Land Reborn:
A History of Administration and Visitor Use in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
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Chapter II:
Sightseers And Scientists

From the day John Muir introduced Glacier Bay to the American people through his popular writings until the day President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed it a national monument some forty-five years later, Glacier Bay's scenic and scientific values were closely intertwined. Fittingly, Muir was drawn to Glacier Bay on both accounts. He responded to the landscape both with a kind of pietistic and irrepressible delight, and with the close attention to detail of a scientist. After Muir, the relationship of sightseers and scientists in Glacier Bay was more or less symbiotic. Sightseers paid handsomely for the pleasure of a cruise up Alaska's Inside Passage and an opportunity to see the spectacular Muir Glacier. Scientists, in turn, took advantage of these sightseeing excursions to get themselves and their scientific instruments up close to this glacier, which became in the 1880s and 1890s the most accessible, large, tidewater glacier in North America. Eventually, in the early 1920s, it was scientists who took the initiative to protect Glacier Bay's scenic and scientific values for future generations, and it was sightseers who would largely benefit.

John Muir in Glacier Bay

John Muir's role in the history of Glacier Bay was primarily that of explorer and publicist. [1] At the time of his first visit in 1879, Muir had acquired some renown as a naturalist, specialist in glacial geology, and nature writer of the first rank. Although it was his campaign for the establishment of Yosemite National Park in the late 1880s that propelled him to the forefront of the preservation movement, Muir was already something of a campaigner, and his primary audience was that small sector of the American public who might be enlisted in the cause of wilderness preservation.

Muir was forty-one years old when he journeyed north to Glacier Bay. His first two trips there in 1879 and 1880 punctuated an important juncture in his life. Shortly before setting out, he was engaged to Louie Wanda of Martinez, California. He married her upon his return, and less than a year later, snatched a second trip to Glacier Bay before the birth of their first child on March 25, 1881. These were the years of Muir's belated domestication, when somewhat to his surprise he was becoming a "proper cultivated plant." [2]

But Muir's purpose in going to Alaska was not simply to vent feelings of ambivalence about the impending changes in his life. It was to learn, indirectly, about his own beloved Sierra Nevada. Muir believed that scientific knowledge enriched one's spiritual communion with nature, yet, almost paradoxically, such knowledge was gained through very personal, sensate experience rather than deductive reasoning and specialization. "Descriptive writing amounts to little more than Hurrah, here's something! Come!" Muir protested. "Nature's tables are spread and fires burning. You must go warm yourselves and eat." [3] In Alaska, Muir wanted to see, touch, and assail living glaciers, whose imperceptible motion he was convinced sculpted and furrowed the earth into spectacular landforms like those of his own Yosemite Valley.

Muir's experiences in Glacier Bay were quintessentially what the National Park Service would aim to provide visitors many years later. The land was at once a kind of school, offering up the most vivid lessons in glacial geology, and a kind of temple, touching Muir in less tangible ways. It also tested him physically, giving him at least two exciting brushes with disaster. What set Muir's experiences apart from the thousands of people who would come later was his unexcelled ability to put them into writing. Muir sent an account of his adventures in installments to the San Francisco Bulletin even before he got back to California. Muir further described Glacier Bay and southeast Alaska in public lectures and magazine articles. Eventually these writings were collected and refined in a book, Travels in Alaska, published in 1915, the last year of his life.

It was one and a half hours north of a tidewater glacier later named the Geikie (now retreated back into the low mountains above Geikie Inlet) that Muir found the first indelible signs of glacial action. "While camp was being made, I strolled along the shore to examine the rocks and the fossil timber that abounds here," Muir wrote in his naturalist vein. "All the rocks are freshly glaciated, even below the sea-level, nor have the waves as yet worn off the surface polish, much less the heavy scratches and grooves and lines of glacial contour." [4]

