By JR on Friday, September 23, 2011
News from 1892, Yes: 1892, not 1982
The Muir glacier, which is the great wonder of of Alaska, was, says a scientific writer in the Globe, doubtless discovered by Vancouver in 1791, but Professor John Muir was the first to describe it. Muir Inlet, at the head of Glacier Bay, is the termination of this great ”river of ice.”
The wall of blue ice is there a mile long and about 400 feet high. It is worn into towers, castles, and caverns, and is continually discharging fragments, from the size of a paving-stone to that of Cologne Cathedral. These falling into the sea cast up the spray for hundreds of feet into the air, and send forth waves which dash upon the shores and echo like thunder among the mountains.
The Muir glacier is really a sea of ice, with numerous branches in the valleys, any one of which is as large as the Gomer or Aletzch glacier of Switzerland. It is according to Mr. S. P. Baldwin, a recent visitor, as large as all the Alpine glaciers in one, being 1,200 square miles in area. The ice is 1,000 feet thick at the mouth in Muir Inlet, and the glacier, is estimated to comprise as much water as Lake Erie.
It disharges 77 billion cubic feet of ice as icebergs, and 175 billion cubic feet of water by melting every year. The centre of the glacier, where the motion is quickest, is so rough and broken into crevasses that it is considered impassable. The eastern half, however, can be travelled as far as the névé.
Professor Wright has found the motion at the centre to be as much as 65 feet a day, whereas that of the Alpine glaciers is only 33 inches or so. As much as 90 feet a day has been found in the case of a Greenland glacier. The Muir glacier has once extended much further into the bay, and is now receding every year, while the sources of the ice supply are failing.