon the east wind.

The Lake of Mystery
Photograph by Herford Cowling

How many centuries these monsters lit the Pacific nights with their lurid torches no man can guess. One of them, now called Mount Rainier, lost two thousand feet of its summit in one mighty explosion; but it still remained fourteen thousand feet high. Most of the others suffered similar accidents, but still remained majestic mountains, and remain so to this day. Only one of them was totally destroyed, and that one is the hero of this amazing history. Though no man ever saw this great peak, which once may have towered even above Mount Rainier, it bears a name. But Mount Mazama was not named until centuries after it had ceased to exist.

Other volcanoes have died the remarkable death of Mount Mazama, but none other possibly of equal size. Its extraordinary passing would have been a spectacle, had men lived then to see it, unequalled perhaps in all the earth's remarkable and dramatic history.

Mount Mazama, possibly at the zenith of its great career, slipped down through the crust of the earth and totally disappeared. It was as if the foundations that held it up had suddenly given way. Its enormous mass, thrown up from below, returned into the pit from which it had come. Perhaps Dante might have described the awful spectacle.

How do we know that this thing happened so long before human history? Those patient students of the history and the romance of the rocks, the geologists, have found proofs which none may doubt. It is enough here to say that what is left of Mount Mazama's sloping sides indicates that it must have been a volcano sixteen thousand feet in altitude, and that a profound study of the inside of the rim through which it slipped proves that actually it did slip. That it was not blown out is proved by the fact that the lava sides which remain are composed only of material which flowed down from a lofty summit during regular eruptions.

But this is not all the strange history of this volcano. The seething fires underneath the earth's surface attempted once more to burst forth through Mount Mazama's vent. But now the vent was choked. Again and again the fiery gases burst through the ruins of what was once so majestic a peak, only to be smothered by the masses of loosened ash. Three times were small craters actually formed. Then the fires were choked forever.

But that is not all. Where Mount Mazama stood in awful fiery grandeur there appeared a lake of beauty so profound that to-day it is celebrated throughout the world. It suggests a fairy-story—this transforming touch that changed awfulness into loveliness. Spring-water seeped through the lava foundations of the tremendous pit that once was the towering mountain and filled it with water of wondrous blue. But it did not fill it full; it left walls a thousand feet high, lava walls of faint blue-grays, streaked and daubed with splendid colors which reflect in the lake's deep waters.

The tomb of the monster Mazama is one of the wonder spots of sheer beauty in the wide world.

"Doctor McKinley," said Margaret after a few moments of silence, during which Mrs. Jefferson gazed thoughtfully into the gorgeous depths of Crater Lake, "that is more exciting than any fairy-story I ever heard. But what a dreadful shame that Mount Mazama died when all his brothers and sisters lived! I 'spect they must of cried a lot."

"Mount Rainier is crying rivers of icy tears yet, Margaret," said Aunt Jane. "Oh, but what an amazing history! Yes, it somehow changes one's whole conception of Crater Lake. It has become a new place for me. I suppose it must be very deep."

A pound trout is a small one
Photograph by Herford Cowling

"Two thousand feet," said Doctor McKinley. "It is supposed to be the deepest as well as the bluest lake in the world."

"Where are your uncles?" asked Mrs. Jefferson.

"Fishing," said Jack. "The mean things wouldn't take me. They said I'd rock the boat. Say, Mother, the trout here are awful big. A man said they were the hardest fighting trout anywhere."

"They are good fighters, Jack," said Doctor McKinley. "The water is very cold, you know. Yes, they're big. The little ones run a pound. I won't take you fishing, Jack, but I'll take the whole party out in the launch. No one has seen Crater Lake who has not skirted its shores in a boat."

Mrs. Jefferson, after an automobile ride to different points on the rim, had agreed that the deep blue, which she had considered a gross exaggeration in the pictures and lantern-slides she had seen at home, did not begin to express the wonder of the lake's actual color.

"Under different slants of light, it is every shade of blue there is," she said. "Right down there now, it is deeper than any indigo or Prussian blue I ever have seen. It is really almost black. And compare that with the vivid greenish blue of the edges."

