A shower of debris littered the ground with cigarette butts, rocks, a cinder block, and even a grizzly bear warning sign when Ear Spring geyser blew on September 15 sending rubbish flying 30 feet into the air at Yellowstone National Park, giving scientists a collection of debris to study, reports Express.co.
Yellowstone museum curator Colleen Curry said: “Stuff like this that can tell us a story, and the history of how people were unfortunately using the spring while they were visiting it, will definitely be added to the collections.”
The items found may be interesting from a historical perspective – but staff stressed this was no excuse for visitors to the park to be litterbugs.
Park ranger Rebecca Roland said: ”When the vent becomes completely plugged, as it has in several springs in the park, then the spring can actually plug up to the point where it’s not a hot spring anymore and it’ll go dormant or it’ll die.”
Yellowstone spokeswoman Linda Veress said an increase in the number of tourists visiting the park and a tendency to throw rubbish into the geysers had already had an impact, notably on springs such as Handkerchief Pool. “Handkerchief Pool stopped functioning some time in the Twenties or Thirties,” she said. “It stopped because people threw coins, broken bottles, rocks, hairpins, and a small horseshoe into it about 100 years ago.”
Meanwhile, other hot springs including the Morning Glory pool have transformed from a deep blue color to yellow and green as a result of changes to the chemical composition, because of garbage which has clogged it up.
According to the United States Geological Survey, Ear Spring is a relatively docile neighbor of Old Faithful, Yellowstone’s most famous geyser.
Ear Spring’s last significant burst of activity came in 1957.
A Yellowstone National Park Facebook post said: “The next time Ear Spring erupts we hope it’s nothing but natural rocks and water.
“You can help by never throwing anything into Yellowstone’s thermal features.”