Sunday, September 18, 2011

Erin and Hig (Plus Two Kids) Embark onto Malaspina Glacier

The Most Rugged Alaska Family Ever
Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman left Anchorage for Yakutat on Thursday, along with Katmai and Lituya, on the first leg of their journey on ice for two months.  They will be there to document climate change on the largest glacier in North America.

They hope to compare the ice levels there to those documented During Russell's expeditions in 1890-92.  Russell had embarked on exploration of the area between upper southeast Alaska and Icy Bay in 1889.  They took a number of photographs, some of which give away their locations.

Russell Expedition Members - 1890
Not enough has been written about Israel Cook Russell.  He wrote several books on the physical geography and geology of North America. Two Russell Glaciers, one on Mt. Rainier, the other feeding off of Mount Bona, Mount Churchill and University Peak in the Saint Elias Mountains; a Russell Fjord in upper Yakutat Bay (famous for being isolated periodically by advances of Hubbard Glacier); and Mt. Russell, in the Alaska Range, just east of Mt. Hubbard - all honor his scientific and exploration legacies.

Russell, according to a 2008 MA thesis by Patrick D. Sylvestre, through his activities, lectures and writings, "merged an environmentally-aware style of prose with scientific observations meant for a mostly professional audience. In doing so, he revealed himself to be a person searching for a new method of communication that could help repair the emerging conflict between professional science, aesthetic preservation, and utilitarian conservation.

"Russell found that he could develop a keener appreciation of science and nature through outdoor adventure and with compatible intellects in more formal, urban settings."

He networked  well, and had met many of the great explorers from earlier in the 19th century:
Russell worked directly in the shadow of some of the most famous and influential military and scientific explorers of the American West. He was acquainted with Grove Karl Gilbert, John Wesley Powell, and C.E. Dutton through his employment with the U.S. Geological Survey and through his status as one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society.  

Russell was also acquainted with some of the leading environmental writers of the late nineteenth century. He had contact with the preservationist John Muir through their mutual association with the American Alpine Club, and with the conservationist Gifford Pinchot through the National Geographic Society. 

These men, each a significant actor in the evolution of western American exploration and the emergence of a national environmental consciousness, influenced Russell in one way or another. Israel Russell helped bridge the gap between the late nineteenth-century‘s scientific explorers, who looked at how nature could best benefit man, and the late twentieth-century‘s environmental explorers, who looked at how man could best benefit and appreciate nature.
I've been a longtime fan of Russell's work.  I've also been a longtime follower of Erin and Hig, having produced their first two big lectures in Anchorage.  So it is exciting to see a merging of the historical work of Russell with the ongoing efforts of Higman and McKittrick.

My, has the world changed in those 111 years!

Russell could photograph the expedition:

So can Erin and Hig:

But our modern adventurers blog, use satellite phone for communications, twitter, facebook, and post their adventures in almost real time occasionally on YouTube:

Just before they left their yurt outside of Seldovia, KBBI's Aaron Selbig interviewed them for Alaska Public Radio. Here's a link to the segment, which features young Katmai, describing aspects of his upcoming trip.

Good luck you guys!

1 comment:

AkMom said...

I don't know if you have contact with Hig and Erin, but their blog has been hacked.
You might want to pull it from your blog roll, just in case.