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American Alpine Club Research Fund

American Alpine Club Research Fund

The American Alpine Club Research Fund was established in 1945 to promote scientific, literary, educational or historical research and publication related to mountaineering, geology or geography. The trustees of the Fund are William B. Osgood Field, Jr., Joel E. Fisher, Weldon F. Heald, Christine L. Orcutt and Walter A. Wood. In the ensuing pages, projects of the years 1947 and 1948 are reviewed.*


Maynard M. Miller, Director

In an effort to record the present position and character of the small glaciers in the Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming, I chartered a small airplane on 5 July 1947 and observed the range from the air. Ray Garner, of Phoenix, Arizona, acted as pilot and with his combined skill and interest in the project helped obtain an aerial photographic record of the nine largest remaining glacier masses in the Park. Although it was early in the summer and the terminal portions of several of the glaciers were not yet exposed by the melting snow, we were able to see the positions of most ice fronts. Of special significance was the astoundingly fresh appearance of the terminal moraines, which in many cases have been practically unblemished either by erosion or by vegetation cover since the ice retreated from their inner sides. Some of these moraines are tremendous; they stand as much as hundreds of feet in height, indicating a very strong and important recent advance. The great distance between the present ice level and these moraines, and the relative tininess of the area now covered by the actual glacier, indicate an even more startling recent recession, probably within the last 60 to 100 years. The implication is that these Teton glaciers are not remnants of a slowly wasting Pleistocene source, but rather came into being after the Pleistocene geological time stage in what has been described as the “Little Ice Age” of our own times1 and are now suffering very rapid shrinkage. If the present trends continue, a few more decades will see no glaciers at all in the cirques and hanging pocket valleys of these high and magnificent granite peaks.

In detail the following glaciers were observed and photographed from the air: Falling Ice Glacier, Skillet Glacier and Triple Glaciers, all on the east and north flanks of Mount Moran; Teton Glacier, with its tremendous morainic cusps; Tepee Glacier, in a steep cirque on the east face of the Grand Teton. Farther south, the Middle Teton Glacier was photographed to tie in with ground observations made a few days before this flight. The several unnamed glaciers on the west side of the range were observed as well.

A perusal of available earlier records of these Teton glaciers indicates that data useful for comparative analysis are sparse. A few mountaineers in recent years have taken photographs which are useful, and Dr. W. S. Ladd on 9 July 1940 obtained fine aerials of the two Teton Glaciers and of Falling Ice and Skillet Glaciers on Mount Moran. These are helpful in showing relative conditions in the last eight years. Any additional views in years to come, whether by alpinists or by persons travelling over the range in aircraft, will be most useful in furthering this study and should add significance to the systematic record now begun. Such contributions should be obtained as late in the summer as possible, preferably in August, when bare blue ice is exposed. Also, observations on the elevation of the late summer snowline will be useful in correlation with similar studies made in the other great mountain and glacial areas on the North American continent. A critical analysis of such glacier fluctuations is being carried out by the Department of Exploration and Field Research of the American Geographical Society in New York City as part of a worldwide investigation. Closely coordinated with this is the glaciological program of the American Alpine Club Research Fund, which supplied film for this aerial study.


Maynard M. Miller, Director

In July 1947 I had the good fortune to return to Alaska and to fly over a large portion of glaciated country which I had never seen before. At the same time I was able in the course of a very few days to fill in a number of gaps in the glacier record which the Department of Exploration and Field Research of the American Geographical Society has been accumulating during recent years. Some of these gaps were in districts along the southeast coast, where I had been making ground surveys of glacier termini with William O. Field, Jr., in 1941 and with William Latady in 1946.

An unusually fine break in coastal weather permitted a much more rapid photographic survey than I had dreamed possible. Using a German Combat Aerial Camera and a Speed Graphic, I was able to take more than 300 photographs for the collection at the American Geographical Society. This accumulation is being used for correlative comparison studies with thousands of other photographs and information garnered in the last few decades from Alaska’s glacier areas. It was through a grant from the American Alpine Club Research Fund that sufficient film was purchased for these 1947 flights.

Following the pattern of our 1946 field investigations, I began at the Stikine River near Petersburg, where a number of glaciers were photographed for the record. Among these was Le Conte Glacier, having the farthest south tidewater glacier terminus on the earth. In general, the ice masses in this forested-fiord district are slowly but steadily receding and thinning. Farther north, however, in the vicinity of Juneau, the huge Taku Glacier and its distributary, Hole-in-Wall Glacier, are continuing to advance, as they have for half a century, from a source deep in the heart of the ice field back of Juneau. The explanation of this anomalous advance is extremely interesting because of the unusual conditions pertaining to the probable nourishment of the Taku as compared to those attending other similar large glaciers along the coast.

