April 10, 2009

Geologist Dwight Crandell dead at 86

Dwight Crandell, a renowned volcanologist in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, has died of a heart attack at the age of 86, his family said.

Crandell died Monday at a hospice in Wheat Ridge, Colo., The Seattle Times reported Friday.

When Crandell began working in the Puget Sound lowlands in the 1950s, conventional wisdom held the region had been shaped by glaciers, the Seattle Times reported Friday. Crandell and his colleague, Don Mullineaux, soon observed however that the region's deep layers of mud led to Mount Rainier and an explosion 5,600 years ago.

Evaluating the hazards posed by nearby volcanoes, Crandell and Mullineaux warned two years before the 1980 explosion of Mount St. Helens that the volcano was primed to erupt, the Times reported.

Crandell, known as Rocky, collected rocks as a child in Illinois and went on to earn a doctorate in geology at Yale and spend his career as a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey.

Rocky was a consummate field geologist. He was willing to hike miles and miles to get to an outcrop, and go back day after day, said volcanologist Dan Miller, a colleague of Crandell's.

Crandell is survived by two daughters, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.