NORTHWESTERN - SOUTHERN???
Northwestern Glacier is on Alaska's southern coast,
make sense? Actually, I am pretty sure it is named
after the university, but I have not seen any
document, blurb, or other literature that says so
explicitly. It is in Kenai Fjords National Park, which
borders on Seward AK, but you can only get there by
boat or plane. I took a tour on a boat belonging to
Kenai Fjords Tours. On this map, look for Harris
Bay and Northwestern Lagoon just below and to the
right of center. The glacier is at the head of the
lagoon (also known as Northwestern Fjord.)
Here is it from the boat, part in shade and part
|You can click in each picture to get a larger version. Use the "back" button to return from
the larger version. If the picture snaps down to fit your screen, put the mouse pointer in it,
wait for an icon to appear in the lower right, and click the icon to see the large version.
This is a close up of part of the above picture. Can
you find the features shown on this one in the other
picture? It shows the two bare spots toward the
lower right of the glacier in the top picture.
Pay attention to that bare spot on the left of this
picture. Down below on this page, there are some
pictures of a big avalanche of ice coming down that
Here is a zoom on that bare spot before the
avalanche. Technically, the avalanche is an
example of calving, which is the term used
when some ice drops off of a glacier. For
glaciers like Northwestern, which end in a
body of water, calving is the main process
that limits the glacier's size.
Check out the section on Margerie Glacier for
And there she goes.... A big section of ice
was just not nailed down enough, and it just
slides on down to the water.
Just a few seconds later, the slide has moved
on a bit. By the way, these pictures were
taken a little earlier in the day when the clouds
were lower than in the two pictures at the top
of this page.
In this last picture of the sequence, the slide has
just about reached the bottom, but it did leave
some debris up there on the rocks.
Nearby was this spot, which looks like it used
to be filled up with a glacier. I think I have
this one spotted on the Mapqwest aerial image.
If you go there, you might have to select
"aerial image" and zoom it out a few steps.
Then you will see the glacier at the top and an
island at the bottom of the picture. On the
right side, closer to the island than to the
glacier, there is a fan-shaped structure
entering the fjord with a glacier way up the
mountain from it. I think that is the one. In
any case, a longer sequence of digital pictures
that I took makes it clear that this ws on the
right side of the boat as we approached
The island at the bottom of that map is called Striation Island and it is 2 or 3 miles from the
glacier. In the year 1900, Northwestern Glacier covered it and more. On the park map (link at the
top of this page) you can see where the terminus of this glacier was in the year 1900 -- about 9
miles away from its present position. So it has been shrinking dramatically. Here are several links
with old pictures of Northwestern Glacier.
1. Several Videos switching back and forth between old and new pictures of this and other glaciers.
In the new pictures, the glacier has disappeared around the bend in the fjord, but it has obviously
not entirely gone away.
2. Some pictures from the year 2000. It does not seem to have changed much between these and
my pictures from June, 2007.
3. A brief history of the glacier. It seems that it was advancing during the medieval warm period
when many glaciers were retreating. It has, however been discovered that many (not all) glaciers
that end in water and depend on calving for limiting their lengths can defy temperature conditions and
advance when it is warm. See the section on Hubbard Glacier for more on this (coming soon).
4. Pairs of "before and after" pictures of several glaciers along with a discussion of the findings.
Northwestern Glacier is Fig. 5 at this link.
5. A large number of glacier pictures from the 1980's. The best thing to do here is to use the
search box at the top of this link to search for "northwestern" or for whatever glacier you want.