While flying over Glacier Bay, 100 miles northwest of Juneau, I observed the Carrol and Hugh Miller Glaciers and brought up to date missing elements in the ground survey Latady and I had made, in conjunction with Douglas Brown, of Meriden, Connecticut, one year before. General recession and thinning is still the pattern in most parts of Glacier Bay, though interesting recent advances have been recorded in Reid and Tarr Inlets. The rapidly shrinking Muir Glacier indicated possibly another eighth-of-a-mile retreat in the ten months since I had visited it. In contrast, the glaciers on the west side of the Fairweather Range from Cape Spencer to the Alsek River showed several major ice streams apparently holding their own and showing practically no recent retreat. La Perouse Glacier and the large unnamed ice front south of it were both within a very few hundred yards of a mature forest trim line. The advanced termini seemed to be those flowing from high-level névés in the vicinity of Mount Crillon and Mount Lituya; whereas generally to the south, toward the low-level Brady Ice Field, and to the north in the direction of Dry Bay, the larger glacier termini showed more prominent and significant recessional change.

The third area flown over was the rugged and seldom visited region of the upper Alsek River and the spectacularly steep valley of receding Melbern Glacier and its tributaries north of Grand Pacific and Muir ice fields. Here a sporadic covering of clouds precluded photography on a number of interesting tongues of ice; however, a few important glaciers were photographed and enough seen to suggest the need for further investigation. This was once an area covered with tremendous thicknesses of glacial ice, but at present the remaining glaciers are waning rapidly. Concentric recessional moraines on some of these glaciers indicated several periods of recent advance and retreat—in many ways similar to the pattern indicated in the Teton survey made earlier in the summer of 1947. On this same flight the coastal glaciers which drain onto the vast Yakutat Plain from the southern peaks of the St. Elias Range were photographed and a record continued on Fassett, Rodman, Chamberlain and Yakutat Glaciers, all of which seemed to show recent change, several prominently in retreat.

The advancing fronts of Hubbard and Turner Glaciers in Disenchantment Bay were observed, and the continued recession of Nunatak, Hidden and other glaciers in Russell Fiord was also recorded on aerial film. The small and delicately balanced high- level glaciers and the dirty, moraine-covered, wasting surfaces of Miller, Haenke, Black and Galiano Glaciers in the vicinity of upper Yakutat Bay were noted with special attention. The huge 1300- square-mile expanse of the Malaspina piedmont ice sheet was flown over and many photographs of the fracture patterns and the fantastically contorted medial moraines obtained. This also included an extensive aerial reconnaissance of the Guyot and Tyndall Glaciers in Icy Bay. This newly formed body of water is continuing to be enlarged by the recession of the unusually spectacular and active Guyot Glacier front, although it seems that this retreat has slowed down considerably in the last ten years. The broad terminus of the Bering Glacier, another vast expanded bulb of ice similar to the Malaspina, was observed; and some of the interesting avalanche-fed glaciers dissecting the seaward scarp of the Robinson Hills were photographed on the return flight east of Yakataga.

I flew west to Cordova a few days later and in that district covered, among others, the Sheridan and Sherman Glaciers near the Copper River. These, too, showed signs of retreat. On the other hand, farther to the west in the northern inlets of Prince William Sound, I saw some large glaciers advancing. This latter region, therefore, seems to show marked contrast to the trend of recession in most other parts of Alaska, although the conditions are somewhat analogous to those seen in the vicinity of Lituya Bay west of the Fairweather Range. The mighty Columbia Glacier, however, exhibited recession of a few hundred feet since the 1935 observations made by Field. This particular flight took me across the Chugach Range to Anchorage, and en route I was able to photograph Knik Glacier and others in the vicinity of Lake George.

A satisfactory interpretation of the recent behavior of the glaciers surveyed by the above flights must await the completion of much more field work, including not only a continuation of the studies already well begun in the terminal portions of the zone of wastage, but also an integration with high-level studies in the zone of accumulation. It also awaits a thorough study of current meteorological and ecological conditions and those of the past. Further, it necessitates a careful analysis of the physiographic conditions involved, much of which can be gained from details available by study of a collection of 3200 selected trimetrigon aerial photos taken by the Army in 1941-43. This collection is now filed at the American Geographical Society and, under the direction of William O. Field, Jr., has been captioned and indexed preparatory to this work. Of additional value will be the set of vertical aerial photographs the U. S. Navy scheduled one of its photographic squadrons to take in the summer of 1948. It is optimistically hoped that, with these aerial data and with the ground record already obtained, the actual regional relationships of these Alaskan glacier fluctuations will soon be understood and perhaps further clues found to explain them. At least a more reliable basis will be formed for defining a correlation between these fascinating glacier variations and climatic change. The sequel to this, of course, will be not only to climb higher in future investigations to the zone of accumulation, but to travel farther into new areas and to see whether, by using study techniques developed in Alaska, we can determine a like behavior in the terminal portions of similar types of glaciers on the opposite side of the earth.


