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December 10, 2021
Elephant Point and trees growing on ice
Librarian Judie Triplehorn solved the mystery of Elephant Point with a yellowed document she placed on my desk. In it, a writer for the Edinburgh Museum in Scotland in 1829 hailed the arrival of “two tusks of the Mammoth, brought home by Captain Beechey.”
July 15, 2021
Visit to glacier begins with wildlife encounter
We heard a loud buzz. A hummingbird hovered in front of my cracker. As I held still, the hummingbird probed the peanut butter, twice, with its needle beak. The cracker transferred the vibration to my left hand, tickling my fingers. As the bird zoomed off, I looked over at Ben to confirm the experience.
“I think you have superpowers now,” he said.
April 22, 2021
Big change on a big landscape
The Alsek, a world-class rafting river that flows into the Gulf of Alaska from its headwaters in Canada, may soon abandon the lower part of its drainage for a steeper one 15 miles away. The re-route will be due to the extreme melt of Grand Plateau Glacier, which acts like a cork that prevents the Alsek from following a faster path to the sea.
March 1, 2021
Malaspina Glacier gets up and goes
Massive icefields near the Canada/Alaska border feed Malaspina ice through a slot in the mountains. Freed of mountain walls, Malaspina’s ice oozes over the coastal plain like batter on a hot griddle. Near the Gulf of Alaska about 30 miles northwest of Yakutat, the glacier is — on clear days — visible from a window seat on an Alaska Airlines flight from Southeast Alaska to Anchorage. But the dirty-white blob on the cheek of Alaska is not as large as it used to be, which is why glaciologist Martin Truffer and his colleagues are studying it.
February 19, 2021
‘Ghost forest’ got run over by a glacier
A “ghost forest” exposed as La Perouse Glacier in Southeast Alaska retreated. In the past, the glacier ran over the rainforest trees. Two people are also in the photo. Photo by Ben Gaglioti.
November 6, 2020
Goodbye to a raffish glacier scientist
Will Harrison, who knew the world’s bumpy plains of ice as well as his old neighborhood in Saint John, New Brunswick, has died. He was 84. From his arrival at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in January 1972, the Canada-born Harrison mapped out and executed studies of glaciers from Antarctica to Greenland. He and his charges measured and reported great changes before they became obvious.
August 21, 2020
Remembering glaciologist Konrad Steffen
“I remember Steffen as a striking figure — sandy gray hair, piercing blue eyes, his face weathered by snow, wind and sun — at the podium during press conferences at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. There, Steffen spoke to reporters about Greenland’s impressive ice melt.”
June 4, 2020
A tale of glacier mice and young love
Green and spongy, glacier mice are not really rodents at all. They consist mostly of moss, and are the subject of a recent published study. Two of its authors are former Alaska graduate students, who met and fell in love in the company of the little green pincushions.
January 13, 2020
Northern news from a massive conference
Here are a few scribbles from my notebook on a subsample of the more than 1,000 Alaska talks and posters (at the AGUFallMeeting)…
November 15, 2019
Dirty glaciers all over the world
Dirty glaciers are the most understudied kind, Truffer said. Scientists have not accounted for their quirky properties in models. Those numbers are important because so many people depend on glacial melt as their water supply, including millions in India, China and Bangladesh.