Farther up the bay Muir made more close inspections--particularly of the rocky hummock now known as Russell Island that was then just emerging from the glacier's grip--but increasingly his gaze was riveted on the mountains. At their second camp, after a solitary climb in wind and rain, Muir beheld his first expansive view of Glacier Bay--"a solitude of ice and snow and newborn rocks, dim, dreary, mysterious." Here his anticipation mounted as the wild weather teased him with ever greater views, and the school was transformed into the temple. "I held the ground I had so dearly won for an hour or two, sheltering myself from the blast as best I could, while with benumbed fingers I sketched what I could see of the landscape, and wrote a few lines in my notebook. Then, breasting the snow again, crossing the shifting avalanche slopes and torrents, I reached camp about dark, wet and weary and glad." [5] Finally, two days later, while camped at the very head of the bay, the clouds parted and the men witnessed the mountains' "baptism in the down-pouring sunbeams." And in the morning, watching the pink sunlight slowly wash down the snowy mountainsides, Muir found what he had come for. "Beneath the frosty shadows of the fiord," Muir wrote, "we stood hushed and awe-stricken, gazing at the holy vision; and had we see the heavens opened and God made manifest, our attention could not have been more tremendously strained." [6] Young later described the moment: "Suddenly I heard Muir catch his breath with a fervent ejaculation. `God Almighty!' he said." In the days that followed, Young wrote, Muir came back to this scene again and again. "Muir would break out, after a long silence of blissful memory, with exclamations: `We saw it! We saw it! He sent us His most glorious exhibition. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!'" [7]

Muir returned to southeast Alaska the next summer, again picking up Young and three new Tlingit guides in Fort Wrangell. This time they brought Young's mongrel dog, Stickeen. They found Hoonah deserted, the whole village out fishing and hunting. But more confident of their way now, they continued on into Glacier Bay as far as Muir Inlet. "In a few minutes after we landed," Muir wrote, "a huge berg sprung aloft with awful commotion, and the frightened Indians incontinently fled down the fiord, plying their canoes with admirable energy in the tossing waves until a safe harbor was reached around the south end of the moraine." Muir insisted on camping alone at a closer vantage point, "where I could watch the bergs as they were discharged and get night views of the brow of the glacier and its sheer jagged face all the way across from side to side of the channel." They spent a few days there and then headed out of the bay. [8]

Before heading south again, however, they inspected Taylor Bay and the Brady Glacier. It was on this glacier that Muir had a close brush with disaster which gave him the material for his most popular book, Stickeen. The story is about Muir and the dog and their adventurous day on the glacier. In the story's climax, Muir finds his return route cut off on three sides by crevasses, and weather and darkness closing in too quickly to retrace his steps. A perilously thin snowbridge offers the only way across--the most "plain and stern and merciless" alternative Muir ever encountered on his glacier walks, he later said. [9] Muir crosses first, but Stickeen hesitates. Then their eyes meet in a riveting moment of trans-species communication. Stickeen comprehends and comes bravely across. Stickeen was Muir's personal testament of his abiding respect for animals.

Muir's articles and lectures on Glacier Bay probably attracted more interest among tourists than among scientists as steamships began offering excursions up the Inside Passage in the early 1880s. As historian Ted C. Hinckley stated, Muir's "half-booster, half-scholarly articles and talks on Alaska carried the attractions of an Inside Passage vacation into tens of thousands of homes." [10] Muir would return to Glacier Bay twice more in 1890 and 1899, making modest contributions to a growing body of scientific data on the movement of the glaciers. In the meantime, the largest glacier in the bay would be named in his honor and would become the most renowned glacier in North America.

