FILMMAKER, NEARLY KILLED AT ST. HELENS’ ERUPTION, RECALLS ESCAPE ON 35th ANNIVERSARY
Cameraman of 1980 eruption, declared missing, offers his story of survival and perspectives 35 years later
Kailua-Kona, HI — A survivor of the spectacular 1980 Mount St. Helens’ eruption will return to the area to mark the event’s 35th anniversary and recount his remarkable story of survival and perspective 35 years later.
In 1980, Michael Lienau was a 20-year-old cameraman with a film crew attempting to capture the first ground level shots of the eruption’s aftermath. When a second eruption shook the ground, they narrowly escaped death as the blast rocketed over their heads.
Trapped for three days, the crew became the story they were covering, and were even declared missing and presumed dead. Miraculously, they survived when a rescue helicopter finally spotted them.
“As the rescue helicopter was lifting off the ground, I felt very humbled. It was the beginning of a lesson in life I’ll never forget,” says Lienau, now 55.
Lienau’s dramatic experience fueled a life-long pursuit to understand what happened to him and other survivors. Several of these stories are featured in his seven-time award-winning documentary, “The Fire Below Us: Remembering Mount St. Helens,” which has been featured on National Geographic, PBS and international television.
“Its important to remember the lessons learned at Mount St. Helens and help others avoid the mistakes that were made 35 years ago. Volcanoes don’t become disasters until they threaten lives and property. There are nearly 40 volcanoes ringing around the Ring of Fire and the spectacular eruption in Southern Chile with the evacuation of thousands of people last month is yet another reminder of the volatility and swiftness of eruptions similar to what happened at Mount St. Helens in 1980” says Lienau.
There are hundreds of active volcanoes in the United States alone. Most are located in Alaska, where eruptions occur virtually every year. Others are located throughout the west, and in Hawaii. Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, erupting almost continuously since 1983.
The Mount St. Helens eruption ignited the relatively new science of volcanology, focusing attention on these dynamic earth processes.
“Documenting most of the changes at Mount St. Helens these last three and a half decades with my camera, and witnessing firsthand the sudden and total destruction in 1980, has given me a unique perspective,” said Lienau.
A whole new generation is eager to learn what happened at Mount St. Helens, while those who remember the eruption always relay to him where they were, or what they were doing when the mountain erupted. “I think people are captivated by this larger-than-life event, one of the most unforgettable natural disasters in US history,” adds Lienau.
Lienau has produced numerous films since Mount St. Helens. His second film, “Fire Mountains of the West,” currently playing at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, documents how volcanic disasters can happen anytime at any one of the dozens of West Coast strata-volcanoes such as California’s Mt. Shasta or Washington’s iconic Mt. Rainier. The latter a ticking time bomb where hundreds of thousands live in the path of destructive volcanic mudflows.
“Cascadia: The Hidden Fire” is his groundbreaking documentary about the process that fuels these volcanoes. The entire West Coast, from Northern California to British Columbia, could be rocked with a mega 8M or 9M+ earthquake for 3-5 minutes, releasing massive tsunamis and years of aftershocks. Similar to the March 2001 Japan earthquake and tsunami.
“It could change the way people live in the Northwest and make Mount St. Helens look puny in comparison” says Lienau. Public reaction to broadcasts of his Cascadia program prompted Lienau to produce several films on necessary steps people can take to mitigate and prepare for unexpected disasters.
He is currently producing an IMAX/giant screen 3D film on the Hawaiian volcano and how it has shaped the history and culture of the people of Hawaii since it was first discovered. “In many ways Kilauea volcano was the beginning of modern volcanology – what was learned there by scientists was transferred to Mount St. Helens in 1980 and is now credited for saving many lives around the world” says Lienau. “Hawaii Islands of Fire” will be released in time for the 100th anniversary of the US National Parks in late 2016 www.HawaiiVolcanoMovie.com
Lienau’s personal experience and vast knowledge has been a valuable resource for numerous documentaries, TV/radio shows and articles. He has also amassed the largest private collection of professional stock footage from the eruption – some 700+ hours of footage and photos. He is available for media interviews in Hawai’i immediately, and will be on the west coast making an appearance at Mount St. Helens in mid-July.
For more information, still photos, interviews and stock footage contact: Michael Lienau, Global Net Productions, Inc. www.globalnetproductions.com Kailua-Kona HI, cell phone 425.330.1413 firstname.lastname@example.org