Juneau and the Mendenhall glacier

June 1998

Juneau, the Alaska's capital, is the ideal base from where short or longer tours to Alaska Southeast can be organized: there are many different possibilities, ranging from whale watching cruises offering also beautiful landscapes with glaciers, to beautiful treks in the rainforest, not to forget some possible bear viewing.

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT JUNEAU

Juneau is located in the south-east, at a latitude of about 58° north, and with its 30000 inhabitants, it is the capital of Alaska. There aren't streets or highways to connect the other towns or communities, because of the terrain and the geography. Transportation is instead made by sea and air.Juneau is a beautiful city, surrounded by mountains, glaciers, deep fjords, and green forests. Going a few mile outside the downtown, it isn't rare to encounter brown and black bears, bald eagles, mooses, and other wildlife. Thanks to the high annual rainfall of about 2500 millimeters per year, and to the high humidity (several continuous days of overcast sky with low couds and rain are quite frequent) the forests are extremely dense, everything is green, and the soil is often covered by an interrupted, very soft carpet of musks and lichens.Although the northen latitude, the climate is relatively mild, with fresh summers featured by an average temperature of +8 /+16 degrees celsius (sometimes exceeding 20 - 25 degrees) and cold winters when the temperature is around 0, sometime falling down to -10 or less.

The Mendenhall Glacier is a nice and huge glacier, located just 10 miles from Juneau's downtown, that ends inside a small lake. The glacier is 20 kilometers long, about 2.5 kilometers wide and 30 meters tall. The "ice flow" is of about 60 centimetrs per day, while the "retraction rate" is of about 7 to 10 meters each year. So the glacier is currently dieing and in a some century it will probably disappear, leaving just a deep fjord and valley in place of its ice. Often from the glacier's front, big masses of ice breaks down and start to navigate in the lake, in the form of enormous icebergs which will require months or even years to melt completely. In the feeding zone, the snow and the ice is between 500 and 1000 meters thick, anyway the oldest snow is o longer than 150 years old.

 

Mendenhall glacier, Juneau, Alaska
Approaching Juneau (PAJN / JNU) airport. The Mendenhall glacier is clearly visible form the left-side windows.

 

Juneau, Alaska Juneau, Alaska
Most of the homes are surrounded by the green and steep mountainous terrain.

 

Totem pole, Juneau, Alaska Totem pole, Juneau, Alaska
In Juneau, like in many others southeast towns, there are a lot of nice and colorful totem poles.

 

Juneau, Alaska Juneau, Alaska
The train to Mt. Roberts from which it is possible to see all the downtown and the dock.

 

Gastineau channel is the narrow arm of sea, partly navigable, where Juneau and others developed centers are located. The view from the mountain is impressive.

 

Hiking on the trail.

 

A nice and very friendly animal.

 

Mendenhall glacier, Juneau, Alaska
Arriving at Mendenhall glacier.

 

Mendenhall glacier, Juneau, Alaska Mendenhall glacier, Juneau, Alaska
Mendenhall glacier, Juneau, Alaska
Mendenhall glacier, Juneau, Alaska Mendenhall glacier, Juneau, Alaska
It's a bit cold and rainy, but the low clouds contribute to create a magic and mysterious athmosfere around the majestic Mendenhall glacier.

 

Mendenhall glacier, Juneau, Alaska
Several big icebergs break off from the glacier and navigate in the lake. Most of them are so big and cold that months or even years may be required to melt.

 

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