John Muir


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reach of the drifting bergs, which were now crowded back in a dense pack against the snout of the gl[acier] but which would crowd against this shore should the wind change round to the N.W. While camp affairs were being attended to I strolled off to seek high ground for a view back over the gl[acier]s, climbed a steep granite mountainside to a point about a thousand ft. above the bay. It is heavily glaciated and loaded with shifting slushy moraine detritus about the bases. The rain ceased. The clouds lifted slowly, lingering in mighty wing masses about the glorious mountains that rose out of a broad ice sea. The whitest of all white mountains, the grandest of all existing glaciers I had ever yet seen. Here I sat and sketched, while the sunlight streamed through the black storm-clouds with their satiny fringes on the intensely white waving outspreading expanse of ice and the glittering multitude of bergs and the spiry fronts of the gl[acier]s, and the dark green water of the bay and the ineffably chaste heights of the mountain clusters making the wildest and most sublime picture of Arctic beauty conceivable. For a time I could only gaze awe-stricken and enchanted and yet in the midst of it all, while the bergs one after another broke off from the ice-cliffs with loud thunder roaring, making stormy swells in the water and compelling all the other bergs to grate and clash in wild welcome. The storm-clouds wreathed the immaculate mountain fountains and the sun lit the icy prairie into a most spiritual glow, and the heads of domes and mountain islands were beginning to come to the light to take their places in landscapes about to be. It seemed as if I had seen it all before, so long had my life been bent on and been absorbed in ice studies in looking at unseen gl[acier] landscapes of Cal., through the traces of written history of just such scenes as this. Looking southward or a little to the W of the south there is a wide mer de glace with the mountains rising in the midst of its almost level surface like islands, isolated here and there and deeply submerged, only their heads out, others show by a well in the ice expanse where another mountain top is about to appear, while a few sub-regular groups and ranges divide this mer de glace as a whole into three branching bays. One most to the left rises very gradually in a smooth spotless plain, bounded at the head only by the horizon and running nearly parallel to the trend of the main bay. On the right, or W, it is pretty definitely bounded by a range of sharp peaks which inclose tributary gl[acier]s. These too are perfectly white. On the left there are only island mountains deeply sunk, and between these lie the outlets of the ice-sea which form gl[acier]s scarcely distinct. The length of this bay of the gen[eral] sea is, as far as it was seen, about thirty miles. The arm stretching in a dir[ection] a little to the W. of S. is also bounded by the sky or scarce cut off by mountains, at the head and on either side by sharp peaks in ranges which send down trib[utarie]s from every hollow and inclosed ravine and canyon, and all the bases are deeply buried and solid marble white, yet faintly shaded, showing the fine lines of the snow on innumerable ledges and domes and subordinate peaks, one relieve against the other. Higher and back of it the sky, dark blue. Water green blue. The mid-arm is perhaps about 15 ms. long, terminating a mountain cirque from which it flows out between mountain walls in a gently raised slope. Measuring across in front of these three main forks the dist[ance] is perhaps about 12 ms. Surface nearly level, only dimpled here and there and swelled where {sketch: Dead-house at Kake village.}

Date Original



Original journal dimensions: 11.5 x 18 cm.

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist