All the fun and frolics took place in Yellowstone National Park, renamed Jellystone for the purposes of the cartoon. Of course, Yellowstone Park is also home to another national treasure, that other wonder of nature, Old Faithful. This seismic water fountain is apparently so regular that you can set your watch by it.
And while Old Faithful is without a doubt the most famous geyser in the world, it is not the original one. The name for these extraordinary geological phenomena comes courtesy of Iceland. The original Geysir, meaning jet of water in Icelandic, resides less than two hours’ drive from Reykjavik and is one of Iceland’s leading tourist attractions.
Geysers are formed when scalding water becomes trapped between layers of the earth’s crust. The water is then forced under immense pressure upwards and finds an outlet at the weakest point in the Earth’s surface. In its heyday, Geysir was capable of throwing its load almost three hundred feet into the air, drenching everything and everybody in a 50 metre radius.
In the later half of the last century, its power begun to fail, however, and artificial attempts were made to boost its firepower. These efforts included delicate drilling operations around the base of the geyser in the hope of re-igniting its fire.
Finally, as desperation set in, the minders resorted to adding copious amounts of soap to the water. By some mysterious geological process, the details of which remain unknown to me at least, this addition was sufficient to induce eruptions at will. Very convenient when the powers-that-be wished to impress V.I.P guests with the size of their eruption.
This abuse of nature could not last, of course, and geyser finally gave up the ghost. In recent years eager tourists, myself included, have had to make do with picture postcard snaps of its halcyon days. On my visit to the site I was reasonably consoled with the lesser models on show. The next biggest performer, Strokkur (son of geyser), reaches heights of over one hundred feet. Then, in 2002, a strange thing happened. Iceland suffered two major earthquakes within a week. There was no loss of life or even injuries and Iceland´s sturdy building policy ensured little physical damage. But there was one unexpected side-effect. Old Geysir came back into business after dozing for decades. It has erupted on a few occasions since without feeling the need of artificial stimulants. There is no reason to suspect that it will not continue to do so in the foreseeable future. All of which just goes to prove that given time and patience nature will take simply care of itself.
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