The Mighty Mendenhall

We had the opportunity to do a bit of hiking a while back just north of Juneau, Alaska exploring the wilderness around The Mendenhall Glacier. What is fascinating about these glacial masses is their color. The vibrant blue is caused by silt embedded in the ice and is truly a wonder to see. The glacier itself is about 12 miles long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles from downtown  Juneau, in Alaska.

Originally known as Sitaantaagu (“the Glacier Behind the Town”) or Aak’wtaaksit (“the Glacier Behind the Little Lake”) by the Tlingits, the glacier was named Auke (Auk) Glacier by naturalist John Muir for the Tlingit Auk Kwaan (or Aak’w Kwaan) band in 1888. In 1891 it was renamed in honor of  Thomas Mendenhall. It extends from the Juneau Icefield, its source, to Mendenhall Lake and ultimately the Mendenhall River.

The Juneau Icefield Research Program has monitored the outlet glaciers of the Juneau Icefield since 1942 , including Mendenhall Glacier. From 1951–1958 the terminus of the glacier, which flows into suburban Juneau, has retreated 1,900 feet. The glacier has also receded 1.75 miles since 1958, when Mendenhall Lake was created, and over 2.5 miles since 1500. The end of the glacier currently has limited crevassing a negative glacier mass balance and will continue to retreat in the foreseeable future.

2 responses

  1. Beauty pic Erik and cool back story!

    August 14, 2011 at 5:36 am

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