Weldon F. Heald, Director, and Christine L. Orcutt, Editor

A map of the Palisade Glacier has been published as the basis upon which future changes in the glacier will be recorded on overlays of the same scale. These overlays are to be made from resurveys of the glacier at suitable intervals in the future. It is anticipated that, through accurate checking with monthly climate data of South Lake Weather Station, a relationship between the climate in that part of the Sierra Nevada and the observed variations in the glacier will be established.1

On 1 February 1948, 1000 copies of the map of the Palisade Glacier were photolithographed by Spaulding-Moss Company, Boston, on U.S. Navy priority Warren Water Resistant stock of an exceptionally tough fiber. These maps, measuring 25 by 25 inches, were published on the scale of 500 feet to the inch, with 50-foot contour intervals insuring a maximum degree of accuracy in delineation. The text was printed on the back of the map in the same Fuchlang brown ink used for the contours on the face. This color was chosen to eliminate the additional cost of a fourth color run through the press, and because it was a color dark enough for legibility but light enough to avoid showing through. The foreword was written especially for the map by the late Dr. François E. Matthes, whose interest and enthusiasm did much to stimulate the project. His death in late June brought a sense of great personal loss to those who had enjoyed the privilege of working with him. A very complete description of the glacier, by Weldon F. Heald, Director of the original survey, follows the foreword. Both texts emphasize the need for glacial observation, as well as the value of glacial surveys and maps for information which will lead to increasingly accurate and earlier forecasts of changes in climate.

Folded copies of the map, inserted in envelopes to fit and suitably backed by cardboard, are obtainable at one dollar a copy, postpaid, from the American Alpine Club Research Fund, 113 East 90th Street, New York 28, N. Y.


Robert P. Sharp, Director

[Professor Sharp is a member of the Department of Geological Sciences, California Institute of Technology. As a recently elected member of this Club, he joins that distinguished group of scientists— Le Conte, Matthes, Chamberlin, to name a few—whose work in mountain geography has reflected increasing credit on the Club. As our activities focus more significantly upon research and on our enhanced understanding of the scientific aspects of our sport, it will be through the leadership of men like Bob Sharp that we shall succeed in guiding our work to the profit of mankind, without diminishing the personal gratification which our sport provides us.—

Walter A. Wood]

Thanks to generous support from the American Alpine Club Research Fund, the Office of Naval Research, the Arctic Institute of North America, and the California Institute of Technology, our group was able to capitalize upon the excellent opportunity for glaciological research offered by Walter Wood’s “Project Snow Cornice.” The glaciological party, consisting of Maynard M. Miller, George P. Rigsby, Bernard O. Steenson, F. Beach Leighton and R. P. Sharp, ventured forth with high hopes, ambitious plans, and much equipment. The fact that some of the high hopes and ambitious plans failed to materialize during the summer on the Seward Ice Field was disappointing but not surprising. It must be recognized that the summer’s work was well worth while if for nothing more than the information it provided as to what can and should be done in the way of future glacier studies in this area.

Some aspects of American glaciological research have kept apace of foreign advances through the efforts of Max Demorest and François Matthes, now both deceased, and a small group of zealous workers. However, we have never had on this continent a program comparable to that of Ahlmann and his associates in the North Atlantic or to that of the British Jungfraujoch Research Group and the Swiss investigators in the Alps. It will not be possible to catch up with foreign glaciological programs in one, two, or perhaps even ten field seasons, but it is our hope that “Project Snow Cornice” will give birth to a generation of vigorous glaciologists with the training, drive and enthusiasm to give North American glaciers the treatment they deserve and to bring our work up to the same level as that carried on in Europe. This should be recorded as one of the objectives of the present project, and the American Alpine Club is playing an important role in furthering American glaciological research through the activities of its members and by its financial support.

A large part of the 1948 program was designed to obtain as much information as possible on the physical properties of ice and firn in the Seward Ice Field. We were interested in determining the temperature regimen of the firn, not only for comparison with other areas, but because it is an expression of the environment and geophysical condition of this ice field. In order to record temperatures at various depths, a number of holes were “bored” into the firn by means of an electrically heated hotpoint activated by a gas- engine generator. A maximum depth of 204 feet was attained by these thermal borings, and a greater depth could easily have been reached if additional drill pipe and cable had been available. Temperatures were measured by means of thermohms (resistance coils) and a specially calibrated Wheatstone bridge kindly loaned by the National Bureau of Standards and previously used by F. Alton Wade in Antarctica and Greenland. Twelve thermohms were set in the firn at depths ranging from 3 feet 5 inches to 204 feet. All temperatures recorded were essentially at zero degrees Centigrade. In other words, by mid-July the firn mass was isothermal—that is, essentially at the pressure melting temperature—to at least a depth of 204 feet. This was somewhat disappointing, as we had hoped to catch a remnant of the winter’s cold wave in the firn and to trace its dissipation as the season progressed. However, the fact that the firn of the Seward Ice Field was isothermal by mid-July is a worthy discovery in its own right. This is a surprisingly early date for such a condition to be attained and is an expression of the unexpectedly temperate summer environment of the area—if the conditions of 1948 are at all representative.

