This is Auke Bay, it's about ten miles from downtown Juneau and right next (i.e. through a barrier of impenetrable trees and devil's club) to the UAS campus. The harbor is, of course, down and to the right. I'm pretty sure this is Thunder Ridge in the background, though I could be mistaken. I'll get better with the names as the summer goes on, I'm sure. Because everything has a name. This picture is taken by the Southeast Waffle Company - a pro-Christian coffee shop and waffle house where excellent hot cocoa is $2 for a large and a $1 for a small, and let's not even talk about how awesome their omelet waffle is.
Years later, in August 02010, TJ would meet another traveller from Juneau while he was in Alabama. The man would diss the Waffle COmpany's prices and he and TJ would thereafter never speak again. As TJ told me, he just got a bad vibe from him. Anyone who doesn't like the SWC is a bit crazy.
I'm going to try to flesh out the rain forest concept with a series of pictures showing just how much life there is here and what happens to it when it "dies". This may remind you of the vivatorium pictures from the first album as, indeed, it should.
This was taken walking down near Auke Lake. The tree's diameter is at least three feet.
By Auke Lake.
By Auke Lake, note that this is a log.
By Auke Lake
This is looking up Mendenhall Loop road towards the turn-off for housing. There's a glacier visible, but it isn't mine. Perhaps it's suicide falls? This is probably about eight in the evening or so - there's another three to four hours of daylight left.
I really won't think about leaving Alaska until near the end, but walking by the harbour reguarly, I'm increasingly beginning to think I would like to sail home.
This is on a walk I took with Rosemary whilst in search of geocaches and new milieus. The sign is directly across from the Ferry Terminal. Sans the ferries, the only way out is by plane. Interestingly, the ferries are actually part of the Alaskan Marine Highway and, given this, you can find directions for driving to Juneau on any map site since the AMH is labeled as a highway on maps.
This was a candid shot which I felt was funny.
This is me relaxing near Mendenhall Lake before we hike up to the glacier.
The glacier is generally north of me, and we'll be hiking up the west side of the lake. That long rocky hill crossing in front of the glacier is actually a peninsula which was covered just twenty or thirty years ago.
My glacier and me. The bare rock to the left and middle has all been recently exposed. We're on the peninsual now.
The glacier. The bare rock is, once again, recently (<20 years) exposed. The glacier melts at about 1/4 the speed on its terrestrial fronts as it does on the lake front. This is perhaps made up for by the terrestrial fronts being so much longer.
This is a natural ice arch leading down to a part of Mendenhall Lake completely cut off from the rest by almost a quarter mile of ice.
After my adventures on the Superior Trail, and elsewhere, I've come to swear by hiking poles. Unfortunately, all we have here is this bent up ski pole!
This is a crevasse. It should be obvious why falling in would be a bad idea.
Sometime in the summer of 02009, I'll be in an utterly different part of the world and find myself dreaming about crevasses and wake up screaming with a friend trying to comfort me. It's not the fall that gets you, it's the inescapable loneliness of the bottom. These are one of the few things I identify as scaring me.
For a sense of scale, these people are going on a walk on the glacier (with cramp-ons, ice axes, and ropes). They'll following the fin of ice they're on as far up as possible since, to either side, there are crevasses.
I feel like only a few of my pictures managed to capture the sheer immensity of Mendenhall, which isn't even a terribly large glacier as these things go. Certinaly it's the case that my trip to the Greenland ice cap didn't provide this sort of photo.
Glaciers are big and they're always changing. These people are trekking off into the unknown. They may be only an hour's hike from the Visitor's Center, and twenty minutes from there to downtown Juneau. You can even see them through telescopes from the Visitor's Center, but in some ways, they're as distant as the moon.
On the way back we went geocaching. Kevin on the left, Ge'Yanni in the back left, Rosemary in the back right, and Dinorah on the right.
Geocaching will actually be a pretty regular activity for our group, though Juneau doesn't have many of them.
I see this peacock on the way to work. Tourists can stop by Swampy Acres to ride horses, see peacocks, and, presumably, enjoy other varieties of Alaskan adventure. More seriously, though, I think it and its mate are the only "exotics" present.
