From the Desert to the Rainforest: Heading to Alaska

June 19th, 2012

(Guest Blogger: Lauren Vargo)

From the desert to the rainforest, several other Wooster geologists, Dr. Greg Wiles, Jenn Horton, and myself, traveled to southeast Alaska. The main goal of the trip was to investigate Adams Inlet in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve where we planned to use tree rings and stratigraphy to gain a more detailed geologic history of the Inlet.

However, our journey started (and ended) in Juneau with hikes up to and around Mendenhall Glacier. On our first day in the capital city, we took a leisurely hike up to the Glacier where we ate lunch near the terminus and saw first-hand glacial calving.

 

Jenn and I at the start of our hike up to Mendenhall Glacier

 

Jenn and I with the Wooster flag at Mendenhall Glacier

 

On our last day in Alaska, instead of hiking to the Glacier, we hiked up to the snow near tree line. We cored mountain hemlock trees for samples to send to a Swiss group to do isotope research, as well as to update our existing chronology.

 

Jenn and I above Mendenhall Glacier, hiking up to tree line

 

Coring a mountain hemlock tree

 

 

In between these excursions in Juneau, we traveled to Adams Inlet, our main destination, to research and collect data for our Independent Studies. We were lucky enough to have beautiful, sunny weather on our first day in the field.

 

A map of Glacier Bay National Park, with Adams Inlet marked with the red star

Jenn and I on our first day in Adams Inlet, enjoying the sun and clear view of the mountains

 

Watching the sunset on our first night in the field

 

Jenn and Dr. Wiles with all of our gear and the kayaks

 

In the Inlet, we looked at and took careful notes of the stratigraphy of several different valleys. We spent a good deal of time using the ice axe to clear off weathered and eroded sediment exposing varves (annual layers of clay and silt deposited in lakes) and other layers, usually of sand, gravel and glacial diamict.

 

Glacial lake varves we uncovered in one valley

 

 

Jenn and I sitting on top of glacial lake varves with deltaic sediment and mountains in the background

 

Dr. Wiles clearing off sediment to expose layers of varves and oxidized sand and gravel (also, notice the mud slickenlines from mudslides in the area)

 

Layers of clay alternating with sand and gravel exposed by the river cutting into the sediment

 

A closer view of clay layers within oxidized sand and gravel

 

 

In addition to the stratigraphy, in one valley we saw an amazing matrix supported rock flow.

Check out the video here.

And a second video here. 

 

3 Responses to “From the Desert to the Rainforest: Heading to Alaska”

  1. Mark Wilsonon 19 Jun 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Those varves are fantastic, Lauren, and I hope to use the matrix-supported flow videos in Sed/Strat next year. Congratulations on a successful trip. I was surprised to see that you did get a little sunlight in there!

  2. Kea Gileson 20 Jun 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Beautiful blog post! Thanks for all the great pics of Alaska. I’ve been in Glacier Bay myself, but never seen it this “up close and personal.”

  3. [...] highlighting this particular post by graduate student Lauren Vargo because of its beautiful photos and because the location reminds [...]

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