One of my first projects when I started at the museum was to catalog and scan numerous black and white photographs from the early 1900s into a database. After having sifted through various old black and white photographs of Mendenhall Glacier at work, I finally decided to go check out the real thing for myself!
(credit: Priscilla Ly)
Of course, the glacier has receded quite a bit since the early 1900s (actually, if you happened to be in Juneau a handful of years ago, the Mendenhall Glacier was rather different then as well). Nugget Falls (as you can see in the images) used to be behind the glacier, but now it is an attraction that visitors can easily hike out to! Anyways, here are some interesting things that I learned about the glacier!
- Mendenhall Glacier was originally named Auke Glacier by naturalist John Muir for the Aak’w Kwaan of the Tlingit Indians in 1879. However, in 1892, the glacier was renamed in honor of Thomas Corwin Mendenhall. T. C. Mendenhall was the man to figure out the international boundary of Alaska and Canada (can you imagine having that job?).
- Mendenhall Glacier is unique in that it is the only glacier in the region readily available by automobile to visitors year-round.
- Mendenhall Glacier is known as an alpine, or valley, glacier.
- An inherent physical property of crystalline ice forms the filtration and transmission of blue light in the glacier (best seen on cloudy or rainy days!).
Until next time!