Blackburn had a close relationship with the mountain. He hiked and climbed it often so when a series of earthquakes struck the mountain he jumped at the chance to document it. His own newspaper, the Columbian, and also National Geographic and the United States Geological Survey commissioned him. When he came to the mountain he camped 8 miles out from the mountain, near Coldwater Creek. He was due to leave the mountain on May 17th, but decided to stay a little longer to document more of the earthquakes that had been happening. Geologists deemed that he was at a safe distance from the mountain to avoid being hurt if anything should happen. On the morning of May 18th, the mountain erupted sending thousands of pounds of ash into the air and creating the largest landslide in United States history. Blackburn was able to snap a few photographs before jumping into his car and beginning to drive away. Before he was able to leave though, a pyroclastic flow overtook him and buried him and his car under 2.5 feet of debris. When his body was recovered four days later, ash has broken into the car and the intense heat had destroyed killed him and destroyed the contents of his camera. None of the photographs were salvageable.