Founding The Modern Park
On June 4, 1966, a small crowd assembled in the lobby of Glacier Bay Lodge for its opening dedication. The piney smell of the lodge's new furnishings mingled with the fragrance of spring growth on the tall spruce trees standing sentinel just beyond the balcony. On hand for the ceremony were Superintendent Robert E. Howe, former Superintendent Leone Mitchell, Senator Gruening, Glacier Bay mountaineer and historian Dave Bohn, and the featured guest, Dr. William S. Cooper, now in his eighty-first year. The monument's founding father held his audience rapt as he recalled his first visit to Glacier Bay exactly fifty years earlier. Cooper explained that for him the occasion was not only a celebration of the completion of Mission 66 for the monument and a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the NPS, but also "the celebration of a personal anniversary" as well. This was Cooper's sixth visit to Glacier Bay, and he respectfully asked to be invited back "every ten years" even if the invitation had to come "by spiritual messenger." 
The dedication of the lodge was a fitting occasion for looking forward as well as back. The lodge, although small, finally put the monument on the map as far as the tourist industry was concerned. Henceforth visitor use of the monument would climb steadily, assisted by the return of cruise ships after 1969, and stimulated indirectly by the new southeast Alaska car ferry system bringing tourists from Prince Rupert and Victoria, British Columbia. By the 1980s, Glacier Bay would be the fourth most visited tourist attraction in Alaska. 
Increasing visitation brought numerous management problems in its wake; indeed, for the first time in the monument's history, administrators dealt often with that staple of park management--conflicts between visitor use and preservation. To cite a few, administrators would try to preserve air quality from cruise ship stack emissions, protect humpback whales from excessive boat traffic, keep backcountry users away from brown bears, prevent overcrowding of backcountry sites from spoiling either the visitors' experience or the fragile vegetation, and avoid letting Bartlett Cove acquire the look of a boat marina or fishing camp. Many of these problems involved marine resources, and were therefore uncharacteristic of the national park system or even unique to Glacier Bay National Monument.
But 1966 marked a turning point in the administrative history of the monument for reasons that were national as well as local. The environmental movement of the 1960s and 70s was reshaping Americans' perceptions of ecology, wilderness, and humans' place in nature. This was fundamentally an urban, middle-class movement, with environmental concerns ranging from urban sprawl to nuclear fallout, DDT, endangered species, and wilderness preservation. Tying it all together was a renewed sense that our technological civilization could not isolate itself from ecological change, but had to confront it directly. Nature was far more fragile than previously thought. The Sierra Club's director, Michael McCloskey, said that aesthetic and ecological values animated the environmental movement, and wilderness preservation lay near the heart of it. 
There was debate about what qualities made "wilderness." For some it was primarily a matter of inaccessibility, an area where only the hardiest and most determined people could get. For others it was primitiveness, or the absence of human influences. For still others it was solitude, or the absence of other humans. In Park Service idiom, wilderness was the backcountry--the country beyond the roads and development. Congress gave wilderness areas a legal definition in the Wilderness Act of 1964. Wilderness was "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." The act founded a national wilderness preservation system made up of well-defined units called "wilderness areas" that cut across the jurisdictional lines of the various federal land management agencies.
From the outset the Park Service regarded the wilderness system as a distraction from its own mission of preserving examples of nature in the national park system, and moved reluctantly to designate wilderness areas within national parks and monuments as required by the act.  On the other hand, the wilderness preservation movement was no doubt a spur to the agency's serious introspection during the 1960s. President John F. Kennedy's secretary of the interior, Stewart Udall, whose book The Quiet Crisis (1964) considered environmental degradation to be the most serious threat to humankind, also demanded it. Udall initiated three influential studies that reoriented NPS policy in light of the new values embraced by the environmental movement.
The first of these studies produced the Leopold Report (1963), which reinvigorated the biological approach to management developed by the Wild Life Division in the 1930s. As a primary goal, it recommended that "biotic associations within each park be maintained, or where necessary re-created, as nearly as possible in the condition that prevailed when the area was first visited by the white man." Park managers could, if given adequate support for ecological research, strive to obtain "a reasonable illusion of primitive America."  The second report, by the Robbins committee (1963), aided the first by pointing out the low status of research in the Park Service. The third study, conceived in 1961 as a "socioecological analysis" of internal threats to the national park system posed by too much use and development, yielded an extended meditation by F.F. Darling and N.D. Eichhorn in Man and Nature in the National Parks (1967). Even more than the Leopold Report, this book sought to imbue NPS policy with a higher regard for wilderness preservation.
