National Geographic : 1891 May 29
104 I. C. Russell-Expedition to Mount St. Elias. Before leaving the base-camp I visited Black glacier for the purpose of taking photographs and studying the appearance of an old glacier far spent and fast passing away. This, like the Galiano glacier, is a good example of a great number of ice streams in the same region which are covered from side to side with debris. The cation walls on either side rise precipitously, and their lower slopes, for the height of 200 or 300 feet, are bare of vegetation. The surface of the glacier has evidently sunken to this extent within a period too short to allow of the accumula tion of soil and the rooting of plants on the slopes. The banks referred to are in part below the upper limit of timber growth, and the adjacent surfaces are covered with bushes, grasses, and flowers. Under the climatic conditions there prevailing, it is evident that the formation of soil and the spreading of plants over areas abandoned by ice is a matter of comparatively few years. It is for this reason that a very recent retreat of Black glacier is inferred. Many of the glaciers in southern Alaska give similar evidence of recent contraction, and it is evident that a climatic change is in progress which is either decreasing the winter's snow or increasing the summer's heat. The most sensi tive indicators of these changes, responding even more quickly than does the vegetation, are the glaciers. The fourth of July was spent by us in cutting a trail up the steep mountain slope to the amphitheatre visited during my first tramp. No one can appreciate the density and luxuriance of the vegetation on the lower mountain in that region until he has cut a passage through it. Seven men, working continuously for six or seven hours with axes and knives, were able to open a comparatively good trail about a mile in length. The remainder of the way was along stream courses and up bowlder-washes, which were free from vegetation. In the afternoon, having fin ished our task, a half-holiday was spent in an exciting search for two huge brown bears discovered by one of the party, but they vanished before the guns could be brought out. The next day an advance-camp was made in the amphitheatre above timber line, and there Mr. Kerr and myself passed the night, molested only by swarms of mosquitoes, and the day fol lowing occupied-an outstanding butte as a topographical station. In the afternoon of the same day the advance-camp was moved to the border of the Atrevida glacier at a point already described, where a muddy stream gushes out from under the ice.
1892 Feb 19