A Chain of Mentorship

Matt Beedle

Director of Academics and Research

Today is a special day on the JIRP calendar. As you read this, the 2017 JIRP staff team – with excitement for the new field season despite the weather – is hiking to Camp 17 for “Staff Week”. These 12 days of opening JIRP’s first main camp, wilderness first aid training, glacier travel/rescue training, and (let’s be honest) at least a few runs on the Ptarmigan Glacier to test skis and snow conditions, kicks off the field season. It establishes more than physical goals and hard skills, however. The culture, community and camaraderie of JIRP 2017 begin to form today. While each season is unique, there are threads of commonality that span the many generations of JIRP field seasons and individual JIRPers. One of the most powerful threads in each field season is that of mentorship.

We’ve done quite a number of short pieces on JIRP history in recent years (see some of them here, here and here), but a component of JIRP that hasn’t been communicated in particular is the long history of mentorship. Post-JIRP, students regularly comment on the value of having tremendous access to inspiring staff members and faculty. The often cheek-by-jowl conditions of a JIRP camp, skiing for hours in a driving rain, discussion of ideas, problems and dreams allow for JIRP students to get to know one another well. These moments, however, are also shared with faculty and staff, moments that have been shared on the Juneau Icefield for decades. The JIRP story begins in the 1940s, but a chain of mentorship can be traced back in time even further.

John Muir first ventured to Alaska in 1879 for the first of his fabled canoe journeys through southeast Alaska. He wasn’t the first to journey here, as western sailors had been poking into the bays and fjords of southeast Alaska since Chirikov’s voyage of 1741, and the Tlingit people had called this part of the world home for many thousands of years prior. Muir’s 1879 voyage, however, did initiate a western investigation of the glaciers of southeast Alaska, enabled by his Tlingit guides.

John Muir and Reid's team at the Muir cabin in Glacier bay, 1890. Source: National Park Service

John Muir and Reid's team at the Muir cabin in Glacier bay, 1890. Source: National Park Service

On a subsequent trip to southeast Alaska in 1890, Muir spent time in Glacier Bay with Harry Fielding Reid and a team of scientists investigating the dynamics of Muir Glacier.  Reid’s subsequent Variations of Glaciers work would be a foundational effort for the World Glacier Monitoring Service of today. One of the individuals that Reid mentored and inspired was William O. (Bill) Field, known as one of the founders of modern glaciological study in North America. For his 1941 expedition to southeast Alaska, Field inquired with Bradford and Barbara Washburn in looking for a capable field assistant.The Washburns pointed him to Maynard Miller, a Harvard undergraduate who had been on their expedition to Mount Bertha the previous year. Field and Miller’s shared field experiences in 1941 and subsequent years gave rise to this important new direction to explain glacier behavior:

It became fairly clear to us in 1941 that a full explanation was more likely to be found in the upper elevations rather than at the terminus.
— W. O. Field and M. M. Miller, Geographical Review, 1950
Maynard Miller (right) explores the remnants of the Muir cabin in Glacier Bay during the 1941 expedition led by Bill Field. Source: Field, William Osgood. 1941 No Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.

Maynard Miller (right) explores the remnants of the Muir cabin in Glacier Bay during the 1941 expedition led by Bill Field. Source: Field, William Osgood. 1941 No Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.

After a few years of aerial reconnaissance and further investigation of the termini of glaciers of southeast Alaska, followed by a first exploration of the “high ice” of the Juneau Icefield in 1948, JIRP the annual field expedition began in 1949. It has continued ever since, and this chain of mentorship has been ongoing, from Field and Miller, to individuals such as Ed LaChapelle, Austin Post, Kurt Cuffey, Christina Hulbe, Steven Squyres, Kate Harris, Alison Criscitiello and many hundreds more. From this annual traverse of the Juneau Icefield, dreams, careers, adventures are launched.

It is challenging to keep track of the inspiring work that recent JIRP alumni are taking on, let alone the many hundreds who have come before them. A part of this inspiration has come from interactions with JIRP mentors: the long ski traverses filled with academic discussions, songs, and stories; the hardships and smiles shared in the field and back at camp; the guidance during the season and in the years that follow. With this view back at the long chain of mentorship through many decades of exploration of the icy corners of southeast Alaska, it is exciting to think of the JIRP staff of 2017. Slowly making their way to Camp 17 today, hiking in the literal and figurative footsteps of the many hundreds before, they are setting in motion the foundational community of JIRP 2017 - the community of staff, faculty and students that will continue this chain.

Note: Thanks to Bruce Molnia for being a JIRP mentor of mine and for pointing out the linkages back in time from Mal Miller, to Bill Field, to Harry Reid, and to John Muir.

A First Reflection

A First Reflection

Donovan Dennis, Occidental College

During an early lecture here at Camp 17, a visiting faculty (Jason Amundson) began his talk by noting that few believed John Muir when he hypothesized the mechanism of formation for the Yosemite Valley was a large glacial network. So, he came to somewhere he could see glaciers in action (Alaska), to support it.

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0in;
	mso-para-margin-right:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0in;
	line-height:115%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
    View of Lemon Creek Glacier from Camp 17, morning of July 4. Photo by author.