Marketing the Muir Glacier

The enthusiasm for Alaska's glaciers in the 1880s and 1890s is a striking example of what historian Alfred Runte has termed "monumentalism" in the development of the national park idea. As Americans explored and toured the West in the nineteenth century, Runte contends, they felt a compulsion to compare their country's natural splendors with Europe's famous landscapes and architectural works. They likened rock formations in the Southwest to ancient ruins, the Rocky Mountains to the Swiss Alps, and time-hewn canyons to Europe's cultural antiquities. They touted unique natural features like Yellowstone's geysers and California's giant sequoias as evidence that America made up in scenery what it lacked in monuments. Runte argues that monumentalism influenced how Americans appreciated nature in the nineteenth century. The latent nationalism in this kind of nature appreciation encouraged the creation of national parks. [11]

Glacier Bay's tourists described the scenery in monumental terms. John Muir boasted that all the glaciers of Switzerland could not equal the immense volume of ice that had so recently occupied Glacier Bay. One tourist compared the Muir Glacier to "a great castle whose towers and turrets had fallen to ruin," another to "the workshops and laboratories of the elder gods." The favorite metaphor for the Muir Glacier was "a frozen Niagara." The naturalist John Burroughs wrote of the Muir Glacier: "We realized that here is indeed a new kind of Niagara....Probably few more strange and impressive spectacles than this glacier affords can be found on the continent." [12] The comparison is significant given the fact that preservationists in the nineteenth century pointed to the ugly commercialization of Niagara Falls as a notorious example of what could befall the nation's scenic treasures if they were not protected. [13]

Tourist accounts invariably described the thunderous calving of icebergs into the bay as the most memorable spectacle of all. In the 1880s and 1890s, the Muir Glacier presented an ice wall nearly 300 feet high above the water line and two to three miles across. It was undoubtedly more active then than any tidewater glacier in Glacier Bay today. C. Hart Merriam recorded the scene in his diary on June 9, 1899:

We arrived a little before 5 p.m., just in time to see the birth of one of the largest icebergs that ever came off from Muir Glacier. The terrible event began by the fall of ordinary ice masses, weighing perhaps a few thousand tons, which in some way disturbed the equilibrium of other and vastly larger masses until it seemed as if a great part of the face of the glacier was sinking into the sea. The huge blocks of ice, 200 ft in height above the water and no one knows how thick below, at first slid & sank gradually, then faster & faster until they shot down with a thundering roar & disappeared under the water, to reappear and rise half their height & disappear again, & then dance and roll & finally shoot out into the current to move steadily down the bay. The wave caused by the first great plunge of the iceberg was one of the most impressive things I ever saw. [14]

The man most responsible for bringing tourists to Glacier Bay in the late nineteenth century was Captain James Carroll. Engaged in the growing commerce of lumber, fish, mining equipment, gold ore, and smuggled liquor between Pacific Northwest ports and southeast Alaska, Captain Carroll sought to add excursionists to the list. He hit upon the idea of marketing sightseeing trips to the huge glacier described by John Muir in Glacier Bay. He obtained a tracing of Captain L.A. Beardslee's chart of Glacier Bay (who had taken the first steamship, Favorite, into the lower part of the bay in 1880), and received advice from Muir that a good route lay up the eastern shore north of the Beardslee Islands that would take him to one of the largest glaciers in the bay. Carroll took passengers there on the steamship Idaho in July 1883, landing a party of tourists on the west shore of the inlet, which, together with the glacier, he named for John Muir. In 1884 he tried taking the sidewheel steamer Ancon to Muir Inlet, but its paddlewheels were "badly smashed" by floating ice. Undaunted, he brought more excursionists in subsequent years, and built a small dock in Muir Inlet and a boardwalk over the moraine to the glacier's surface. Later, Carroll navigated the West Arm, taking the steamship Queen into Queen and Rendu inlets. Carroll demonstrated that large passenger vessels could maneuver in the confining fiords. [15]

By 1890, the Pacific Coast Steamship Company had three vessels, George W. Elder, City of Topeka, and Queen, sailing fortnightly from Tacoma and Portland to southeast Alaska during the excursion season of May through September. The package tour included a night in Victoria, followed by twelve days on board the steamer. The highlight of the trip was Glacier Bay where the excursionist came "face to face with Muir Glacier." [16] By the end of the decade, the Alaska Steamship Company's Spokane, Dolphin, and Olympian were also visiting the bay.

