Muir Glacier, Alaska, USA about 1892


MUIR GLACIER, ALASKA — There is probably no natural feature in the world more awe-inspiring and sublime than the stupendous Muir Glacier in Glacier Bay, Alaska. In the rear of it are mountains 15,000 and 16,000 feet high. Into the bay itself advances with a glittering front 300 feet high and over a mile in length a frozen river, moving steadily and resistlessly at the rate of forty-four feet a day during the summer months! Further inland it has a width of three miles, and is fed by fifteen minor glaciers! Excursion steamers approach it as closely as safety permits, and there, filled with emotions too profound for words, one gazes on this slowly moving, solidified Niagara, from which huge icebergs fall at frequent intervals with explosions resembling the discharges of a cannon. The noise of these falling monsters is well-nigh incessant, and interspersed with these reports one hears wierd sounds within the glacier itself caused by the terrible grinding and compression of millions of tons of ice between the mighty cliffs through which this frozen torrent moves out towards the sea. In front of it is always a large fleet of icebergs, born that day from the parent-mass and sailing out in splendor ’neath a brilliant sun or else in sullen majesty beneath the clouds, to float thenceforth upon the ocean, till they lose themselves forever in its warm embrace. Moreover, this glacier extends not only 300 feet in height above the waves, but 400 feet below them! Think of the awful power represented here, forever pushing outward from the mountainous interior this gigantic wedge. No words can paint the glories of this wall of ice when it is illumined by the radiance of the setting sun. It then appears the birthplace of innumerable rainbows or a mountain of prisms. The name of this great marvel of the world was bestowed upon it in honor of Professor Muir, the State Geologist of California. (from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)

Muir Glacier is a glacier in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is currently about 0.7 km (0.43 mi) wide at the terminus. As recently as the mid-1980s the glacier was a tidewater glacier and calved icebergs from a wall of ice 60 m (200 feet) tall.

The glacier is named after Scottish-born naturalist John Muir, who traveled around the area and wrote about it, generating interest in the local environment and in its preservation. His first two visits were in 1879 (at age 41) and 1880. During the visits, he sent an account of his visits in installments to the San Francisco Bulletin. Later, he collected and edited these installments in a book, Travels in Alaska, published in 1915, the year after he died. (from Wikipedia)


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