While tourists flock from all corners of the globe to witness the Yellowstone National Park geysers such as famous Old Faithful, it is a small and relatively-unknown geyser catching international attention this time around. Ear Spring had been quiet for about 60 years until its recent September 15 eruption that featured a fountain of trash gushing from its depths. The natural phenomena generally emit steam and hot water, but this 30-foot surge included a plethora of oddities thrown out by tourists over the course of nearly 90 years.
In the aftermath, Yellowstone National Park’s official Facebook page issued a statement saying, “After Ear Spring erupted on September 15, employees found a strange assortment of items strewn across the landscape around its vent!” A few of the items dated back to the 1930s. “Some are clearly historic,” the post read. “They’ll be inventoried by curators and may end up in Yellowstone’s archives.”
While throwing garbage into the geyser is prohibited, if not deterred by common sense, the landmark-turned-landfill had much to expel. Cigarette butts, plastic utensils and straws, film wrappers and other random articles, including a baby pacifier from the 1930s, littered the ground after the eruption. “Foreign objects can damage hot springs and geysers,” explained the park, following the disgraceful display. “The next time Ear Spring erupts, we hope it’s nothing but natural rocks and water.”
The small geyser’s spout was minor in comparison with other eruptions that are common in the area. Yellowstone is home to the world’s tallest active geyser, Steamboat, whose emissions can reach heights of 300 feet. The natural fountains gush steam and water in rapid patterns much like fireworks, and active geysers can erupt multiple times daily, such as Old Faithful, whose spouts can be admired every 35 to 120 minutes. While geyser eruptions can be magnificent, they are certainly less so when spewing decades of pollution.
Image via Yellowstone National Park