Dirty Glacier, Harriman Fjord

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Dirty Glacier, Harriman Fjord

by | Apr 10, 2019

The Dirty Glacier flows northwest for about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to its terminus near the head of Harriman Fjord, about 16 miles (26 km) northeast of Whittier, Alaska. The glacier was first observed in 1899, and the name was first reported in 1908 by Grant and Higgins of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Grant and Higgins observed this area in 1905 and again in 1909. In 1905, Dirty Glacier was a small ice stream reaching nearly to tidewater, about 0.75 miles (1.2 km) northeast of the terminus of Harriman Glacier. The glacier flows from the extensive snowfield at the head of Harriman Fjord. In 1905, the glacier had a medial moraine which was more pronounced near the terminus where the ice surface was covered by rubble and dark debris, which explains the name “Dirty Glacier”.

Dirty Glacier has retreated more than 0.6 miles (1 km) since it was first observed. In 1899, Dirty Glacier terminated close to the shoreline and by 1909, the terminus was about 1300 feet (400 m) up the valley from the beach. By 1935, the glacier’s debris-covered terminus was about 1968 feet (600 m) from the beach with bare ice about 656 feet (200 m) further up the glacier. In 1961, the glacier had retreated 3368 feet (1026 m) from the beach, and between 1961 and 2000 the terminus had retreated to about 4200 feet (1276 m) from the beach, and it was continuing to thin and on the verge of separating into two distinct ice tongues. Read more here and here. Explore more of Dirty Glacier and Harriman Fjord here:

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