A total of 193 density determinations were made in the firn, mostly in a shaft 50 feet deep excavated at the so-called airstrip station about three miles west of the base of Mount Vancouver. Densities ranged from 0.50 at the surface to 0.85 at a depth of 50 feet, with blue ice bands within the firn having densities close to 0.90. The minimum density of 0.46 was measured at a depth of 4.5 feet in a firn layer just below an ice band. Low density layers below ice bands were characteristic to a depth of about 11 feet, and this relation supports the concept that refreezing of descending melt-water has much to do with increasing the density of firn and converting it to glacier ice. The undulating upper surface of ice bands in the firn and their horizontal structure, which was clearly co-extensive with layering in the firn, also suggest that the ice bands grew principally by refreezing of descending melt-waters. The existence of densities as high as 0.50 at the surface shows that the winter’s snow can be converted to firn, density 0.45 or greater, within a period of only a few months in this environment.

In addition to the many blue ice bands, we were impressed with the numerous roughly cylindrical, vertical, pipe-like masses of coarsely crystalline blue ice in the firn, which we christened “firn pipes” as a field designation. A typical firn pipe extends downward for several feet, has a diameter of 5 to 10 inches, and usually ends abruptly at an ice band. Some firn pipes extend downward from ice bands or serve to connect two ice layers, and a few extend without interruption through ice bands. Firn pipes appear on the surface of the ice field as small rounded knobs a few inches high. It seems that the pipes must mark the channels of melt- water circulation through the firn, but why they are so regular and pipe-like is still not clear. It is also possible that exudation of water vapor from the firn may have something to do with their development and growth, but this thesis is not too highly regarded.

The amount and mode of melt-water circulation in the firn has been recognized as highly significant in many glacier areas, but it appears to be especially important here because of the abundance of melt-water. The studies of melt-water behavior in 1948 suffered from the fact that our melt-water pans were poorly adapted to the conditions existing on the Seward Ice Field. Our efforts might be described as a “dry run” if one can use such terminology in connection with studies of melt-water. The results obtained, although of only relative value, are intriguing. Specific layers in the firn made water at rates up to 300 cc. per hour for a pan of 1439 cm2. Layers between 4 and 10 feet beneath the surface carried the most water, and only small amounts were collected at depths greater than 10 feet. Most puzzling was the frequent shift in major water flow from one layer to another without apparent rhyme or reason. When we know the reason for this, we shall know a lot more about the internal constitution of firn fields and the changes produced in them by circulating melt-waters.

Another significant matter in connection with melt-water was the discovery of standing water in crevasses at depths between 60 and 70 feet. This, plus the behavior of the thermal boring apparatus at and below 65 feet, suggests that the entire Seward Ice Field may be saturated with water at a depth of 60 to 70 feet, or in other words has a ground water table at about that level. This is probably too deep to be affected by the winter’s freeze, so the Seward Ice Field may harbor a great year-round reservoir of water available to anyone who cares to use it.

Pits dug in the firn near the airstrip station showed two faint dirty bands thought to represent the summer layers for 1946 and 1947. If this interpretation is correct, the excess of accumulation over ablation at this locality was 17.5 to 18 inches of water in 1946-1947. Preliminary data indicate the excess of accumulation for 1947-1948 to be about 23.5 inches.

Ablation, primarily by melting, at this same locality totaled 27 inches in 39 days between mid-July and late August. Elsewhere on the ice field, melting of 16 to 17 inches of firn per month during July and August was recorded. Daily ablation ranged between the extremes of zero and 1.5 inches in areas away from the complicating influence of bedrock exposures. No ablation occurred between 22 and 29 August, so the ablation period may have come to an end by that time. Water equivalents for the above figures may be obtained by halving them, as the average density of the melted firn was close to 0.50.

Attempts to make short-period observations of ice movement in valley glaciers came to naught as the glacier observed moved too slowly, about 6 inches a day, to permit the type of analysis desired. This was not entirely fruitless, however, as it demonstrated that surveying instruments have a diurnal period large enough to produce the anomalous effect of making a glacier appear to move up the valley at certain times of the day. Needless to say, such results drive the glaciologists to a point of distraction. A method of reference to fixed points on the far side of the glacier’s valley was devised, and in 1949 study of the more rapidly flowing Seward Glacier will be attempted.