The regular steamship service from Northwest ports to Glacier Bay provided unique opportunities for scientific field studies. During the 1880s and 1890s, the steamships brought no less than five prominent scientists in the field of glacial geology. Israel C. Russell devoted a chapter of his book Glaciers of North America (1897) to the Muir Glacier, as did George F. Wright in The Ice Age in North America (1889). Numerous articles featuring the Muir Glacier appeared in National Geographic Magazine and other journals. Just as the tourist traffic to Glacier Bay facilitated scientific research, so too these writings added to the Muir Glacier's renown and attracted more tourists.

Beginnings of a Scientific Tradition

The early glacier studies were still more important in establishing a scientific tradition in Glacier Bay. Each study contributed to a history of the rapidly changing landscape. This record steadily increased the value of Glacier Bay to future science. Forty years after Captain Carroll took the first steamship into Muir Inlet, Professor William S. Cooper would write that Glacier Bay offered a unique setting for ecological study, due to the rapidity with which plants were recolonizing vast areas laid bare by retreating glaciers, coupled with the "known history of glacier behavior" which made it possible to date various zones of plant growth. [17] Thus Glacier Bay's scientific values derived from natural and historical conditions; early scientists did not simply find Glacier Bay to be a valuable place for field study, but made it one. Pioneering studies in the 1880s and 1890s laid the foundation for a vital scientific tradition in Glacier Bay.

Glacial geology was still a young field of science (the term glaciology came into use in 1889). Originating out of an early nineteenth century interest in glaciated landforms, primarily in Great Britain and northern Europe, the new field raised the prospect of a past Ice Age when glaciers had been far more extensive than today. This notion gained general acceptance after the appearance of Louis Agassiz's Etudes sur les Glaciers (1840) and Systeme Glaciaire (1847). The key to the Ice Age theory was Agassiz's demonstration that glaciers move downhill, and will advance or retreat when there is a disequilibrium of ice accumulation at the high end and wasting at the low end. In the second half of the nineteenth century, glacial geologists focused on the problem of glacier movement, debating whether glaciers could slide or flow, and developing special instruments for measuring glacier movement. [18] The earliest field studies of the Muir Glacier followed in this vein, attempting to measure rate of motion by triangulating on stakes placed in a line on the glacier surface.

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, glacial geologists progressively widened their field of study from the Alps to other parts of the world. Glacial geologists searched on both sides of the Atlantic for Ice Age "horizons," or depositional formations marking the southern margins of successive continental glaciations. They also carried their studies to the far north, particularly Alaska, after discovering that glaciers in high latitudes advanced and retreated more rapidly than glaciers in mid-latitudes. The expanding scope of glacier studies was made possible in part by the development of transcontinental railroads and transoceanic steamships that brought far-flung glaciated areas within reach of most professional geologists.

One such geologist was Professor George Frederick Wright of Oberlin College Theological Seminary, whose interest in glaciers was heightened by the perceived conflict between "the evidence of man's occupancy of the continent during the great ice age...[and] the chronology of the human race supposed to be given in the sacred scriptures." [19] The study of glaciers in the nineteenth century was in fact tinged by a bit of the controversy surrounding Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and the origins of man, a problem that Wright addressed directly in his Studies in Science and Religion (1882). In the course of field research for his study of the Ice Age in North America, Wright spent a month observing Muir Glacier. In 1886, he became the first professional scientist to engage in field work in Glacier Bay, debarking on the east side of Muir Inlet with two companions, two hired Indians, some parcels of scientific equipment, and food for a month. Although they spent half the days listening to the drumbeat of rain on their canvas tents, they worked the other two weeks in brilliant sunshine, with an unobstructed view up Muir Glacier. Initial efforts to measure the rate of motion of the glacier failed because the glacier surface was melting so quickly all their stakes soon toppled over. In the latter two weeks Wright made triangulations on eight jutting ice pinnacles, from which he estimated that the glacier moved seventy feet per day in the center and ten feet on each flank, while the terminus, due to calving of icebergs, held steady. Calculating on the basis of a front wall 5000' wide by 1,000' high (mostly below sea level), Wright estimated that the Muir Glacier discharged 200,000,000 cubic feet of ice into the bay during that August. [20]