Darling and Eichhorn lamented that Mission 66 had tended to make the Park Service use visitor statistics as "valuable weapons in getting larger appropriations." Funds secured this way inevitably went to development that would encourage more visitation. Despite Mission 66's achievement, it had done "comparatively little for the plants and animals." The authors warned also of the danger that the Leopold Committee's desire to see parks and monuments managed as "vignettes of primitive America" would be misconstrued to mean that natural ecological changes should be resisted and the parks maintained as "static museum exhibits." Instead, the authors wanted "the wilderness character of the parks...preserved by permitting natural processes to continue." In finding that elusive balance between visitor use and preservation, park managers must allow their emphasis to depend on the park; they had to recognize that there were wilderness parks and parks for recreation. In the end, the authors suggested, much depended on the park manager's intuitive grasp of the NPS mission:
Secretary Udall formally approved the recommendations of the Leopold Report on May 2, 1963. The Park Service's interpretation of the requirements of the Wilderness Act, and a land classification scheme developed around the concept of a staging area or "threshold" on the periphery of wilderness, were codified in a 1970 handbook on NPS administrative policies.  These policy changes, together with Glacier Bay National Monument's coming of age as a significant tourist attraction, formed a new context for the monument's administration, which may be characterized most aptly as a primary concern with wilderness preservation.
Robert E. Howe started as superintendent of Glacier Bay National Monument in April 1966 and served until he retired in 1975. His staff had exceptionally high morale. One Howe appointee remains on the park staff today, while two other staff members under Howe now live in Gustavus; these men hold the former superintendent in high esteem. Since his retirement, Howe has made his summer home in Gustavus and is active in the Friends of Glacier Bay. Howe's influence upon the development of Glacier Bay National Monument was exceeded by few other individuals.
A native of Minnesota, Howe graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in wildlife management in 1942. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, Howe briefly attended graduate school on the GI bill, lived for a time in a cabin on an island in the lake country of northern Minnesota, and took his first job with the NPS at Natchez Trace, Mississippi. He worked as a ranger for more than ten years in Acadia National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, and Yellowstone National Park before becoming Yellowstone's park biologist in 1960. He served in that capacity for six years, supervising among other projects a contentious elk reduction program.
Howe was selected for the superintendent position in Glacier Bay National Monument from a large pool of applicants, perhaps because of his training and perspective as a wildlife biologist. The monument still lacked the intensive biological survey that had been recommended periodically over the past two decades. Moreover, the issue of Native seal hunting had arisen again in recent years and Howe, having worked on the elk reduction program in Yellowstone, was no stranger to controversy. But Howe says he recalls no definite reason having been offered as to why he got the job. 
Well before this appointment, Howe had decided that his career objective was to be the superintendent of "a large wilderness park." He had in mind a unit of the national park system with a big area and a relatively low profile. When he was superintendent, Howe did not push the idea of national park status for Glacier Bay, for the name change would only draw more attention and force additional development. Howe wanted to keep the concession small and preserve the area as a wilderness park. 
Howe put together a staff with a strong grounding in biology. He started with chief ranger Charles V. Janda, with whom he had worked in Yellowstone. During his first year he hired Gregory P. Streveler, a young Wisconsin man with an advanced degree in biology and one year's experience with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska, telling Streveler that he could make him a ranger until the day that he got a park biologist position funded.  In 1968, Howe hired the monument's first park naturalist, Bruce Paige, a young naturalist with a degree in wildlife management who was doing a stint with National Capital Parks in Washington and had written the superintendent earlier that he thought Glacier Bay National Monument was his first choice of a place to work, as it was like "what parks used to be."  Howe wanted personnel trained in biology in part because he initiated an inventory of the monument's biological resources. He, Janda, and Streveler started the study, and Paige participated in it later. Streveler and Paige produced a 72-page treatise, The Natural History of Glacier Bay National Monument, Alaska, in 1971. 