Bernard Steenson’s work with radar as a means of determining ice thickness gave promising, but as yet unconfirmed, results. A reasonable transverse profile was obtained by radar soundings across a small valley glacier on the west slope of Mount Vancouver. The greatest depth of ice sounded in this profile was 700 feet. Dr. T. D. Northwood, of the Canadian National Research Council, working with acoustical apparatus, confirmed within reasonable limits of error the radar results at one station, but time and other conditions did not permit confirmation of the entire radar profile. A seismic party representing the Canadian National Research Council also operated in the region but experienced difficulty in getting sufficient energy into the ice and was further handicapped by old and unsatisfactory equipment.

Among other matters investigated were free-water contents of various firn layers, the relative movement of crevasse walls, differential ice movement within the Seward Ice Field, size of ice crystals in the Malaspina Glacier, rate of ablation on the Malaspina Glacier, and bedrock geology as exposed on nunataks and rocky ridges around the edges of the Seward Ice Field.

We plan to return to this area in 1949 with a more definitely focused program of investigation. It is hoped that Dr. Henri Bader will join the group to make crystallographic and petrofabric studies on the Malaspina Glacier and possibly also on the Seward Ice Field. An extension of the radar studies is planned, and all efforts are being bent toward the procurement of satisfactory seismic equipment with which to confirm the radar results and to carry out a series of profiles across the Seward Ice Field, as well as on the Malaspina Glacier if the logistics of access to the Malaspina can be solved. We shall redesign apparatus and carry out further studies on temperatures, densities, structures, melt-water circulation, and free-water content in the firn. Glacier movement observations will be made in more satisfactory locations. More data on accumulations and ablation will be gathered; and, if proper personnel can be obtained, studies of micrometeorology will be made. We hope to correct some of our mistakes of the past summer and to cash in on preliminary data and information gathered so far.


Joel E. Fisher, Director

In 1939 T. P. Hughes and Gerald Seligman published data on the below-freezing temperature of the ice of the Sphinx Plateau (about 3600 m.) on the Jungfraujoch.1 Noting that this ice is above the bergschrund, and aligning the data with the voluminous observations of temperatures of névé or glacier ice on many glaciers below their bergschrunds—temperatures always found to be exactly the local pressure melting point— I concluded2 that the bergschrund marks a boundary: below the bergschrund, the temperature of the ice or névé is at the local pressure melting point; above the bergschrund, the temperature of the ice or névé is below the melting point. Since some friends of mine questioned whether the Sphinx Plateau observations alone constituted sufficient basis for such a conclusion, I made observations in September 1948 during a stay at Zermatt:

At about 3610 meters, in the upper wall of the bergschrund on the usual Trift route up the Wellenkuppe (about five minutes below the rocks), the temperature of the ice four feet in from the wall, and some six feet below the surface of snow on the slope, was found to be 29° F (= -1.7° C).

At about 3810 meters, in the upper wall of the bergschrund on the east side of the Feejoch, the temperature of the ice three feet inside the ice wall, and some six feet below the surface of snow on the slope, was found to be 29½ ° F (= -1.4 °C).

Both observations were checked by two thermometers, and both thermometers were rechecked immediately in wet melting snow, in which both read exactly 32°.

Visual inspection of both bergschrunds showed no sign of melt- water ever appearing in the upper walls—no icicles except at the top from purely surface melting, yet the upper wall consisted entirely of clear, compact ice, free of any air bubbles.

As one might say, this ice was the fossilized snow accumulation of indefinite past years, gradually recrystallized and consolidated, without water, over a long period, into such solid ice that a mass of it clearly adheres permanently to the upper slopes of the cirque— until the rock wall itself is undermined by undercutting of its base. This I mention because of the frequently heard statements that the upper wall of a bergschrund moves downhill each year to close up the bergschrund, a new schrund supposedly reopening above the scar. This definitely is not so. Every winter climber and every guide will agree that a schrund fills up each winter by drifting or avalanching powder snow. Such accumulation, unconsolidated with either wall of the bergschrund, naturally breaks away each summer from the upper wall because its weight holds it against the lower wall and the lower wall retreats down valley as the névé below moves down. Thus, the bergschrund reopens every summer at the very same spot, the very same ice still constituting its apparently new upper wall. Nor is there any great facility for transfer of temperatures from that mass of ice above the bergschrund to the true névé below the schrund—there is probably a definite gap in a temperature curve— temperatures below the bergschrund consistently being at the exact pressure melting point (except for cold waves near exposed surfaces), and temperatures above the bergschrund being everywhere several degrees below freezing—well below any local pressure melting point.

These two sets of observations of mine may not be accepted as conclusive evidence; however, the aforementioned Sphinx Plateau observations, that the temperature of all sub-surface ice, above every true bergschrund, in any active glacier, is always definitely below freezing point, are confirmed by these observations. (Proper adjustments downward for rise of temperature of the thermometers during time of withdrawal and of reading would give a somewhat lower reading than I reported.)

