Plateau Glacier

The two included photographs were taken on the northeast side of Wachusett Inlet, Saint Elias Mountains, Alaska. The September 9, 1961 photograph shows the lower reaches of Plateau Glacier, then a tidewater calving valley glacier with parts of its terminus being land based on either side of the fiord. The central part of the terminus is capped with séracs and rises about 35 meters (115 feet) above tidewater. The terminus has a large semi-circular embayment in its center. Including submarine ice, the total ice thickness here is greater than 200 meters (656 feet). Note the absence of any vegetation in the foreground, which is covered by a boulder till. To the upper right of center, a black, linear medial moraine can be seen on the surface of a tributary to Plateau Glacier that descends from Mount Wordie. Two people are located on the knob in the center of the photograph. (M.T. Millet photograph M-61-P51, courtesy of the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Archive). The September 14, 2003 repeat photograph documents changes that occurred during the ensuing 42 years. Plateau Glacier retreated out of the field of view and has all but melted away, after leaving a small remnant, Plateau Remnant, on the flanks of the Bruce Hills (northeast of the field of view). The tributary glacier that formerly supported the medial moraine has retreated more than 2.75 kilometers (1.71 miles), thinned by as much as 275 meters (902 feet), and left an area of debris-covered ice in the path of its retreat. The dense vegetation covering much of the foreground area that was previously only bare boulder till includes Alnus, Salix, Populus, and Picea. The vegetation was so dense that the two geologists, wearing orange float-coat, standing at the shoreline on the right side of the peninsula, were unable to reach the point of the headland occupied by the two individuals in the 1961 photograph. (National Park Service photograph by R.D. Karpilo).

Getting There

Latitude: 58.97556
Longitude: -136.371