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"The recent changes taking place among some of the huge glaciers of Alaska are phenomena of considerable interest to science at the present time," stated W. O. Field '26 in an interview with a CRIMSON representative yesterday. During the past summer, he and B. S. Wood '25 spent a considerable amount of time studying the radical changes occurring in Glacier Bay, Alaska, where with a few exceptions, the ice-fields are retreating at a very rapid rate.
"We found that one glacier had disappeared entirely and that another had retreated six miles since 1920," said Field. "The retreat of the ice has in some places created new islands and channels, and has made many other variations in the topography of the region."
The Glacier Bay locality was first studied by John Muir about 50 years ago. The largest of the ice streams, the Muir Glacier, once visited annually by thousands of tourists, has retreated over eight miles since 1900 and now cannot be approached by a steamer of any size because of the large amount of ice floating in the channel.
"The glacier at present is very 'active', that is, it is discharging ice-bergs at a tremendous rate, indicating that its rate, of shrinkage is great.
"Near the front of the Muir glacier, only recently uncovered, are the remains of a pre-glacial forest which was destroyed and covered up by the advancing ice several hundred years ago.
"The shrinkage of these glaciers is probably due to the fact that not a sufficient amount of snow falls on the neve or reservoirs in the higher regions to counteract the constant melting at lower altitudes. This indicates that some sort of a climatic change is taking place in the Alaskan district which if it continues will perhaps eventually have far-reaching effects.
Two Glaciers Show Advance
"Strangely enough, within 50 in lees of Glacier Bay, across a huge mountain are two as yet unnamed glaciers which show definite signs of having advanced during the last few years. Several clumps of trees standing in the way of one of these advancing glaciers are being slowly invaded, snapped off, and buried by the ice.
"Another object of the expedition than the recording of glacial changes, was the studying of possible routes of ascent of the peaks of the Fairweather Range, situated near Glacier Bay. These mountains present a large field for mountaineering, one that will not be exhausted for years to come. The higher peaks culminating in Mr. Fairweather, 15,400 feet in height are without exception very difficult of ascent.
"The lower slopes of these mountains are inhabited by goats and various types of bear. The former were found to be very plentiful and many were photographed at close quarters, while a few of them were shot for trophies.
"The partly was also fortunate in sighting a glacier bear, a rare variation of the black bear, found only in the glacial regions of Alaska. Its coat is light gray, similar to that of an ordinary gray squirrel. Comparatively few of these animals have ever been seen or studied, as they are extremely scarce.
"All the travelling from one place to another was done in a boat chartered by the party at Juneau, the capitol of Alaska, Glacier Bay with its unchartered rocks and shoals presents many problems to navigation. In addition, the tides, as great as 19 feet in places, create swift currents at the entrance of the various bays and fiords.
"The belief that Alaska is a land of ice and snow, people solely by a few Eskimo tribes is quite incorrect. Many districts are similar to the Eastern part of the United States and compare very favorably in the matter of climate. Moreover, it is a region full of scenic beauties whose variety is probably not surpassed in any other single part of the earth."
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