Me and my fellow flyers

The little town of McCarthy, Alaska has a few lovely buildings, some dirt roads, and spectacular vistas. It also has an airstrip, and some friendly and knowledgeable pilots who will take you up in a plane for a tour of this magnificent place from above. This was a touristy opportunity that several of us decided to take advantage of, but it was definitely a learning experience as well, getting to see the glaciers that we have been talking about, walking on, and learning about, from above! Eleven of us started off from this cabin in McCarthy and headed off to the airstrip with Wrangell Mountain Air, ready to go up in two airplanes. I went up with four others with Austin, who took us up in a Cessna-206. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll just let these pictures speak to you. (But I’ll include a few words to you can learn about this awesome place too.)


Downtown McCarthy to catch van to airstrip


Our Cessna-206 (the only plane that can carry its own weight in passengers/cargo)


Our pilot Austin, taking us about 2500 feet above the ground


5 passengers and a pilot


A “braided river,” formed when sediment periodically gets blocked when being pushed along by a glacier and then changes direction to keep flowing


A rock glacier (I had never heard of that before, but that rock is moving like a glacier)


Multiple glaciers meeting at the bottom of the mountain


Austin took us in close, only about 500 feet from the glacier (it was like you could reach out and almost touch it)


These stripes are “ogives” or waves which form seasonally below icefalls. Dark troughs are markers of summer, while the lighter crests are markers of winter.


The dark stripes along the path of the glacier are moraines (accumulations of sediment) have gotten pushed between two glacier flows


Zooming in from above, spectacular blue melt ponds on the glacier surface


The heroes successfully returning from flight

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2 Responses to Flying!

  1. I’m not sure that you are right about the “waves” (ogives) being “pressure ridges” (even though that seems plausible). The literature claims that they are produced 1 per summer season and that they represent enhanced ablation features that are put into place at some source point and that are then swept downstream… Sounds like a good project for further investigation… Enjoy the summer school! Your web site and communication are extremely fun, interesting and full of surprises. Say hi to Andrew Malone for me.

    • Regine says:

      Doug is right. The ‘waves’, or ogives, are not pressure ridges but represent annual markers with a dark trough each summer and a light crest each winter formed by higher velocities combined with more snow in winter and more melt in summer in the icefall than above and below. Since each pair of trough and crest represents one year, ogives can be used as glacier ice speedometers. The error has beeen corrected. /Regine

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