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John Muir and his team, after whom most of
the glaciers in Glacier Bay, SE Alaska, were
named, was the first explorer to properly
describe and map this area since Cook was
here 200 years earlier. But Cook saw no Bay
then - just a solid wall of ice with a few
'nunataks' sticking up above it. This ridge, on
the eastern arm of the forked bay was
named White Thunder Ridge after the noise
made by the Muir, Riggs and McBride glaciers as they calved enormous icebergs into the
bay: the downward pressure of ice (snow compacted over millennia) forces the front of
the glacier to split off and crash into the sea.
The bay was full of sea-bound ice when our London University research team were there
in 1977, but it isn't any more - global warming has has a significant impact on the amount
of ice contained in the glaciers, and as a consequence they have 'grounded-out', ie they no
longer have a calving front open to the bay. As was the case 40 years ago, most visitors
to the Bay now come in cruise ships, stay for a few hours and then leave, having
presumably seen little of interest unless they were lucky enough to sight a pod of orca or
humpback whales, both of which head for the cooler waters from the mid-Pacific during
the summer months. But stay for three months and the place reveals a astonishing
ecocological story of regeneration: as the glaciers have retreated all manner of wildlife
has taken over, from bears down to the tiniest benthic insects in the melt-water rivers,
and from lichens to mature forest. Glacier Bay now looks more like a Scottish loch than
an arctic wilderness.
John Muir and his team, after whom most of the glaciers in Glacier Bay, SE Alaska, were
named, was the first explorer to properly describe and map this area since Cook was here
200 years earlier. But Cook saw no Bay then - just a solid wall of ice with a few 'nunataks'
sticking up above it. This ridge, on the eastern arm of the forked bay was named White
Thunder Ridge after the noise made by the Muir, Riggs and McBride glaciers as they calved
enormous icebergs into the bay: the downward pressure of ice (snow compacted over
millennia) forces the front of the glacier to split off and crash into the sea.
The bay was full of sea-bound ice when our London University research team were there
in 1977, but it isn't any more - global warming has has a significant impact on the amount
of ice contained in the glaciers, and as a consequence they have 'grounded-out', ie they no
longer have a calving front open to the bay. As was the case 40 years ago, most visitors
to the Bay now come in cruise ships, stay for a few hours and then leave, having
presumably seen little of interest unless they were lucky enough to sight a pod of orca or
humpback whales, both of which head for the cooler waters from the mid-Pacific during
the summer months. But stay for three months and the place reveals a astonishing
ecocological story of regeneration: as the glaciers have retreated all manner of wildlife
has taken over, from bears down to the tiniest benthic insects in the melt-water rivers,
and from lichens to mature forest. Glacier Bay now looks more like a Scottish loch than
an arctic wilderness.
John Muir and his team, after whom most of the
glaciers in Glacier Bay, SE Alaska, were named,
was the first explorer to properly describe and
map this area since Cook was here 200 years
earlier. But Cook saw no Bay then - just a solid
wall of ice with a few 'nunataks' sticking up
above it. This ridge, on the eastern arm of the
forked bay was named White Thunder Ridge after
the noise made by the Muir, Riggs and McBride
glaciers as they calved enormous icebergs into the bay: the downward pressure of ice (snow
compacted over millennia) forces the front of the glacier to split off and crash into the sea.
The bay was full of sea-bound ice when our London University research team were there in
1977, but it isn't any more - global warming has has a significant impact on the amount of ice
contained in the glaciers, and as a consequence they have 'grounded-out', ie they no longer
have a calving front open to the bay. As was the case 40 years ago, most visitors to the Bay
now come in cruise ships, stay for a few hours and then leave, having presumably seen little
of interest unless they were lucky enough to sight a pod of orca or humpback whales, both of
which head for the cooler waters from the mid-Pacific during the summer months. But stay
for three months and the place reveals a astonishing ecocological story of regeneration: as
the glaciers have retreated all manner of wildlife has taken over, from bears down to the
tiniest benthic insects in the melt-water rivers, and from lichens to mature forest. Glacier
Bay now looks more like a Scottish loch than an arctic wilderness.

White Thunder Ridge

See the 'Before and After' images
John Muir and his team, after whom most of the glaciers in Glacier Bay, SE Alaska, were named, was the first explorer to properly describe and map this area since Cook was here 200 years earlier. But Cook saw no Bay then - just a solid wall of ice with a few 'nunataks' sticking up above it.  This ridge, on the eastern arm of the forked bay was named White Thunder Ridge after the noise made by the Muir, Riggs and McBride glaciers as they calved enormous icebergs into the bay: the downward pressure of ice (snow compacted over millennia) forces the front of the glacier to split off and crash into the sea.

The bay was full of sea-bound ice when our London University research team were there in 1977, but it isn't any more - global warming has has a significant impact on the amount of ice contained in the glaciers, and as a consequence they have 'grounded-out', ie they no longer have a calving front open to the bay.  As was the case 40 years ago, most visitors to the Bay now come in cruise ships, stay for a few hours and then leave, having presumably seen little of interest unless they were lucky enough to sight a pod of orca or humpback whales, both of which head for the cooler waters from the mid-Pacific during the summer months.  But stay for three months and the place reveals a astonishing ecocological story of regeneration: as the glaciers have retreated all manner of wildlife has taken over, from bears down to the tiniest benthic insects in the melt-water rivers, and from lichens to mature forest.  Glacier Bay now looks more like a Scottish loch than an arctic wilderness.
   
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