Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mendenhall Glacier

Thursday, August 26th - - Mendenhall Glacier, a short drive from downtown Juneau, was first named Auke Glacier in 1879 by John Muir. In 1892 it was renamed to honor Thomas Corwin Mendenhall (1841-1924) who served as Superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1889 to 1894.

The Mendenhall glacier flows for 12 miles down the Mendenhall Valley to its terminus near the visitor center. The ice flows forward at an average rate of 2 feet per day, but at the very same time, it wastes away at a slightly faster rate. Waste occurs through melting or when large pieces of ice break off the face of the glacier. When the rate of melting exceeds the rate of flow, a glacier recedes. The Mendenhall glacier has been receding since the late 1700's and currently retreats at a rate of 25-30 feet per year.

Mendenhall Glacier as seen from the rear of my campsite at Mendenhall Lake campground in the Tongass National Forest. The full face of the glacier cannot be seen from this vantage point because it is blocked by the bit of land jutting out from the left.

The view from the Visitors Center. We are seeing only a very small portion of the glacier as it extends 12 miles back down the valley.

A little bit closer.

An awesome waterfall flows down from above. Another waterfall can be seen in the far distance to the right of the glacier.

A ride on the lake gets you a little closer to the face of the glacier.

Some of the larger icebergs floating in Mendenhall Lake. Icebergs are created when the glacier calves (chunks of ice fall off the face of the glacier).

I couldn't resist picking up a chunk of glacial ice that was floating close to the shore. It was crystal clear and many, many years old. And it was cold...

1 comment:

Carol said...

Totally awesome, specially the ice in hand photo!