Photos that are nearly four decades old of Mount St. Helens erupting have surfaced and begun to make waves through the internet.
On May 18, 1980 private pilot Jerry Cornwell had a front-row ticket to the most destructive volcanic event in U.S. history, according to The Huffington Post.
Cornwell, a retired Navy vet, was flying near Mount St. Helens on the way to Seattle with his then-wife and two daughters. As the volcano began to erupt, they were able to capture fascinating photos above the action.
“We didn’t have the TV on, so I had no idea what was going on,” Cornwell reportedly told The Huffington Post.
“As soon as we got in the air, someone said that the airways were shut off,” he recalled. “Because we had full fuel — we just fueled up — we had plenty of fuel to stay above. They asked us to stay above.”
Cornwell said it was an unusual twist of fate that the family’s camera was inside the aircraft with them and loaded with extra film because they usually kept it packed away inside the wing compartment.
He recalled that his family’s reaction to the eruption was “kind of a state of shock.”
“It was something you’ve never seen before and you don’t have an idea about what it’s supposed to look like,” he said.
While the eruption caused mass destruction and claimed many lives in its wake, the photos that the Cornwell family captured are undoubtedly stunning and fascinating to view.
The clouds of smoke and dust billowing from the mouth of the volcano deliver a transfixing beauty that only the wonders of nature can create.
After the coast was clear for them to land and the Cornwell family made it home, they made copies of their film’s negatives before taking it to a shop to be developed.
Incidentally, making the copies turned out to be the smartest decision because the Cornwell’s never got their photos back.
“Someone stole them and then we saw that some of those pictures were for sale,” he reportedly said, adding that they saw the photos at a mall kiosk. He said it was “pretty obvious” they were their photos because the distinct wing of his plane was visible in several of the shots.
The real question is how the photos randomly ended up on Reddit on the 36th anniversary of the eruption?
Cornwell’s grandson, Cody Norman, published them on the popular social network and they quickly began garnering attention and spreading to other sites.
Check out the astonishing photos below:
Banner Photo Credit: Reddit user amici_ursi