The caves of Southeastern Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier offer travelers the chance to experience the inside of a glacier. The images of the caves shown here today were shot by the team at Tomorrow's Air partner Heliconia, accessed by hiking (with helmets and rain boots!) underneath the glacier.
Mendenhall Glacier is a remnant of the Little Ice Age which began 3000 years ago. It is close to the city of Juneau, Alaska's capital, and within the borders of the Tongass National Forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world.
Its accessibility is rare - and constantly shifting - as the famous 13 mile glacier recedes. Long-term climate models suggest a warmer, wetter pattern in this part of Alaska, with a range of consequences such as more rain and less snow at lower elevations. Since 2011 the warming pattern has resulted in summertime torrents of water shooting out from beneath the glacier. The first flood burst in 2011 released a powerful burst of an estimated 10 billion gallons of water over three days, approaching homes and along the Mendenhall River that winds through part of the city. As warming continues it could intensify runoff and the frequency of surges.
At higher elevations, it could also bring more snow. Greater annual snowfall, repeated over many years, could cause some glaciers, or portions of glaciers, to grow as snow compacts into the ice.
Guides are experienced in judging when to hike the glacier and where to explore, so if you visit, make sure to take advantage of their expertise!
As travelers, our visit to this area helps us learn more about climate change and what we can do to help. Join us to help clean up carbon from the atmosphere and store it permanently @tomorrowsair.com
All images with permission from Heliconia