Memoirs of a Glacier

June 19th, 2012

Blog Post By Jennifer Horton

Lauren Vargo and I conducted our Senior I.S. field work in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, a beautiful park in the small town of Gustavus, Alaska.  GBNPP is a gigantic park that covers a span of 3.3 million acres of diverse landscape, from mountains, temperate rainforest, deep fjords, wild coastlines, and temperate rainforest.  We spent the majority of our time in Adams Inlet, a “small” cove located in the East Arm of the park.   Lauren and I soon learned that things in Alaska are usually much larger and farther away than they first appear!

A Google Earth Image of Adams Inlet, the location of our study

The tidal system of the Pacific Ocean dominates Adams Inlets.  On a daily basis the difference between low and high tides was over fifteen feet.  With water constantly flowing in and out of the bay, it was impossible for motorized boats to enter the inlet, so instead we kayaked!……with all our gear.

Lauren and I with all the gear

Not only was kayaking a great arm work out, it was a unique way to experience the wildlife of Glacier Bay.  We saw many birds, seals, porpoises, and even a seal lion as we paddled through the inlet.  On our first day in the field, we set up a base camp close to Muir Inlet, the location of the famous author John Muir’s cabin.  After working in this area for a couple of days, we packed up a modified camp and paddled deeper into Adams, with the tide of course!

Lauren and I just offshore in our expedition sized kayake

A large part of our fieldwork was to collect cores from ancient trees.  We hope to uses these cores, as well as some samples we gathered for radio carbon dating, to gain a better understanding of the glacial history of Adams Inlet.  Our hope is that the dates these trees will provide will correlate with the sediment and stratigraphy found in the various exposures we worked in.

Lauren coring a log in the field

After our twelve days of working in the field Lauren and I got to take a day off.  We took a boat tour up the West Arm of GBNPP.  On the tour, we got to see even more wild life from brown bears to mountain goats.  But, most importantly we finally got to see the impressive and dynamic glaciers of GBNPP.

Lauren and I in front of the Margerie Glacier

Going to GBNPP was an experience I will never forget.  Not only did I learn how to properly defend my self from bears, pitch a tent, core trees, and kayake, I learned what it takes to perform real geologic fieldwork. Senior I.S. has just started and I am already learning skills I will take with me after graduation.

I would like to give a special thanks to both Lauren Vargo and Dr. Wiles for making this experience so great, as well as the National Park Service and National Science Foundation for all their support.

4 Responses to “Memoirs of a Glacier”

  1. Mark Wilsonon 19 Jun 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Great post, Jenn! You and Lauren worked very hard for all that data — and in a spectacular place.

  2. AnnHon 16 Jul 2012 at 2:38 pm

    What a wonderful opportunity! So glad you were able to experience this.

  3. Anna Weisheimeron 16 Jul 2012 at 3:55 pm

    SWEET, Jenn. This is great. I wish I could have come visit. What are you doing after graduation? And where are you living?

  4. [...] Horton (’13) answered questions about her study of the glacial history of Adams Inlet in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (southeast Alaska). Here is her [...]

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