Campaign Chunk Volume 11.08 – Mendenhall Glacier & Ice Caves
Mendenhall Glacier is a glacier about 13.6 miles long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles from downtown Juneau in the southeast area of the U.S. state of Alaska. The 5,815-acre area is known as Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area. The Ice Caves are inside the glacier, accessible only to those willing to kayak to, and then ice climb over the glacier. However, the glacier is retreating increasingly fast as global warming heats the oceans and temperatures rise.
The caves themselves are regarded as areas of outstanding natural beauty. Due to the nature of their formation by the glacier, they can be considered to be temporary and dangerous to explore on your own, especially for those who have never been to the area before. Those who do visit the caves almost always declare it t be one of the beautiful natural formations they have seen, with striking blues and curved walls. The fact that they are so transient only serves to highlight and make this beauty more poignant.
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, which is situated nearby is open almost all year round and attracts almost 500,000 visitors a year who come to see the sights and walk the various trails. Photo Point Trail and the Steep Creek Trail are easy and accessible trails, with The Trail of Time and the newly established West Glacier trail which takes visitors to the famous ice caves beneath the glacier.
Although many regard the retreating glacier as a negative event and proof of the dangers of climate change, there have been a few advantages. The first is that the melting ice helped to form the Mendenhall Lake, which has created a thriving ecosystem and provides fresh water for the local area. The other main one is the retreating ice has exposed an ancient forest , which experts are saying was over 2,000 years old.
Hooks & Rumours
- A world famous explorer was to film inside the caves in an effort to highlight them and bring attention to global warming. The day before he mentioned to his group he was going into the caves to decide on areas of film and highlight. As of now, he has not returned.
- As the glacier is retreating new discoveries are being made about the area – One that has been made is suggesting there was a small settlement of people in the area, but so far no human remains have been found, just tools and other indicators of people once living here
- Samples taken from the ice wall in a part of the cave have been shown to have properties that are great interest to those who work with treating certain childhood diseases. The water appears to contain compounds that when mixed with modern medicines improve their effectiveness by almost 50%.
- Ice is being stolen from the caves . Normally this would not be a major issue but those who are stealing are using high impact tools and explosives. They have yet to be caught as their operations take place at night, but the authorities are looking into increasing security for the area and are investigating who and why this is occurring
Volume 10 of the compiled and updated Campaign Chunks is available at DrivethruRPG.com