National Geographic : 1891 May 29
90 I. C R ssell-Expedition to Mount St. Elias. mountains above, I forced my way for nearly a mile through dense thickets, frequently making wide detours to avoid the kettle holes. At length the vegetation became less dense, and gave place to broad open fields of rocks and dirt, covering the glacier from side to side. This debris was clearly of the nature of a moraine, as the ice could be seen beneath it in numerous crevasses; but no division into marginal or medial moraines could be distinguished. It is really a thin, irregular sheet of comminuted rock, together with angular masses of sandstone and shale, the largest of which are ten or fifteen feet in diameter. When seen from a little distance the debris completely conceals the ice and forms a barren, rugged surface, the picture of desola tion. After traversing this naked area the clear ice in the center of the gorge was reached. All about were wild cliffs, stretching up toward the snow-covered peaks above; several cataracts of ice, formed by tributary glaciers descending through rugged, highly inclined channels, were in sight; while the snow-fields far above gleamed brilliantly in the sunlight, and now and then sent down small avalanches to awaken the echoes of the cliffs and fill the still air with a Babel of tongues. Pushing on toward the western border of the glacier, across the barren field of stones, I came at length to the brink of a precipice of dirty ice more than a hundred feet high, at the foot of which flowed a swift stream of turbid water. A few hundred yards below, this stream suddenly disappeared beneath an arch way formed by the end of a glacial tunnel, and its further course was lost to view. It was a strange sight to see a swift, foaming river burst from beneath overhanging ice-cliffs, roar along over a bowlder-covered bed, and then plunge into the mouth of a cavern, leaving no trace of its lower course except a dull, heavy rum bling far down below the icy surface. A still grander example of these glacial streams, observed a few days later, is described on another page. The bank of the gulf opposite the point at which I first reached it is formed by a steep mountain-side supporting a dense growth of vegetation. Here and there, however, streams of water plunge down the slope, making a chain of foaming cascades, and open ing the way through the vegetation. It seemed practicable to traverse one of these stream beds without great difficulty, and thus to reach the plateau which I knew, from a more distant view, to exist above.
1892 Feb 19