Blackstone Glacier, Blackstone Bay

Blackstone Glacier, Blackstone Bay

by | Nov 27, 2019

Blackstone Glacier flows northeast for 7 miles (11.3 km) from the Chugach Mountains to its terminus at the head of Blackstone Bay, about 8 miles (13 km) south of Whittier, Alaska. The local name was reported in 1899 by W.C. Mendenhall of the U.S. Geological Survey. Blackstone Bay is a fjord in Prince William Sound, on the northeast coast of the Kenai Peninsula, that trends northeast for 15 miles (24 km) to Passage Canal, about 10 miles (16 km) east of Whittier. The glacier and bay are named after Charles Blackstone, a gold prospector from Seattle.

In 1896, Charles Blackstone left Seattle on a steamship with 250 other men hoping to find gold in Alaska. On the trip north he teamed up with Charles Botcher and J.W. Malinque and they made plans to prospect near the mining camps of Hope and Sunrise in Turnagain Arm. When they landed at Seldovia, near the mouth of Cook Inlet, they learned that traveling to Turnagain Arm would be very difficult because of the strong tidal currents and shallow water. It took them most of the summer to reach the Sunrise camp, and the prospecting season was mostly over. In March 1897, out of funds and supplies, the dispirited group decided to return to Seattle. They planned to walk from Sunrise over Portage Pass to Passage Canal on Prince William Sound where they would board a ship. The route was arduous but marked and well known by other prospectors. However, the group encountered severe winter conditions in the mountain pass, probably became disoriented in a snowstorm, and missed a critical turn. A search party later discovered the remains of Charles Blackstone high in the mountains and far from the route on what is now named Blackstone Glacier. He had left a note describing their ordeal that led to the death of Botcher and Malinque from the cold on April 1, 1897, and Blackstone died sometime after April 4 when the note was written. The bodies of Botcher and Malinque were never found.

In 1909, Blackstone Glacier was a massive ice field that surrounded the head of Blackstone Bay and discharged at least 10 ice streams. Since then the ice field has thinned and separated into individual glaciers, with two that still reach tidewater. There is evidence that at one time, perhaps over 200 years ago, Blackstone Glacier extended to the north end of Willard Island, 5.5 miles (9 km) from the current terminus. Read more here and here. Explore more of Blackstone Glacier here:

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This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

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