Wright's description of the Muir Glacier in The Ice Age in North America (1890) impressed Professor Harry Fielding Reid of the Case School of Applied Sciences in Cleveland. In 1890, Reid sailed on George W. Elder for Glacier Bay, accompanied by his colleague H.P. Cushing and four students, H. McBride, R.L. Casement, J.F. Morse, and C.A. Adams. Arriving at Muir Inlet July 1, 1890, they were surprised to find John Muir already there, having arrived a few weeks earlier on Queen. Muir was recording the glacier's movement in a log. The Reid party set up tents nearby and called the place Camp Muir. Some weeks later Captain Carroll brought Muir some pre-cut lumber for a cabin, which Muir built with the help of the Reid party. During rainy spells that August, Muir took his meals with the Reid party and they used Muir's cabin with its fireplace for passing time out of the weather. [21]

The Reid party measured the glacier's rate of flow with stakes and came up with an estimate about one-fifth that of Wright's. Reid believed the discrepancy could only be explained by an error in one set of data or the other, or by a remarkable change from 1886 to 1890. Reid corresponded with Captain Carroll about the amount of ice in Muir Inlet during these years and satisfied himself that "some undiscovered source of error [had] crept into Professor Wright's observations." [22] The Reid party also made a map of the area.

Reid returned with two assistants in 1892, occupied Muir's cabin for two months, and then accompanied Carroll on his exploratory trip with Queen into the West Arm. Reid explored the area around Rendu Inlet for three days, carefully surveying, mapping, and photographing numerous glaciers for the first time. He described the results from these two expeditions in the U.S. Geological Survey's Sixteenth Annual Report (1896).

The most famous scientific expedition to Glacier Bay was the Harriman Alaska Expedition. Sponsored entirely by the railroad magnate E.H. Harriman, the expedition included Harriman, his wife and children, 25 scientists, three artists, two photographers, and 65 crew. Harriman brought together some extraordinary talent: naturalists John Muir and John Burroughs; C. Hart Merriam, chief of the U.S. Biological Survey; William Dall and Grove Karl Gilbert of the U.S. Geological Survey; George Bird Grinnell, editor of Forest and Stream; and Edward S. Curtis, who was then a young studio photographer in Seattle and would soon be renowned for his portraits of Native Americans. Harriman chartered George W. Elder and had it specially furnished with a lecture hall and library. The ship left Seattle on May 30, 1899, for a two-month cruise of Alaska's waters, its coal bunkers filled and its hold stocked with eleven steers, a brace of horses, numbers of sheep, chickens, and turkeys, and a milch cow. Historian Roderick Nash called it "the most grandiose of all the cruises to Alaska....The Harriman Alaska Expedition marked a high point of nineteenth-century enthusiasm for the American wilderness." [23]

George W. Elder anchored in Glacier Bay for five days while the expedition members broke into small parties and set off on different pursuits. The botanists, zoologists, and ornithologists spent most of their time around Bartlett Cove and Point Gustavus while the geologists, including Muir, Burroughs, Dall, and Gilbert, explored the upper bay. Gilbert presented the geologists' findings in the third volume of the Harriman Alaska Expedition's publications, issued in 1904. Gilbert's brilliant discourse on glacial dynamics, accompanied by Henry Gannett's maps and Curtis's and Merriam's photographs, made this the best volume and most significant contribution to science that the expedition produced. [24] It also marked an expansion of scientific interest in Glacier Bay from glacier motion to glacier recession and the accompanying spread of plant and animal life into newly deglaciated areas. Muir, Wright, and Reid had all remarked upon the phenomenal retreat of the glaciers; now the accumulation of scientific observation over a twenty-year span made it possible to study the process.