The superintendent offered whatever logistical and financial support he could for scientific research in Glacier Bay. Simply making M/V Nunatak II available for transportation and quarters could stretch a university research team's soft money much further, and Howe regarded this as a key function of the Park Service's mandate in Glacier Bay. The Institute of Polar Studies at Ohio State University took the lead in sponsoring research in Glacier Bay during the early 1960s, and it expanded its work under Howe's administration. Howe and his staff often joined these parties in the field or aboard M/V Nunatak II. 
Howe believed a superintendent needed to spend as much time as possible in the field; it was easy to get mired in paperwork. Howe soon made his summer headquarters at Bartlett Cove rather than Juneau, and frequently accompanied his rangers into the backcountry. Once he and his wife and son joined a family of tourists on their private boat trip up the bay. "Few Glacier Bay visitors will be lucky enough to have Superintendent Howe for a guide," Norma Spring wrote afterwards, "but our trip laid the groundwork for extended recreational use of this highly fascinating part of the United States. Howe is determined to give visitors a choice in experiences at Glacier Bay but at the same time he is dedicated to keeping its pristine personality." 
NPS officials had only a general idea how many people visited Glacier Bay each year during the 1940s and 50s, and their estimates did not differentiate tourists from Native subsistence users, commercial fishermen, or local residents. These numbers climbed from a few hundred annually around the end of World War II to a few thousand by the late 1950s. Monument staff tried to inflate the numbers whatever way they could. In 1958, Superintendent Mitchell asked the director for permission to show visitors arriving by automobile on the Gustavus-Bartlett Cove road as airplane visitors, when most of them undoubtedly were Gustavus residents, probably commuting to their boats tied up at the new NPS dock.  In 1959, monument staff were required to keep visitation statistics according to a standardized formula which essentially wrote off the commercial fishermen and other boaters who did not dock at Bartlett Cove. This lowered the count to 1,340 from 5,130 the previous year. 
An actual tourist had to be resourceful to visit Glacier Bay in the 1940s and 50s. Despite the opening of the Alaska Highway to the public and the advent of airline passenger service to Alaska after World War II, the monument remained inaccessible by road or public transportation. To get to the monument by air, one could charter a flight to the Gustavus airfield or a seaplane to Bartlett Cove at the exorbitant cost, in 1961, of $45 per hour. Charter boats usually cost considerably more, because with no boat fuel available on the 300-mile round-trip from Juneau only large craft could make the trip. One tourist in 1946 found an inexpensive berth on Captain Tom Smith's Leota as he was making his monthly mail and freight delivery to some miners in the upper end of Glacier Bay, but this, of course, was exceptional. 
In 1963, the state of Alaska started a car ferry service on the Inside Passage from Seattle to Skagway and Haines, Alaska, where motorists could pick up the new road connecting with the Alaska Highway at Haines Junction. Some 16,000 passengers disembarked at Juneau during the ferries' first year of service, a volume of traffic that the state's Department of Economic Development and Planning claimed it had not expected to see until the fourth year. Mitchell received numerous letters from people inquiring how they could get to Glacier Bay National Monument, and the general publicity given to southeast Alaska caused a significant increase in visitation by yachters in 1964-65. Mitchell reported that two "midwestern boats" visited the bay in August 1964, having been trailered to the West Coast and then put on the ferry to southeast Alaska. 
Mitchell stressed the need for visitor accommodations to allow boaters and airplane visitors a longer stay in the monument. He strongly favored using federal funds to construct a lodge and gas station for boaters at Bartlett Cove, and communicated these needs to Secretary Udall, NPS director George B. Hartzog, Jr., and Ernest Gruening, who now represented the state of Alaska in the U.S. Senate.
Gruening repeatedly took the Senate floor in 1962-64 to remind his colleagues of the need for visitor accommodations in Glacier Bay National Monument, which were promised according to Mission 66 plans for the area. Gruening put into the Congressional Record letters from Mitchell, passenger statistics for Alaska's new "marine highway," and even the entire budget of the U.S. Forest Service in order to make his point that Alaska was not receiving a fair share of Mission 66 funds. "It is tragic," Gruening told the Senate on one occasion, "that some of the most spectacular scenery in North America, administered by the Park Service, is able to offer so little in the way of accommodations to the tourist. This is a state of affairs contrary to the rationale of the federal park system."  On another occasion Gruening quoted Secretary Udall: "This is one situation where accommodations will have to be constructed by the Federal government and leased to a concessionaire. The season is so short that it is practically impossible to expect a private concessionaire to build these facilities." 