Care must be exercised in noting that this statement applies only to “active” glaciers. There are moribund glaciers where an apparent bergschrund is really only a crevasse; and above such quasi-berg- schrunds, as was noted by W. D. Johnson years ago on Mount Lyell in the Sierras of California, observed temperatures may appear to bely this rule. As to true bergschrunds on active glaciers, I believe temperatures of ice above bergschrunds will always be found to be definitely below freezing.


Maynard M. Miller, Director

The Juneau Ice Field Research Project, under the sponsorship of the Department of Exploration and Field Research of the American Geographical Society and with valuable help from the American Alpine Club Research Fund, initiated its first season of field work in September 1948, making studies in the zone of glacier alimentation along the southeastern Alaskan coast. Specifically, the Juneau Ice Field was chosen because of its accessibility for a long-range program and because of the variety of opportunities it presented for thorough study of the various phases of glacier science.

The field program, begun in late August 1948, was under the co-direction of William R. Latady and Maynard M. Miller. These two men had spent some weeks in 1946 making low-level studies of the glaciers which reach tide water in this district from a source deep in the heart of the Juneau Ice Field. Miller also had spent considerable time in 1941 making studies in that same area with W. O. Field, Jr., of the American Geographical Society, and again in 1947 making supplementary investigations from the air of the ice field’s peripheral glaciers. Upon review of the data in hand during the winter of 1947 to 1948, it became increasingly clear that the work until that time had been too much restricted to the terminal portions of these coastal glaciers and that in order to understand the problems of paradoxical shrinkage and advance and the significance of other glacier phenomena in this region, it was necessary to investigate in detail the high areas of accumulation at the sources of these glaciers. Such upper-level observations in turn would have to be critically related with those previously made in the lower portions of the zone of wastage near sea level. Additionally, on the program of the American Geographical Society was a potential study of the little-known ice fields of Southern Chile, and for that reason it was considered necessary to begin detailed and integrated studies of such a prototypical North American ice field for later comparison with conditions to be found on the other side of the earth. Such an investigation would not only furnish valuable information on the status of worldwide glaciation, but also would permit the present climatic amelioration to be more satisfactorily understood and perhaps more reliably explained.

The 1948 season was to be essentially a reconnaissance to determine the nature and character of a representative portion of the thousand or more square miles of interconnected glaciers which go to make up the so-called “Juneau Ice Cap.” Detailed studies were on the agenda for the following year. Late summer was considered ideal for these preliminary investigations because the summer snowline was at its highest and the maximum exposure of bare ice could be seen, and also because it gave an opportunity for the field party to observe conditions at high level during the critical transition period when conditions on the ice field changed over from summer to winter. It was likewise planned to use this first season of investigations as a training period for new men and to permit detailed studies and reports to be made on food, equipment and techniques of expedition efficiency which could be used for the later work. Then, too, it was hoped to use this as an opportunity for developing new techniques of high-level glacier study which could be added to and improved upon during the second season of field work in 1949.

It was decided that a party of seven would be ideal for the preliminary trip. In April additional personnel were chosen and the roster soon stood as follows: Miller was to coordinate the glaciological and geological studies, and Latady the meteorological and photogrammetric work; W. Lawrence Miner, of the Stanford Graduate School, was to come along as assistant meteorologist and in charge of food analysis; Lowell Chamberlain, President of the Harvard Mountaineering Club, was asked to take on the job of ecologist and to handle the all-important task of equipment analysis; Melvin Marcus, a geology student at Yale University, acted as assistant geologist, glaciologist and field recorder. Anthony Thomas, of the U. S. Forest Service office in Juneau, was assigned as Forest Service observer. Donald Salt, a geophysicist from the National Research Council of Canada, was to carry on subsurface investigations with a seismograph, but unfortunately unsatisfactory functioning of the seismic equipment at the last minute precluded his participation in the 1948 field work.

Considerable support for this project was given by various outside agencies. The Committee on Geographical Exploration of the Research and Development Board, via the Army Air Forces, supplied air transportation for personnel and equipment and also made available meteorological equipment and aerial photographs. The U. S. Navy, through Medium Patrol Squadron Four, rendered valuable aerial support by dropping supplies, and also furnished special test items and aided with extensive glacier photography. The U. S. Forest Service, through the Juneau office of the Tongass National Forest, supplied surveying equipment, warehouse space, office facilities and transportation, and made personnel available to aid in the project. The Institute of Geographical Exploration at Harvard University loaned two fine SPF Forest Service type field radios. The Artie Institute of North America loaned parachutes and other equipment; the Plymouth Cordage Company supplied ropes; the Gus George Grocery in Juneau aided with warehouse space, rock-bottom food prices and gifts of miscellaneous supplies; Taku Lodge volunteered lodging, river transportation and radio services; the C.A.A. weather station in Juneau and the U. S. Weather Bureau gave valuable advice and handled radio communications. The Harvard Mountaineering Club loaned tents; the American Alpine Club supplied meteorological equipment and gave the project a grant for field expenses, as also did Pan American Airlines and, of course, the American Geographical Society. Cameras and film were made available by the Harmon Foundation.

