When Ear Spring erupted at Yellowstone National Park Sept. 15, it was already notable—it was, as Live Science puts it, the geyser's "most violent display since 1957." But even more notable was what came out with the water that spewed up to 30 feet in the air: 80 years worth of trash. After the eruption, officials wrote on Facebook, park employees "found a strange assortment of items strewn across the landscape around its vent," from dozens of coins that people threw in to make wishes to just plain garbage: aluminum cans, plastic cups, cigarette butts, a broken bottle, etc. But some of the items that spewed forth "are clearly historic," including items like a baby pacifier dating as far back as the 1930s. "They'll be inventoried by curators and may end up in Yellowstone's archives."
Some of the items had clearly been tossed in on purpose; others may have fallen in accidentally. But either way, "foreign objects can damage hot springs and geysers," the post continues. "The next time Ear Spring erupts we hope it's nothing but natural rocks and water." Adds a supervisory park ranger to FourStatesHomePage.com: "You might think that if you toss something in a hot spring or in a geyser that it disappears, but it doesn't disappear. It stays in that and what normally happens is you can actually plug up a feature and kill the feature. And that's happened in many places in the park." The US Geological Survey says Ear Spring has erupted four times in the last six decades, most recently in 2004. (Here's another thing rangers don't want visitors to do near geysers.)