Congress appropriated nearly $1,000,000 for visitor accommodations in 1964 and construction began in 1965. That summer a large party of VIPs, including Udall, Hartzog, and the entire Advisory Board on National Parks, visited Glacier Bay. One member of the party, Assistant Secretary Stanley A. Cain, a former zoology professor and co-author of the Leopold Report, predicted that the bay would soon be served by the Alaska state ferry system--if not by car ferries then by smaller "feeder boats." He thought, too, that lodging at Bartlett Cove would eventually have to be expanded beyond the 50-guest maximum that was planned initially. 
In national parks, the demand for lodging and other amenities and the costs of offering such services vary widely. In some localities the NPS has had to constrain investment capital, while in others it has had to give it encouragement or even provide services itself. By the 1960s, the national parks provided visitor accommodations under a variety of schemes: 1) by private construction, ownership, and operation of hotels and other facilities; 2) by government ownership and private operation; 3) by government ownership and operation; or 4) by government ownership and non-profit or cooperative operation.  The Glacier Bay concession followed the second pattern.
Congress mandated stricter controls and uniformity of national park concessions in the National Park Concessions Act of October 9, 1965. Under the law, concessioners would contract with the NPS to offer prescribed services to the public at rates set by the NPS. In this controlled marketplace, concessioners worried less about business competition than they did about their contractual rights and obligations. With the law assuring them of a "reasonable opportunity" for making a profit "commensurate with the capital invested," the Park Service too often seemed to them like the arbiter of their profit margins. 
The Glacier Bay concession posed some special problems. It had long been evident that to get a lodge built in Bartlett Cove, the government could not wait for private capital to do it. What the monument needed was a businessman who would operate a federally-financed lodge and gradually assume the government's operational subsidies. This would be a long-term proposition in which private capital would initially play a small role. Despite the financial uncertainties, however, the Park Service wanted to make the area more accessible to tourists, and southeast Alaskans were equally desirous to see the monument begin to have the effect on Alaskan tourism that they had long been promised. Senator Gruening worked hard to get the necessary appropriation.
Superintendent Mitchell found a man named Frank Kearns to operate the concession. A native of west Texas, Kearns had come to Alaska in 1963 to serve as the governor's head of industrial planning. He held a doctorate in resource development and had worked for several years in forestry. When Superintendent Mitchell contacted him about the Park Service's planned development in Glacier Bay, Kearns turned it over in his mind and decided that he wanted to try it himself. It was an opportunity to combine a love of outdoors and a love of people. Having grown up in the Dust Bowl, Kearns liked to tell people, he understood financial risk. 
In 1966, Kearns formed Glacier Bay Lodge, Inc., and entered a contract with the NPS for a 25-year concession right. He was president and general manager of the company, and he and his wife and children were majority shareholders. The contract called for Glacier Bay Lodge, Inc., to make payments on the 20 units completed, and to invest later in the construction of 35 additional units. In its opening year the lodge had a 24% occupancy rate and lost $35,000, but by 1968 the occupancy rate was 84% and the company was turning a profit. In 1969, the lodge was filled to capacity much of the season and about 1,000 potential guests were turned away. Kearns wanted to move ahead with the expansion to 55 units but the Park Service nixed his plan. Kearns's proposal for the expansion involved a first mortgage loan from a private bank and a secondary loan from the Small Business Administration, and the Park Service refused to allow a private bank "first position" ahead of the Small Business Administration on the mortgaged property. 
The Park Service's caution was warranted, because two years later Kearns put together a different plan, went forward with the construction of the 35 additional units at a cost of $450,000, and at the end of the 1972 season Glacier Bay Lodge, Inc. was facing a serious cash flow problem. Kearns then tried to sell his company to the Tlingit and Haida Central Council, which was looking for investments for the $7.5 million it had won in the U.S. Court of Claims. Kearns wanted $1,750,000. The government still owned most of the lodge, while the company's main investment was in the 35 new units and boats. The company's greatest asset, Kearns said, was its contract with the government. "What we really have to sell is an earning situation covered by a contract for the next 19 years with preference rights for the time thereafter." 
