Old Faithful

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Old Faithful Geyser
Eruption of the geyser - In the sunlight, a rainbow appears in the spray

Old Faithful ( the old faithful ) is one of the most famous geysers of earth . It is a nozzle-shaped geyser and is located in the upper geyser basin of Yellowstone National Park in the state of Wyoming ( USA ). Officially, members of the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition were the first to discover him in 1870. After two days of observation, Henry D. Washburn gave the geyser its name because its eruptions were frequent and regular. It has erupted over a million times since it was discovered.

Old Faithful is located at an altitude of 2240 m above sea level.


For the history of the discovery see Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition .

Research on the Old Faithful's eruption cone suggests that this geyser was inactive for centuries. The period of inactivity was long enough for trees to grow around the hydrothermal spring. Later on, the renewed activity with sinter deposits killed the trees, some were petrified. The age of these trees was estimated using the C14 method . According to these estimates, Old Faithful can hardly have been active as a geyser for more than 300 years. For 750 years before that, it will have been a hot spring. On the other hand, Old Faithful sits on a much older sinter formation, which must have come from an older source in the same place.


EM clustering for Old Faithful eruption dates. The two typical modes of the geyser are clearly recognizable. (Eruption interval and duration in minutes)
Old Faithful, photographed by Ansel Adams

Old Faithful is one of the jet-like geysers that have a narrow jet of water. Its eruption behavior is independent of other geysers in the area, as it has no direct connection to other geysers. The opening of the eruption canal measures 0.6 m × 1 m. The geyser has a reservoir that consists of at least two chambers (two chambers are verified by soundings / soundings). The diameter of the constriction in the eruption channel immediately above the upper chamber at a depth of 7.31 m (lower end of the constriction) is 10.5 cm. The eruption canal is lined with coarse silicate sinter. The eruption column reaches a height of approx. 30 to 55 m. An eruption usually lasts between 1.5 and 5 minutes without its typical foreplay, between 14,000 and 32,000 liters of water are emitted per eruption. The Old Faithful is one of the great geysers. The Steamboat Geyser can still surpass it two or three times. However, high eruptions of the steamboat take place so rarely that it has by no means the importance that makes the Old Faithful a tourist magnet.

Between 1983 and 1994, researchers carried out various measurements in the Old Faithful's chimney. At a depth of 22 meters, they measured a water temperature of 118 ° C. The highest measured temperature was 129 ° C. The temperature inside the earth beneath the geyser fluctuates by up to 15 degrees. Contrary to some assertions - despite a certain regularity - one cannot set the clock according to Old Faithful. There are 30 to 120 minutes between two eruptions; currently mostly between 65 and 92 minutes, an average of 91 minutes. Predictions are usually accurate to five minutes, but can deviate by 20 minutes even after extensive "foreplay" (several small eruptions). The eruption interval has been measured since the 1870s. At the beginning it was an average of 61 minutes. The increase in the interval is due, among other things, to various earthquakes , but also to the increasing drought. Only the Riverside Geyser erupts more regularly in Yellowstone National Park .

It was found that its eruption heights and intervals vary least of all of any geyser observed. Since then, he has never missed a periodic outbreak. The next outbreak is predicted using a formula developed by Dr. George D. Marler estimated the last interval, last outbreak duration, outbreak time and a few other parameters. This time will be announced in the visitor center .

Eruption dynamics

Old Faithful is a model A geyser according to John Sargent Rinehart with slight modifications (double reservoir). The water rises between the eruptions up to a height of max. 6.7 m below the surface of the earth, so only very slightly above the narrowing. The eruption dynamics with the "foreplay" can be explained as follows:

After an eruption, the water in the reservoir under the narrowing to the eruption canal is replenished at least by a relatively cool aquifer directly under the constriction (other as yet unexplored supply lines are possible) and heated to high temperatures. Conditions prevail like in a pressure cooker, the temperature at which water boils at atmospheric pressure is exceeded due to the pressure of the water column in the reservoir and sewer system. At some point steam rises through the narrow point and the foreplay begins. As the steam rises, the pressure of the water column in the eruption canal drops, water in the upper chamber begins to boil and drives a gush of water out of the eruption canal, which is already visible to the observer as a fountain. However, this pre-eruption collapses again. Such pre-eruptions can be repeated several times: water is expelled from the eruption canal and the upper chamber, the pressure in the lower chamber drops. At some point the boiling point is reached in the lower chamber due to the decreasing pressure, and the water is converted from the liquid phase to the vapor phase and thus takes up about 1500 times its volume. The main eruption has started. All of the water above the vapor bubble is expelled into the air through the eruption canal. When the vapor bubble is depleted, the eruption stops.

Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Inn

In order to cope with the large flow of tourists, the park officials had the Old Faithful Inn built next to the geyser in 1903/04 . The building of the inn is called the largest log cabin in the world, but this is unsecured. Today, visitors have other places to stay and eat, as well as souvenir shops, repair shops and a clinic.


In the early days of the national park, Old Faithful was also used as a laundry:

“Old Faithful gets demoted every now and then by using it as a laundry. Clothing placed in the crater during the dormant period will be thrown up and washed thoroughly when the eruption occurs. General Sheridan's men found in 1882 that linen and cotton fabrics remained undamaged by the action of the water, while woolen clothing was torn to shreds. "

Web links

Commons : Old Faithful Geyser  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Old Faithful Visitor Center> Lobby> Exhibits> Hot Water Treasures> Types of Thermal Features> Geysers> Aging a Geyser ( Memento of the original from May 27, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / mms.nps.gov
  2. For example, the eruption on July 26, 2008, predicted to be 14:07, was delayed to 14:28 after numerous pre-eruptions
  3. Shaul Hurwitz et al .: Climate-induced variations of geyser periodicity in Yellowstone National Park, USA ( Memento of the original from October 28, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.gsajournals.org archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . In: GSA Journals, Vol. 36, Issue 6, June 2008
  4. John Sargent Rinehart: Geysers and Geothermal Energy . Springer Verlag, Berlin 1980, ISBN 0-387-90489-1
  5. Old Faithful Visitor Center> Lobby> Exhibits> Why Geysers Erupt> Geyser Ingredients> Plumbing> Old Faithful's Throat ( Memento of the original from March 29, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / mms.nps.gov
  6. Video: George Heinz in Geysers Galore . wmv format
  7. ^ Henry J. Winser (1883). The Yellowstone National Park-A Manual for Tourists. New York: GP Putnam Sons. pp. 46

Coordinates: 44 ° 27 ′ 37 "  N , 110 ° 49 ′ 41"  W.