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Long-lost photos show Mt. St. Helens just before its devastating eruption

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More than 33 years ago Mount Saint Helens blew its top, causing 57 deaths and forever changing the landscape of Washington state and its surrounding areas. One of those deaths was Reid Blackburn, a reporter on assignment for The Columbian — a local area paper — who was snapping photos inside what tragically turned out to be a massive blast area. Those images were never recovered, but The Columbian now shares photos of the slumbering volcano that Blackburn never developed, and that were tucked away for decades in an unmarked paper bag.

Sitting in an unmarked paper bag

Discovered in the newsroom by accident, the film roll contains aerial photos of a smoky mountain captured approximately five weeks before it erupted. You can see clear geological features, and dark plumes of smoke rising up from its top, suggesting something big was about to happen. It's unclear why the shots went unused. The film managed to stay preserved though, and was processed in a professional lab in nearby Portland, Oregon. You can see the whole contact sheet, and some of the individual shots in higher resolution, over at The Columbian.