View of Lemon Creek Glacier from Camp 17, morning of July 4. Photo by author.

I can’t fact check the story (no WiFi here on the Icefield), but regardless of its accuracy, it caught my attention about the double-edged sword that is “seeing to believe.” Many of us are here, arguably stranded on this icefield, interested in studying the science behind climate change. Unlike the five billion people who will never participate in JIRP, see the icefield and fall under its monochrome spell, we have the remarkable benefit of seeing to believe. We can see the terminus changes; the fresh rock never before exposed to the elements; the blue ice appearing higher and higher upglacier; and for those who stick around for more than one season, we can see the striking changes in mass balance or “glacial health” from year to year. 

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0in;
	mso-para-margin-right:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0in;
	line-height:115%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
   Ptarmigan Glacier from Camp 17. Photo by author.

Ptarmigan Glacier from Camp 17. Photo by author.

On top of all these tangible changes, however, we supplement our experience living on the icefield with the clairvoyance of scientific research—quantitative analysis and theories—to round out our awareness. Others, those who aren’t intimately familiar with the changing state of global climate, don’t have the same emotional bond with the ice. They don’t make their livelihood from it, or as in the case of many JIRPers, live for it.

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0in;
	mso-para-margin-right:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0in;
	line-height:115%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
   Story time with Alf Pinchak, on the ice since 1967. Photo by author.

Story time with Alf Pinchak, on the ice since 1967. Photo by author.

Because of our unparalleled experience on the ice, we have the responsibility to pass on our knowledge and understanding of the crisis at hand. I invite Senator  Inhofe to visit the Icefield and look us square in the face, or better yet square in the recessional termini, and try to tell us climate change is a hoax. No person who finds himself this in love with the Earth on a nunatak 5,000 feet above Juneau would believe him. Thus, it is the responsibility of those 32 students on that nunatak to take their message home—to spread out within their various fields of study and career and use science and experience, not political passion, to inspire others to find their own way to love and protect the world.

Observational Science

By: Mariah Radue

July 7, 2014

At Camp 17, I have found a kindred spirit in John Muir. From the JIRP recommended reading list I was introduced to his book, Travels in Alaska, and decided to bring it along with me as a break from lectures and articles. I knew his reputation as a mountaineer, adventurer, environmentalist, and nature lover and I was eager to read his perspective on the Alaskan landscape.

John Muir began his career as an explorer in the Sierras in California at the end of the 1800s. He was awestruck by the majesty of the sloping granite peaks and giant Sequoias. In his wanderings around Yosemite he convinced himself that glaciers were the only natural force that could have formed the deep U-shaped valleys. His main motivation in traveling to Alaska was to better understand glacial processes and relate them back to his beloved Yosemite.

Though not as rugged or adventurous, my path to Alaska somewhat mirrors Muir’s journey. I first learned about glaciers in a college geomorphology course in Northfield, Minnesota. During the last glacial maximum, SE Minnesota marked the margin of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which blanketed most of North American. As a result, the landscape around Northfield is not flat as many accuse the Mid-West to be but rather it is full of vestiges of a dynamic glacial system. In the class we mapped eskers (subglacial river deposits), kames (supra glacial lakes), and glacial outwash river plains. Imaging the power of ice on the landscape ignited my fascination with glaciers and drove me to Alaska and JIRP to better understand how glaciers work and to marvel at the blue glacial ice.

I have enjoyed reading Muir’s perspective as he discovers coastal Alaska because of his intense powers of observations. Muir describes the landscape of southeast Alaska poetically through colorful descriptions of fast flowing glacial streams and sharp mountain peaks. He also includes exact values that must the result of painstaking notes like calculated temperature averages and thickness of glacial deposits. His writing offers an insight to his field methods and field notebooks—how you need both numbers and language to describe a landscape effectively.

During JIRP, I am striving to see Alaska much like Muir would, quantifying my observations scientifically and reflecting on the extreme beauty that is around me. I think that this is the natural way to immerse ourselves in the Icefield. For the past two evenings, we have been graced with stunning sunsets from our vantage point at Camp 17. We talk about the orientation of the sun relative to the Earth, the path of the sun in the sky, the changes in length of day, and the rate that the sun moves. In addition to understanding the sunset scientifically, none of us can deny the depth and beauty of a sunset behind the Chilkats and the Fairweather Ranges. The colors in the sky range from deep purple to magenta to rose pink and mist in the mountain valleys captures the rosy pink light, spreading it across valley floor. The water of Gastineau Channel reflects pockets of the fading sun light creating a patchwork of yellow and deep blue. It is impossible to comprehend all of the mountain profiles as they extend inexhaustibly into the distance. We find ourselves lost in the splendor of the landscape.

As earth scientists we try to understand the natural world through numbers and equations, creating models to predict changes through time. The beauty of JIRP is that we are immersed in the landscape and experience the Icefield through snow pits, isotopes, and geophysical measurements and breathtaking sunset. We also get to appreciate the magnificence of the Alaskan landscape giving us a greater reason to try and understand how it works.