"But the wonderful water," said Aunt Jane, "seems to me scarcely as wonderful as these mauve cliffs. It is hard to say just what color they really are. Sometimes they are gray, sometimes blue, sometimes purple, sometimes yellow, but mostly, I think, mauve. They change their color from hour to hour. A cloud floats across the sun and instantly we have a new color scheme. When that thunder-storm threatened yesterday, the whole lake acquired a foreboding, almost terrible, aspect; and yet at sunset it became a sort of painter's palette, a riot of glorified color—every soft and gentle tint you can conceive, set off against the heavy but translucent shadows under the western cliffs."

The water is bluer than the darkest indigo
Photograph by Fred H. Kiser

"Yes," put in Mrs. Jefferson eagerly, "and before sunrise it is again altogether different. I looked at it from my window this morning. The walls were gray then, and you could plainly see those great splashes of sulphur yellow across the lake. The water then was the color of polished steel. The surface appeared hard, as if frozen. It looked as if a rock thrown upon it would bounce up and skim across the surface of the lake."

"Yes," mused Doctor McKinley, "I have travelled the world and have seen nothing just like this. There are other crater lakes, one in Mexico, several in Austria and elsewhere, but nothing that compares with this. It has something of the color glory of Capri; something of the mystery of the Grand Canyon; something of the fairylike impossibility of afternoon in the Yosemite Valley. It has all these and something else. It is alone."

"Just look for a moment over there at the Phantom ship," interrupted Mrs. Jefferson

"Just look for a moment over there at the Phantom Ship," interrupted Mrs. Jefferson. "The water is so pale you scarcely can call it blue."

"Where is the Phantom Ship?" asked Margaret.

"Right over there," said her mother, pointing.

"I don't see it," said Margaret.

"Why—why"— hesitated Mrs. Jefferson—"it was there. Exactly there by that cliff. I can't seem to see it now. That is very strange. Why, I would have made my affidavit."

"Mother's dreaming," said Jack. "The color has gone to her head."

"It wouldn't seem strange to me if it did go to her head," said Aunt Jane. "I actually feel unreal myself. I'm not sure, somehow, that I'm here at all."

"We're all dippy," said Jack. "To tell you the truth I thought I saw the Phantom Ship, too. But she isn't there and that's a fact."

"Doctor McKinley," said Mrs. Jefferson with heightened color, "will you point out the Phantom Ship? I was so sure I saw it in that spot. Now I feel all turned around."

Doctor McKinley was laughing.

The Phantom Ship
Photograph by Herford Cowling

"Certainly, I can," he said. "It is exactly there, under that headland, just where you said it was."

"But I can't see it," persisted Mrs. Jefferson.

By this time all were looking intently at the spot, but no one saw it. Doctor McKinley was laughing silently.

"I don't believe you see it yourself," said Jack defiantly.

"I don't" said Doctor McKinley calmly.

They all turned to him.

"He's dippy, too," Jack whispered to Margaret.

"That's why it is called the Phantom Ship," said Doctor McKinley, smiling. "In some conditions of atmosphere, particularly on a warm day like this, that curiously shaped rock will disappear and reappear in the most mysterious way. Other objects on the water may do the same thing. It's a kind of mirage."

"There it is!" shouted Jack.

And there it was again, exactly where Mrs. Jefferson had first seen it.

Even the children were silent during the afternoon hours in the boat. The reflections of the marvellously carved and painted lavas in the still, deep waters absorbed them. But even these were not so fascinating as the ripples made by the boat's prow; every painted wavelet was tipped momentarily with a blue so gorgeous that, as Aunt Jane said, no paint could reproduce its value.

The afternoon closed with a sunset view from the cliffs. They had trout for dinner.

Watching the lake by moonlight, Doctor McKinley told them the Indian legends.

Crater Lake was once the kingdom of the great god Llao. Here he ruled a multitude of strange, ferocious creatures which resembled crawfish. They were of enormous size. It was nothing for one of them to lift a claw from the lake's surface and pluck a deer from the top of the highest cliff. Several of these cliffs are two thousand feet high.

Llao had an enemy, the brave Spirit Chieftain Skell, whose kingdom was the Klamath Marshes, twenty miles away. He also had an army of servants, not so huge and ferocious as Llao's, but possessed of the power to change themselves at will into other forms. Sometimes Skell's servants bounded over the cliffs of Crater Lake in the form of antelopes. Sometimes, as eagles; they soared aloft above its surface. Many were the bitter wars waged between Llao and Skell.

