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Eruption of Parícutin Volcano

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Silent | 1940s

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  •  Lava pit 
  •  Ash clouds 
  •  Close-up of eruption site 
  •  Flowing lava 
  •  Professor Fred Bullard and a student study lava rocks 
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  • About the video
  • Fred Mason Bullard Fred Mason Bullard
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Shot by Dr. Fred Mason Bullard, then a Professor of Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, this footage captures an eruption of the Parícutin volcano in Mexico. First erupting in 1943, the volcano remained active for more than nine years, releasing ash, fume, and lava until 1952. Bullard—teaching a course at the National University of Mexico at the time of Parícutin’s birth—was among the first trained observers to visit the new and rapidly growing volcano. He returned to the site annually for the next seven years. Bullard’s spectacular moving image footage became widely known in academic circles and was also used in newsreels.
Fred Mason Bullard was born on July 20, 1901 on Kickapoo Indian lands, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). He first began studying geology at the University of Oklahoma, receiving Bachelor and Master of Science degrees from the institution before earning a PhD from the University of Michigan in 1928. 
In 1924, Bullard joined the faculty of the Department of Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, teaching introductory geology and volcanology classes as well as leading summer field courses. From 1929 to 1937, he served as chairman of the department. During this time, Bullard helped design and furnish the university’s first geology building, located in the center of campus. (The building is now known as the Will C. Hogg Building.) Continuing his research at UT following his retirement from teaching, Bullard’s professional career with the university lasted 70 years.
Bullard first became interested in volcanoes during an U.S. Geological Survey expedition to Alaska in 1929. In 1939, he received an appointment at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, working under famous volcanologist Dr. T. A. Jaggar. Four years later, he began his seminal geological research of the nascent Parícutin volcano in Mexico. Bullard subsequently studied volcanoes around the globe, from Central and South America to Europe and Asia to the South Pacific region. 
Bullard passed away at his home in Austin on July 29, 1994. He was 93.