Part of Kearns's financial difficulties stemmed from his speculative land purchases in the Gustavus area. In 1969, when the lodge was filled to capacity, Kearns founded Northern Ventures, Inc. and plowed most of his excess capital into 635 acres in the Gustavus area, envisioning a second, larger resort outside the monument. Ostensibly this scheme meshed with the Park Service's master plan for the monument, which suggested that the overflow demand for lodging could be met by private developers in the Gustavus area. But there was no assurance that Northern Ventures, Inc. would offer the kind of lodging that would complement the rather high-priced accommodations at Glacier Bay Lodge. Kearns's plan was to acquire approximately 2,500 acres and develop a sportsman's lodge, commercial boys' camp, condominiums, or even a "Corporate Playground for oil companies." Kearns wanted $1,000,000 for his land company when he put his concession up for sale in 1972. "Ownership of this land, together with ownership of Glacier Bay Lodge," Kearns maintained, "unquestionably carries with it a predominant role in determining the future of the Gustavus area." 
The possibility of the concession's sale to the Tlingits and Haidas stirred interest in a meeting in Denver of Kearns, Tlingit and Haida representatives, BIA officials, and three prominent Indians with experience in Indian industrial development.  The next thing that NPS officials learned, however, was that these negotiations had ended and the company had been reorganized. Apparently, Kearns persuaded some of the company's Denver-based shareholders to dig deeper into their own pockets. These shareholders, now owning a majority interest, made Kearns chairman of the board and elected Orion C. Shockley of Georgetown, Colorado president. 
The company's financial problems continued. During the 1974 season, lodge guests complained of skimpy, unappetizing meals and poor room service. Overworked, underfed lodge employees nearly went on strike, according to Superintendent Howe. Shockley persuaded the Park Service to buy the company's investment in the additional 35 units, in return for some promised improvements in the lodge's employee housing. 
Glacier Bay Lodge, Inc. also tried to get state ferry service to Gustavus, causing a brief squabble between Gustavus residents and the Park Service. A number of NPS employees who resided in Gustavus petitioned against this proposal, fearful that car ferry service would inundate the area with car and tent campers; they favored walk-on ferry service only. A group called Gustavus Residents for the Ferry then formed and charged the petitioners with ferrying personal items to and from Juneau on the NPS boat Nunatak III. This elicited a letter from Senator Ted Stevens to the NPS director, and disavowals by the Park Service either that Nunatak III was being used inappropriately or that the petition against ferry service represented an official position. The state of Alaska proposed docking ferries at Bartlett Cove, where restrictions against debarkation of cars would be a Park Service decision. To this the Park Service replied that it had no desire to be the "dog in the manger." Regional Director John A. Rutter said he had "no problem with foot traffic from a ferry," but the character of Bartlett Cove would be degraded by automobile traffic. Returning to the original source of this ferry service proposal, Rutter said he had "little sympathy" for the concession owners. "They have a tremendous product to market. They just haven't done very well with it." 
The company's fortunes finally began to improve in the late 1970s under the influence of a new board of directors, corporate officers, and new professional manager. Robert Giersdorf, a Seattle businessman and former Alaska Airlines official, soon emerged as the new man in charge. Giersdorf was a major promoter of southeast Alaska's resurgent tourist industry; his company, Alaska Tours and Marketing Services, Inc., had been the lodge's booking agent since 1973. Giersdorf had close ties to all the cruise ship companies operating in southeast Alaska. Eventually Giersdorf would become owner of Glacier Bay Lodge, Inc. as well as a second park concession, Glacier Bay Yacht Tours, Inc.
Although NPS officials agreed that the monument should remain essentially roadless, others outside the NPS wanted to make the scenery accessible to the automobile tourist. Their road proposals usually were an extension of new road development beyond the boundaries of the monument. Although these road proposals never got off the drawing board, their significance lies in the fact that NPS planners had to be mindful of regional influences upon the unfolding pattern of visitor use in the monument.
The first significant road development in the region was the Army's rapid wartime construction of the Haines cutoff from Haines, at the northern tip of the Inside Passage, north to the Alaska Highway. The Army considered extending this road southward down Lynn Canal and over the Chilkat Range to Excursion Inlet, but the plan never got very far. Once this rudimentary need of national defense was met, southeast Alaskans had to wait another decade and a half before a pulp industry, Alaska statehood, and a state-supported ferry system made further road development worthwhile.