Consequences of the Earthquake of 1899

A series of powerful earthquakes, centered around Yakutat Bay, shook the southern coast of Alaska in September 1899. Although no one was in Glacier Bay to witness them, the jolts apparently weakened Muir Glacier and caused massive calving of icebergs in the days following. Later that month, fishing boats could not reach a salmon saltery at Bartlett Cove for two weeks because the lower bay became so dense with icebergs. When the first steamship Spokane arrived the following summer, the captain encountered such a dense ice pack that he turned back in the area of the Marble Islands, thirteen miles from the Muir Glacier terminus. In subsequent attempts, two captains reached within five miles of the glacier, but hardly close enough to satisfy their passengers. [25]

Consequently, the Alaska Steamship Company began landing tourists on the Davidson Glacier on its ships' runs up Lynn Canal to Haines and Skagway, or offering excursions to Taku Glacier south of Juneau. It promoted Taku Glacier in its pamphlets, even though the reputation of Muir Glacier persisted. A writer for Alaska-Yukon Magazine described how the earthquake had changed the face of Muir Glacier so that it now looked "dead." He then continued, "While Taku Glacier was the better looking of the two, people who had made the long trip from the East were apt to feel that the trip was not quite complete so long as they could see Muir Glacier only from a distance." Nine years after the earthquake, the captain of Dolphin approached within a half mile of Muir Glacier, lowered some boats, and put two dozen tourists ashore, where the appreciative party erected a sign and posed for photographs on the glacier. Despite this stunt, the Alaska Steamship Company never resumed regularly scheduled excursions to Muir Glacier, and the smaller Taku Glacier remained Alaska's most marketed tidewater glacier for the next forty years. [26]

While the earthquake in some respects heightened scientific interest in Muir Glacier, it also showed scientists' dependence on the steamship companies. Without steamship service, they could not get into the bay and had to snatch what information they could from unconventional sources. In 1903, National Geographic Magazine published a letter and sketch map of Muir Glacier provided by C.L. Andrews of Skagway, with a note appended by the geologist G.K. Gilbert. Andrews's map showed the glacier's front had receded two and a half miles from its location in 1899, with an impenetrable ice pack extending out to Garforth Island. Gilbert and Andrews concurred that the earthquake was a "likely cause" of the drastic change in the glacier's appearance. [27] In 1907, Thomas Riggs, Jr., organized the American survey crew for the International Boundary Commission, whose extensive mapping revealed not only the positions of the glaciers, but the general lowering of their surfaces too, revealed by the appearance of "nunataks," or rock outcroppings surrounded by ice. [28]

The major study of Alaskan glaciers undertaken in this period actually passed up Glacier Bay in favor of the glaciers around Yakutat Bay and Prince William Sound. Ralph Tarr and Lawrence Martin received grants from the National Geographic Society for three seasons of field work in 1909-1911. Tarr and Martin were especially interested in the phenomenon of rapid glacial advance, or "surging," that had occurred in several glaciers and appeared to correlate with the earthquake of 1899. It had been suggested that the earthquake had broken up certain glaciers in some way that caused them to surge. Tarr and Martin proposed an alternative theory of "avalanche advance." The earthquake had shaken loose massive accumulations of snow on the mountain flanks which avalanched onto the glaciers' supply zones. The avalanche advance theory posited that the weight from this bombardment of snow, far greater than occurred from abnormally high precipitation, caused some glaciers to surge. [29]

Years later, Maynard M. Miller challenged the avalanche advance theory by showing that incidents of surging did not correlate significantly with the earthquake of 1899 after all. [30] But Miller said nothing of the supposed connection between the earthquake and the recession of Muir Glacier. Whether or not the spectacular glacial surges and retreats at the turn of the century resulted from the earthquake of 1899, they started a debate between those who believed large-scale, climatic changes caused glacial advances and retreats and those who saw peculiar, local factors as determining.

A Second Phase of Scientific Studies

The floating ice unloosed from Muir Glacier by the 1899 earthquake deflected scientific field work away from Glacier Bay for about a decade and a half. Then two scientists, one an ecologist and the other a glaciologist, each began a life-long association with the place that firmly re-established its scientific tradition. These men were Professor William S. Cooper of the University of Minnesota and William O. Field, Jr., of the American Geographical Society. Both Cooper and Field would be influential in defining the purpose of Glacier Bay National Monument.