Through the fine cooperation of the Joint Research and Development Board, William Latady arrived at Juneau on August 24th in a B-25 aircraft from Bolling Field, Washington, D. C. With Latady was a quantity of meteorological equipment loaned to the expedition by the U. S. Army. Marcus landed in Juneau on the same day, having come by steamer from Seattle. The remaining members of the group were to arrive on the 28th, so Latady and Marcus went by local aircraft to Taku Lodge on the Taku River for two days of observation on the Hole-in-Wall Glacier, which flows from the Juneau Ice Field. Several stations of the 1946 survey were re-occupied with a camera for photogrammetric purposes. By the 29th all members of the party were in Juneau, Miner and Chamberlain having arrived by steamer from the south and Miller having flown in from Yakutat, where he had been spending several months with the Artic Institute expedition doing high-level glacier studies on the Seward Glacier. During the following two days all hands turned-to to pack supplies and equipment for aerial delivery on the ice field. Unlike most previous Alaskan expeditions, which usually shipped quantities of food and equipment in from the United States, this group purchased a high percentage of these items locally, with astonishingly little difference in price.

On September 1st Latady and Miller were picked up by a Navy bomber from the VPML4 and flown to Annette Island near Ketchikan. Here for two days a conference was held with Commander Pollack, Commanding Officer of the Navy Photo Squadron, which was mapping Southeastern Alaska, in order to review the special pictures of the glaciers this Squadron had been able to take in the Juneau area during the summer. Useful photographs and data were obtained to supplement the fine collection previously provided by the Aeronautical Chart Service in Washington, D. C. In the meantime, Chamberlain, Marcus and Miner had made a preliminary flight across Juneau Ice Field to view potential campsites and had landed at Taku Lodge, which was to be the base of operations. They then went up the Taku River by boat and entered Twin Glacier Lake, from which they climbed to the edge of the “Ice Cap.”

Latady and Miller returned to Juneau on September 4th and that evening completed preparation of supplies and equipment to be delivered by air to the ice field camps. This was accomplished in the Forest Service warehouse and with the aid of a government truck generously loaned by the Regional Director. On the 5th, Commander Pollack, with one of the Photo Squadron aircraft, dropped 1500 pounds of supplies and equipment at three selected localities on the névé of the upper Twin and Taku Glaciers. Owing to bad weather, the advance party had not yet reached the 4000-foot level at which the bulk of these supplies was dropped; however, no serious consequences resulted because the loads were found several days later. After this flight, the Navy plane returned Miller and Latady to Juneau and then flew back to Annette Island. These two, together with Thomas, then flew to Taku Lodge and that evening made radio contact with the advance party on the upper Twin Glacier ridge.

Incredibly bad weather prevented any activity on the 6th; however, on the 7th the party from Taku Lodge went to the base of Twin Glaciers and started the ascent to the ice field. This group used a more practical route than the advance party and could have reached the ice field easily within one day if bad rains had not slowed down travel. This necessitated the establishment of a camp at timberline near the 2000-foot elevation. Radio contact during this interval was unsuccessful because batteries at the high camp had been saturated by rains. On September 9th, however, the two groups joined forces at what was to be known as Camp Three, at 4250 feet on the upper Twin Glacier névé.

During the next few days, in spite of blizzard conditions, Camp Four was consolidated at the base of a large snow bowl nearer the center of the ice field, and final plans for field work were laid. On the 11th the Navy plane came in to check on progress of the ground party, and radio contact was established in a fog both with VHF and with low-frequency (SPF) radio telephones. Weather data were being radioed each morning and evening to the weather station in Juneau.

On the 12th the geological and glaciological field studies were initiated, and the establishment of a network of control stations begun. A ramification of the program of research and reconnaissance was continued during the following two weeks until September 24th when blizzard snows forced the evacuation of the high camps. Geological observations were made in 13 different areas, and seven photogrammetric stations and six plane table triangulation stations were established. In addition, three all-day reconnaissance journeys were achieved to study distant areas and morphological features. On one of these, another camp was established on the northeast branch of the Taku Glacier, ten miles from the edge of the ice field, where two weeks’ supplies and food had been dropped by the aircraft and were effectively cached for use in a later season. Each of these trips was made on skis and gave opportunity for ecological collections of arctic-alpine flora both on nunataks within the ice field and on rock ridges at the periphery.

Accurate meteorological readings were made each morning, noon and evening, and careful records kept of the ablation and accumulation of snow on the névé surface during this transition period. An insoluble lead oxide dye was scattered on the névé at Camps Three and Four to give a reliable horizon representing the position of the 1948 late summer snow surface. A network of 15-foot movement stakes was also set up, both at the ice field camps and on the upper East and West Twin Glaciers. The location of each was accurately established by means of plane table intersection. These will be checked in 1949 as a means of determining rates of annual flow. In addition, field studies were made of the Forbes bands on East Twin Glacier and of other structural and geomorphic features in the vicinity. The highest position of the late summer firn line was also recorded at key locations, and a suitable place for next year’s seismic study was decided upon.

