Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/172

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
158
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

yet obtained concerning these glaciers is that gathered by Mr. William P. Blake in 1863. According to him, "there are four large glaciers and several smaller ones visible within a distance of sixty or seventy miles from the mouth" of the river. The second of these larger ones has attracted most attention. This "sweeps grandly out into the valley from an opening between high mountains from a source that is not visible. It ends at the level of the river in an irregular bluff of ice, a mile and a half or two miles in length, and about one hundred and fifty feet high. Two or more terminal moraines protect it from the direct action of the stream. What at first appeared as a range of ordinary hills along the river, proved on landing to be an ancient terminal moraine, crescent shaped and covered with a forest. It extends the full length of the front of the glacier."[1]

This glacier has never been fully explored. A number of years since, a party of Russian officers attempted its exploration, and were never heard from again. Mr. Blake reports that, as usual with receding glaciers, a considerable portion of the front as it spreads out in the valley is so covered with bowlders, gravel, and mud that it is difficult to tell where the glacier really ends. But from the valley to the higher land it rises in precipitous, irregular, stair-like blocks, with smooth sides, and so large that it was impossible to surmount them with the Ordinary equipment of explorers. The glacier is estimated to be about forty miles long.

Another glacier, upon the opposite side of the river, of which Mr. Blake does not speak, was reported to me by those familiar with the country as coming down to within about two miles of the bank. The Indians are very likely correct in asserting that these two glaciers formerly met, compelling the Stickeen River to find its way to the sea through a vast tunnel. It would then have appeared simply as a subglacial stream of great magnitude.

North of the Stickeen River, glaciers of great size are of increasing frequency, and can be seen to good advantage from the excursion steamer. The Auk and Patterson glaciers appear first, not far north of Fort Wrangel. On approaching Holkham Bay and Taku Inlet, about latitude 58°, the summer tourist has, in the numerous icebergs encountered, pleasing evidence of the proximity of still greater glaciers coming down to the sea-level. Indeed, the glaciers of Taku Inlet are second only in interest to those of Glacier Bay.

In going from Juneau to Chilkat, at the head of Lynn Canal, a distance of about eighty miles, nineteen glaciers of large size are in full sight from the steamer's deck, but none of them come down far enough to break off into the water and give birth to icebergs. The Davidson Glacier, however, comes down just to the water's

  1. "American Journal of Science," vol. xciv, 1867, pp. 96-101.