Cooper traced his love of nature to one boyhood summer spent with his father in the Blue Ridge and Adirondack mountains. During his years as an undergraduate at Alma College in Michigan, he combined a deepening interest in ecology with mountain climbing in the Colorado Rockies and a kind of nature writing that a friend called "strongly reminiscent of that of John Muir." Torn between these different callings, Cooper dabbled in graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University, drifted from botany courses into an elementary geology course taught by the glaciologist Harry Fielding Reid, and transferred to the University of Chicago by way of another mountain climbing trip to Colorado. Twice that year, first while climbing in the Rockies and several months later in Chicago, Cooper suffered from heart troubles. Deciding that the strenuous life was not to be his, he set his course on science. [31]

At the University of Chicago, Cooper studied under Professor Henry Chandler Cowles, whose seminal work on "successional development" in plant communities in the Lake Michigan sand dunes had helped establish the new school of "dynamic" ecology. Together with University of Nebraska ecologist Frederic Clements, whose grassland studies proceeded independently yet parallel to his own work, Cowles introduced the concept of successional stages of plant communities leading to a "climax community," or steady state. Cowles discovered a vivid example of this principle on the shifting Lake Michigan dunes, where "a pattern of ecological development in space...paralleled the development of vegetation in time." A person could walk inland from the lake shore and observe, in order, water-tolerant plant communities on the beach, increasing varieties of grasses clinging precariously to the dunes, and finally the edge of the mature oak forest, a climax community, on the far side. [32] Walking his graduate students in their minds' eyes through these dunes, Cowles planted a seed that would eventually germinate in Cooper's study of plant succession in Glacier Bay.

After graduating from the University of Chicago, Cooper traveled to the Canadian Rockies and Alaska with his old climbing companion John V. Hubbard. This trip started him on a search, he later said, "for a situation where vegetational change and development were proceeding so rapidly that they could be studied with fair completeness in the span of a lifetime." [33] Returning to Minnesota, Cooper heard about Glacier Bay from Lawrence Martin. He also read John Muir's Travels in Alaska, published that year. On his second trip to Alaska with Hubbard two years later, Cooper hired a Juneau boat pilot, Captain Thomas P. Smith, and went to have a look. It was 1916; Cooper was thirty-two years old, beginning his second year on the faculty of the University of Minnesota.

Cooper later described his first expedition to Glacier Bay as "exceedingly modest." He and Hubbard used so much of their limited funds getting there that they had only ten days to explore. They managed to crowd a lot of work into the long summer days, however, "because of the rapidity of travel by water, the accessibility of many of the important localities, and the ease with which great stretches of mountainous shores [could] be surveyed." They visited and photographed every inlet and glacier except Johns Hopkins, gathering important data for the area's glaciology. For his own purposes, Cooper established nine permanent one-meter quadrats in three sites of varying distance from the glaciers. His intention was to resurvey the quadrats at five-year intervals in order to make a close study of changing soil and plant composition. [34] Explaining the scientific importance of Glacier Bay in Ecology, Cooper wrote:

Since 1879 the changes in position of the various ice fronts have several times been accurately mapped, and the geology and especially the recent glacial history have been well worked out. We thus have a continually expanding territory, quite fresh, exposed to plant invasion, and upon it we find the successive developmental stages displayed in definite logical order, from pioneers to climax. Moreover, because of the careful work of the geologists, we may lay our finger, so to speak, upon certain points where the length of exposure since the ice covering disappeared (subaerial age) is accurately known. Finally, invasion and development are sufficiently rapid so that noticeable changes take place within a period of five years. [35]

Cooper delivered a paper to the Ecological Society of America after his second trip to Glacier Bay in 1922. From this proceeding sprang the idea of preserving Glacier Bay in some kind of public reserve. Cooper headed the committee that brought this idea to fruition with the establishment of Glacier Bay National Monument in 1925 (see Chapter Three).