During the days of bad weather when visibility was reduced to zero and field work was impossible, members of the party wrote up reports and concentrated on analyses of the equipment and food on hand. Also at these times, the aerial photographs were studied and routes and camps for the 1949 program discussed.

During the last five days at the upper Twin Glacier Camps the party experienced bad weather which brought 50-mile-an-hour winds and 30 inches of new snow, indicating that at that altitude the Alaskan winter had set in. The bulk of equipment and unused food was “winterized” by placing it inside a collapsed tent covered with a second tent and three parachutes. All was lashed down with rope and held to the ground by the weight of six pairs of skis and a large hand-drawn sledge. The location of this cache was marked with three 15- to 18-foot poles, each guyed by ropes and marked with flags. In a driving blizzard the party left the Juneau Ice Field on September 24th and descended in eight hours to Twin Glacier Lake, from which they were flown back to Juneau the next day on a chartered float plane which had been summoned by radio.

In spite of many adversities and a necessarily short period in the field, all hands felt satisfied that the preliminary study and reconnaissance had been successful and that ample information had been gained for planning the details of the intensive investigation to be undertaken in 1949.


Weldon F. Heald, Director

In World War II it was found that actual climate statistics were non-existent for high altitudes in most of the mountain ranges in the world. The lack of exact knowledge of conditions encountered, such as amounts of rain, snow, clouds, winds, etc., was a handicap in equipping troops and planning military operations in mountainous regions.

The trustees of the American Alpine Club Research Fund feel that the need for more precise knowledge of weather conditions in high mountains is as important in time of peace as in war. High mountain climate data could be of great value to explorers, climbers, skiers and travellers, and the five trustees of the Fund hope that their fellow Club members will be interested in cooperating with them in their promotion of the program initiated this season by Weldon F. Heald.

With only limited time and funds available, last spring, extensive operations were impossible, but four observers were in the field, three in the Sierra Nevada, California, and one on the Juneau Ice Field, Alaska. Reports have been received from the following:

1. Richard M. Leonard. Temperature, and rainfall records for two weeks in July, at 4000 to 10,500 feet elevation in northern Yosemite National Park, California.

2. Oliver Kehrlein (observations taken by Larry Lewan and Wesley M. Noble). Temperature, rainfall, cloudiness and wind at Vidette Meadows, 9650 feet, King Canyon National Park, 20 July— 14 August 1948.

3. David R. Brower. The month of July, King Canyon National Park, 4000 to 11,000 feet. Complete report not yet received.

4. William R. Latady and Maynard M. Miller. Climatological Summary, Juneau Ice Field Research Project, 1948. Station: Juneau Ice Field above Twin Glaciers, 4250 feet. Summary includes temperature maximum and minimum, wet and dry bulb readings at 0800 and 1800, wind velocity and direction, percentage overcast, visibility in miles, barometric pressure in inches and milobars, snow precipitation in inches of snow, cloud formations and remarks.

Recording thermometers, portable rain gauges, sling psychro- meters, record forms and instructions are furnished to voluntary observers, and any member contemplating high mountain trips during the coming year is asked to get in touch with the Director of Mountain Weather Observations, Weldon F. Heald, Flying “H” Ranch, Hereford, Arizona.

Permanent high altitude weather stations are particularly desirable. We hope within the near future to have well-equipped stations at Mount Evans, Colorado, 14,259 feet; Echo Lake, Colorado, 10,605 feet; and eventually White Mountain Peak, California, elevation 14,242 feet. Any suggestions as to the possibilities of other sites and locations will be given serious consideration.

* Cf. “American Alpine Club Research Fund, 1946,” A.A.J., VI (1947), 328-43. The reports there published are numbered from 1 through 5. See also “Report on the Research Fund,” A. A. J., VII (1948), 81-2.—Ed.

1F. E. Matthes, in the chapter on glaciers, Physics of the Earth Series, No. 9 (New York: McGraw Hill, 1942), pp. 241-5.

1 See Weldon F. Heald, “American Alpine Club Research Fund, 1946: 3. Palisade Glacier Survey, Sierra Nevada,” A.A.J., VI (1947), 332-9. See also “Report on the Research Fund,” A.A.J., VII (1948), 81.

1 “The temperature, melt water movement, and density increase in the névé of an Alpine glacier,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Geophysical Supplement, IV (1939), 631-2 [Publication No. 2 of the Jungfraujoch Research Party, 1938].

2 “The Pressure Melting Point of Ice and the Excavation of Cirques and Valley Steps by Glaciers,” A.A.J., VII (1948), 67-72.