This is a view down the channel towards downtown Juneau. The cleft between the two mountains is a fairly deep channel, but not for long. Since the end of the last ice age, the ground here has been (and still is) rising about 1/2" per year. Eventually all this will be solid ground.
And this has meant that property laws in Juneau are needing review in light of the increasing amount of land available to shore-front properties. The assumption of a constant water level is unexpectedly important here.
I found the end of the rainbow while out walking.
And metaphorically as well, Juneau's the only place I've been to that I can imagine living, so far.
As part of my work it's sometimes necessary to go kayaking on Mendenhall Lake. There aren't too many pictures from this since pulling my camera out of my dry bag makes me nervous. These are icebergs floating around. The water's around 1–2 degrees Celsius.
"Necessary" is an over-statement. I try to ensure that my work involves as much of this sort of thing as possible. Coming to Alaska was part of an attempt to resolve a continuous tension I felt, and still do feel as I write this (9/2/10, Minneapolis) to tie science and the outdoors together. In Juneau, I succeeded, but finding ways to prolong or reinvent that success elsewhere has proved somewhat difficult.
Approaching the glacier…
Under the waterskirt of the kayak, I'm producing goodly warmth, but, as I get closer to the glacier and spend more time on the lake, I can feel the cold start to seep through. WFR will refer to the 1-10-1 rule. When you fall into water this cold, the shock lasts about one minute, you get about ten minutes of meaningful movement, and, one hour later, you'll go unconscious from the hypothermia.
This waterfall is the collected melt water from the underside of most of the glacier. It produces a crazy rip-current as it hits a tongue of the glacier projecting around, to the left, and behind me. Very difficult to paddle against, very easy to flip. It should probably be noted that the waterfall is a natural phenomenon and these have been around for thousands of years; the problem is not the calving or the melting, just the rate at which it's happening.
Check out that cliff; I'm going to climb it.
Another picture of the side of the glacier. Note the stress fractures as it comes downhill.
My favourite picture of the summer so far. Two of us brought out a canoe with my equipment in it. We pulled the kayaks and canoe together in the middle of the lake for stability and dropped a buoy in. The buoy has five temperature sensors on it which will depict the lake's temperature at various depths. Presumably, the drainage of supraglacial lakes (lakes on top of the glacier farther up) will cause visible temperature inversions; it is an open question as to how this affects the calving.
Those two have a survey-grade GPS with them (accuracy on the scale of centimeters) and are mapping the terminus of the glacier. Someone or someones risks their life every three weeks or so to get this data. We use it to produce retreat maps for scientists and visitors to the glacier (it's the most visited glacier in the world). We can also calculated, roughly, how much ice has been lost.
This yields maps which look like this (from summer 02007):
The lines are as follows: Purple (May 12th), Yellow (June 7th), Orange (July 2nd), Red (September 4th). As of the last point, the terminus was 0.48 miles wide and 1.1 miles from the Visitor's Center. Daily retreat was, on average, 2.9 feet for water, 0.46 feet for land for 460 lake feet and 70 land feet over the summer. This equates to an estimated ice loss of 10 million cubic feet: enough to bury a football field beneath 1.2 miles of ice.
Not a happy place to be…
The terminus from a distance, up by one of our wireless communication points.
Take note of those cliffs behind the glacier, especially that reedy waterfall. Later in the summer, I'm going to try to climb those… and it's not going to go well.
Rob Fatland shot this as we were over by the far western side of the calving front. This is out of the main flow of the ice, so the bergs aren't as high, or, hopefully, as dangerous. Later on, we'd drift by some of the big ones. I had a fascinated horror was we drifted closer to 200' chunks of ice leaning over us and Rob, when he turned around and noticed, said, "Oh! Look where we are…" and was silent for a moment. Then, we all paddled like crazy.
The ridiculous part of this is that I found a way to predict Mendenhall's calving such that you could see which parts of the terminus would be dangerous before going out there. You couldn't do this with small chunks breaking off the bottom, but the huge calvings were quite visible.