The national monument provided a great, outdoor laboratory not only for ecologists but for glaciologists in the tradition of Reid and Gilbert. During the next half-century, the central figure in glacier studies in the national monument was William O. Field, Jr. Field started his long association with Glacier Bay in 1926 at the age of twenty-two, the summer he graduated from Harvard University. With two classmates, he went to Alaska and chartered the motor vessel Eurus, skippered by Paul Kegel of Juneau, for a two-month trip to Glacier and Lituya bays. The trip was inspired by Field's reading of Reid, Gilbert, Martin, and Tarr, and the idea that "a party of youthful amateurs with no formal training in the science of glaciology" could make a contribution by photographing the glaciers from the same vantage points as appeared in these reports. The three young men poked into nearly every inlet of the bay, climbed up to the Brady Icefield, and rowed a skiff the last ten miles up Muir Inlet, zigzagging through the ice pack in rain and heavy mist. "In retrospect," Field would later write, "it seems incredible that more features...were not photographed. Mostly it was inexperience on our part in not appreciating what would be of interest in the future, but also partly due to the weather, which for most of the time was stormy and in other ways very unsatisfactory for photography." After that, he always made liberal use of his camera. [36]

Like Cooper, Field intended to return to Glacier Bay in approximately five-year intervals to document the changes. He received strong encouragement in this endeavor from Reid and Martin. He made field trips to Alaska in 1931 and 1935, the latter with Cooper. In 1940, he joined the staff of the American Geographical Society, served in World War II for three years with the photographic branch of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, and returned to become head of the Society's Department of Exploration and Field Research in 1947. Over the next twenty years, Field became a major force in glaciology. He continued his field trips to Glacier Bay and other parts of Alaska, amassing a collection of photographic data that eventually filled four volumes. Even more importantly, he coordinated and integrated multidisciplinary research projects and oversaw the development of a world data center for glaciology. [37]

If a single theme runs through Field's work on Glacier Bay, it is his hope that a fuller understanding of the complex pattern of glacial advances and retreats might eventually yield important insights into long-term climatic change. Field repeatedly cautioned that the study of glacier behavior in the Glacier Bay area was "still in a preliminary stage." [38] Most of what was known had to do with the terminal parts of the glaciers. The real key, Field argued, would be found above the snowline in the accumulation areas.

Cooper and Field both committed themselves to long-term studies in Glacier Bay even in the face of significant logistical problems. Their work formed a bridge from the pioneering studies by Muir, Wright, Reid, and Gilbert to the modern period of scientific research which began in the 1960s under the auspices of an established National Park Service presence. Without their efforts, it is not at all certain whether Glacier Bay would have been dedicated to the advancement of science.

Russell Island (at that time glacier-bound) and the Fairweather Range, drawn by J. A. Fraser in 1879 from a sketch by John Muir. (Century Magazine, June 1895.)

John Muir's Glacier Bay cabin, 1890. Left to right are John Muir, H. P. Cushing, C. A. Adams, H. McBride, Harry F. Reid, and R. L. Casement (on roof). Reid and Cushing were faculty members at the Case School of Applied Sciences in Cleveland; the others, save Muir, were their students. (J. F. Morse photo, from Dave Bohn, Glacier Bay; the Land and the Silence, 67.)

Steamer Queen at Muir Glacier, c. 1890. (Frank La Roche photo, in Dave Bohn, Glacier Bay; the Land and the Silence, 69.)

Glaciologist William O. Field, Jr. first visited Glacier Bay in 1926. He returned at intermittent intervals for decades afterwards. This 1966 photo was taken at Muir Inlet in conjunction with the Glacier Bay Lodge dedication. (Dave Bohn photo, in Glacier Bay; the Land and the Silence, 108.

Dave Bohn (left), in the midst of writing Glacier Bay, the Land and the Silence, spoke to 82-year-old ecologist William S. Cooper in June 1966, fifty years after Dr. Cooper's first observations at Glacier Bay. (Robert Howe Collection, photo GB 184.)

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Last Updated: 24-Sep-2000