Ernest Gruening was the most persistent advocate of road development in Glacier Bay National Monument. He told the Senate in 1962 that with Alaska state ferries soon to be bringing approximately 300 cars each day--mostly belonging to tourists--from Seattle and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, to southeast Alaska, there was a need for ferry service to Gustavus and a road into the monument past the main development at Bartlett Cove to a secondary staging area at Sandy Cove.  This went beyond the Park Service's master plan concept of a small development at Sandy Cove accessed only by water. Superintendent Howe's 1967 revision of the master plan gave only tepid support for a "sightseeing and backcountry base farther up the bay than Bartlett Cove," and in the years leading to the preparation of the monument's wilderness proposal, Howe decided to drop the Sandy Cove development entirely. But Gruening held to the idea of automobile access farther into the monument. He would phone Howe on the spur of the moment and suggest a quick boat trip to Sandy Cove. Arriving at Sandy Cove, Howe recalls, they would cut the boat's engine and drift for awhile, and soon the Senator would reach into his black coat, pull out a half pint of vodka, have a toast with the superintendent, look around a little more, and then order the boat back to Bartlett Cove. That was Gruening's friendly way of keeping the Sandy Cove development plan alive. 
For several years people talked of building a road from Lynn Canal over Endicott Gap to Adams Inlet or, alternatively, to Gustavus. Proposed by Gruening as early as 1961, the Lynn Canal-Adams Inlet road was discussed in public hearings held in Juneau, Haines, and Skagway in 1975 during consideration of a new road down the west side of Lynn Canal from Haines to a point where a short ferry crossing would connect with the northern terminus of Juneau's Glacier Highway. The Park Service went on record against the road, suggesting that ferry service the length of Lynn Canal had much less environmental impact. A road over Endicott Gap, wrote one NPS official, "would severely scar the terrain in an area of the Monument which is proposed for wilderness designation."  The pressure on the Park Service to consider road development abated quickly when it became evident that public support was lacking even for a road down Lynn Canal.
Cruise ship passengers account for about four-fifths of all visitors to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve today. Most of these passengers spend one to two days in the park sailing from the entrance of the bay up the West Arm as far as Johns Hopkins or Tarr Inlets--virtually traversing the park--yet they never set foot on land. All of these park visitors are exposed to the park's interpretive program, as park naturalists board the ships near Bartlett Cove and accompany them up the bay and back. This has been the primary visitor use pattern in Glacier Bay since 1969.
A number of Canadian cruise ships plied the waters of Glacier Bay during the 1950s, but this traffic all but ceased by the 1960s. Cabin cruisers and fishing boats were the largest vessels in the area for several years. As late as 1967, an interpretive planner predicted that most visitors to Glacier Bay in the future would arrive by air.  It took the monument's staff by surprise, therefore, when the cruise ship Mariposa entered the bay in the fall of 1969, her old Alaska pilot gamely taking her up to the snout of the Grand Pacific Glacier. 
Superintendent Howe saw the cruise ship as an opportunity, a way of making the scenery available to thousands of visitors with minimal impact on the resources. (Even with hindsight, Howe still feels the same way. Twenty kayakers making consecutive camps around the bay, in his opinion, have more impact than a cruise ship covering the same distance with several hundred passengers aboard.)  Howe's park naturalist, Bruce Paige, was enthusiastic too. By putting naturalists on board the cruise ship, the monument's interpretive programs could be taken to the points of interest. The cruise ship was potentially a kind of floating visitor center. It could obviate the need for a large visitor center at Bartlett Cove. Moreover, the cruise ship served as a form of mass transit; it was energy efficient. 
As innovative as this was, it reflected the prevailing trend in the Park Service's mission to educate park visitors--namely, to encourage visitors to learn through direct experience, rather than simply to impart knowledge to them about the park. The aim of interpretation was "not instruction, but provocation."  Ideally, the cruise ship's passage through the monument would be like a giant guided nature walk. Paige, Janda, and other staff members who devised an interpretive program in 1970 would have agreed with the reference book on NPS policy published that year, which maintained that "interpretation of natural features is more effective in an outdoor, onsite setting." 