In one of these wars Skell was too venturesome. Llao's monsters captured him and dragged him beneath the blue waters. It was decided to wreak a terrible vengeance upon him. So they tore out his heart, still living.

Then the monsters climbed the many mountains in the outlying region, each monster upon a separate peak. They played ball with Skell's living heart, tossing it from mountain-peak to mountain-peak, from monster to monster.

But Skell's followers came to the rescue. As eagles they circled around the peaks, and one of them caught Skell's heart in flight. The monsters pursued, but the eagle, hard pressed, dropped Skell's heart to another warrior, who, in the form of an antelope, was following on the land below. The antelope slipped through the woods and into dark ravines, and escaped with it.

Skell's heart still lived, and back in the Klamath Marshes his body grew again around it.

Years passed and Skell, recovered and with plans matured, again made war. It was a long and bloody war, and in the end Llao was captured. The monsters retired to the deep waters.

Skell took Llao to the top of the highest cliff overlooking Crater Lake, and tore him into small pieces.

He threw the fragments, one by one, into the lake, and the monsters, not recognizing them as fragments of their great chief's body, seized and ate them as they fell. Finally, he threw Llao's head into the lake. The monsters recognized that and did not touch it.

The painted lava rim and Phantom Ship
Photograph by Fred H. Kiser

Llao's head lies in Crater Lake to-day. It is partly exposed, and men call it Wizard Island.

"What?" exclaimed Jack, "Wizard Island? That little volcanic crater that sticks out of the water, the one we rowed to and climbed the other day?"

"That," said Doctor McKinley solemnly, "is Llao's head. And Llao Rock, where you went with your Uncle Tom, is the cliff from which Skell threw it into the lake."

"Gee!" said Jack.

"For many years," continued Doctor McKinley, "the Indians would not come near the lake. They feared Llao's monsters. Some would venture occasionally to the rim and look down for a few moments, but only the great braves did that.

"Once a band of Klamath Indians came unexpectedly upon it, and ran away in terror. But one, charmed by its beauty, dared to stay awhile, and no evil befell him. So a few days later he returned, but saw no monsters. He repeated his visits. He even lighted a camp-fire and slept there. Nothing happened.

"He wanted to see these waters close by, to peer into them, and perhaps catch a glimpse of one of the monsters. So one day he crept down a forest-covered slope and lay a long time at the water's edge under cover. Then he ventured to bathe in the waters, and suddenly felt wonderfully strong. He went back to his tribe and performed marvellous feats of strength. It seemed certain that these waters possessed great virtue. Another Indian ventured, bathed, and also received supernatural strength. So in time the whole tribe bathed there. They became the most powerful tribe in the world. That is how the Indians lost their fear of Crater Lake."

"Margaret," said Jack the next morning, "I like Doctor McKinley mighty well. But I wonder why he came down here with us. You remember he was going east the day after we met him at Mount Rainier. He said he had an important engagement in Chicago that he could not possibly break. But he stayed with us there just the same, and now he's down here, too."

"Don't you know why?" Margaret looked very wise. Jack shook his head.

"Boys don't know anything," said Margaret. "I never saw such stupid things."

"But why?" demanded Jack. "If you know, stop your kidding and tell me."

"I'm not kidding," said Margaret. "Any girl would know without being told. It's Aunt Jane, of course."

"Aunt Jane?" asked Jack. "What do you mean? What's Aunt Jane got to do with it?"

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Margaret scornfully. "He doesn't know even when he's told! Boys are the stupidest!"

Jack looked at her some time in silence. Then his eyes opened very wide.

"Do you mean," he gasped, "that he's spoons on— Oh, ginger pop!"

"Why, of course. I knew it the second day he was with us. Can't you see that that's what makes Uncle Billy so different lately? He doesn't say a word any more, and he laughs hollow."

Jack looked dazed. Uncle Billy, too? Margaret laughed tauntingly.

"Do you—mean—" began Jack, and stopped with open mouth.

"Why, of course I mean," said Margaret. "Any girl would know it. I've known it for ages and ages."

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 30-Oct-2009