MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This week, visitors to Yellowstone National Park witnessed an event no one could have planned for them, the steamboat geyser erupted for the first time in eight years. It's the world's tallest geyser and its eruptions are notoriously unpredictable. It's gone as long as 50 years without a major event. And one year, it erupted 29 times. Well, one of the few people who witnessed steamboat's eruption yesterday was a freelance photographer named Rob Long and he joins us now from Yellowstone National Park.
Rob, this sounds like an amazing thing to see. How did you happen to be at the right place at the right time?
ROB LONG: Well, me and my fiancee and the rest of her family were travelling back to west Yellowstone where our hotel is and we were just driving along the highway and looked to the right and saw this giant geyser shooting well above the tallest trees in Yellowstone.
BLOCK: And did you say, that's amazing, we have to stop, or was it, oh, just another geyser in Yellowstone?
LONG: Oh, that's exactly what I said. I said, oh, that's just another geyser in Yellowstone. You've seen one geyser, you've seen them all. And we kept on going to the Painted Pots. And when we got there, we were walking around for about five minutes and a young couple came up and said, hey, did you guys see the steamboat geyser back there going off? It hasn't gone off in eight years.
And it's like a once in a lifetime event. So we packed up our stuff and got back in the truck and drove right back immediately and that's when we got the opportunity to witness this geyser going off.
BLOCK: Well, describe that experience for us. What did it sound like and what did it look like?
LONG: You could hear it from well over a mile away.
LONG: Yeah. With our windows down and the road sound from the tires didn't even drown it out. You could hear it for like a mile away. And imagine a locomotive, the sound of a locomotive and then the, like, a giant steam engine. I mean, you see that steam busting out of that pipe. Imagine that, like, on the scale of a house. It was absolutely amazing.
The steam was just coming out super fast, very powerful, shooting 2, 300 feet up into the sky and not stopping. And, you know, there was a little bit of shaking here and there and one of the things that made this a little nervous as we watched this, other steam started shooting out of other holes around the base of the geyser.
BLOCK: So you didn't know where was safe to stand.
LONG: That's correct.
BLOCK: And for the few people who were there, lucky enough to see it, what was the conversation? What were people saying?
LONG: Everyone was saying, I can't believe that we have this opportunity to witness this once in a lifetime event. It's crazy that we were just going by and visiting this geyser and it happened to be going off. Everyone was looking up in awe, saying how loud it was and how, you know, how amazing - how much power was coming from the steam and stuff and coming from this geyser. It was truly amazing to see nature, you know, at its best. It was pretty cool.
BLOCK: Well, Rob, it sounds like a pretty amazing thing to come across and I gather the trip to Yellowstone has been eventful in another way for you, too, right?
LONG: Oh, yeah. It was great, yeah. I got engaged to my girlfriend and on the way out here to Yellowstone, so it was really great.
BLOCK: Pretty memorable all around.
LONG: Yeah. It was wonderful.
BLOCK: Well, Rob Long, thanks for talking to us about it and congratulations.
LONG: Yeah, thank you very much.
BLOCK: That's Rob Long. He's a freelance photographer from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and he witnessed this week's eruption of the steamboat geyser in Yellowstone National Park. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.