Skeptics wondered how effective a naturalist could be on a cruise ship when he or she would have to compete with a dance band, casino, and cocktail lounge for an audience. This was a new generation of vessel designed exclusively for the vacationer whose idea of a cruise put considerable emphasis on fine foods and entertainment. There was some sentiment that viewing Glacier Bay from a cruise ship was too commercialized, that the passenger remained too distant from the forested shoreline and too far above the water to commune with nature, even that the ship violated the wilderness. In 1966, Dave Bohn had suggested in The Land and the Silence that Glacier Bay ceased to be wilderness the day the first steamer chugged past Point Carolus. Although he was referring to Favorite in 1880, his words acquired new meaning after the appearance of Mariposa in 1969:
But it was precisely the reverse of this thought--visitors to Glacier Bay could appreciate more and more of the area by having their attention drawn to points of interest or their curiosity piqued by exciting insights from NPS interpreters--that motivated the monument's interpretive planners to devise a program uniquely tailored to the cruise-ship passenger.
The staff wished to put naturalists on board every cruise ship entering the bay, preferably in pairs, where they provided everything from children's programs to commentary over the public-address system. Each naturalist came equipped with a foot locker, or "sea chest," containing instructional materials, relief maps, a film, and a light-weight easel for displaying an aerial photograph of the bay, on which the naturalist plotted the ship's position. One of the most challenging aspects of the program was the boarding operation, which required a skilled boat operator to ferry the naturalists out to the cruise ship as she approached Sitakaday Narrows. Keeping the boat alongside the ship as she cruised along at five knots while the naturalists got their footing on the Jacob's ladder proved difficult under any conditions, but became especially tricky in rain or heavy seas. In addition, the 100-pound sea chest had to be hauled up a rope ladder into a side hatch of the cruise ship. 
The attractions of Glacier Bay--and the monument's free interpretive service--caught on quickly in the cruise ship industry. After Mariposa visited Glacier Bay in the fall of 1969, the Park Service notified all the cruise ship companies operating in southeast Alaska that the monument would provide interpretive services the next season if they wanted to add Glacier Bay to their itineraries. More than a score of cruise ships entered the bay the next year, and all took NPS naturalists aboard.  More than 15,000 tourists visited the monument on cruise ships that year, and the number nearly tripled by 1975.
Howe thought cruise ships a boon for his overall objective of managing a wilderness park. With the coming of cruise ships, a definite visitor circulation pattern developed in Glacier Bay National Monument. As anticipated, Glacier Bay proper formed a kind of marine highway along which most of the visitors traveled. But the cruise ships simplified the visitor circulation pattern even further, for there was no more need for a major visitor center on land, nor a secondary development at South Sandy Cove, nor the liberal sprinkling of dolphins proposed back in 1942 for self-guided boat tours. Both Howe's master plan and wilderness proposal, completed in the early 1970s but never approved, conceived of a visitor circulation pattern based on a wilderness core and periphery model. The monument consisted of three use zones: the Glacier Bay Zone, Mountain Zone, and Coastal Zone. Virtually all development (except backcountry shelters and floating patrol cabins) was confined to the Bartlett Cove/Gustavus use "node" located at the periphery of the Glacier Bay Zone, while the vast waterway of Glacier Bay constituted a "threshold" into the wilderness. Aside from a few backpacking and mountain-climbing routes, Howe foresaw no development of the Mountain Zone, which began more or less at the water's edge, or beyond the commonly used beach campsites. Finally, the Coastal Zone saw the least amount of use and would remain undeveloped.
Howe was probably correct in thinking that the cruise ship preserved the monument from another more damaging pattern of visitor use. In view of the pressures on the Park Service to build one or more roads into the monument, and the agency's own estimates of future visitor use reaching into the hundreds of thousands by the early 1970s, it is no wonder that the first cruise ship was greeted with much favor in 1969.  By the late 1970s, cruise ship traffic would reach large enough proportions to create serious aesthetic and environmental problems of its own, causing some people to wonder if the first cruise ship had not been a kind of Trojan horse. But as the Park Service worked through other problems of resource protection in the 1960s and 70s--Hoonah Tlingit seal hunting, a proposed major mining development, wilderness designation--the cruise ship appeared to have neatly solved the problem of ensuring sustainable visitor use.
Last Updated: 24-Sep-2000