John Muir in Alaska - Haines, Alaska John Muir Association
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"To the lover of pure wildness Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world." ..."it seems as if surely we must at length reach the very paradise of the poets, the abode of the blessed."
-- John Muir - "Travels in Alaska" --
JOHN MUIR (1838 - 1914)
John MuirJOHN MUIR, naturalist, is widely regarded as the "Father of the National Parks Movement." He loved to "go to wild places" and experience the wonders of nature. Alaska, like Yosemite in California, was one of Muir's favorite places. Alaska is where Muir came to visit unspoiled wilderness. His novel theories on glacial sculpting of the landscape ultimately proved to be true.

Muir's first of seven trips to Alaska in 1879 was highly eventful. Traveling in a dugout canoe with Tlingit Indian guides, he mapped Glacier Bay for the U.S. Government documenting its existence, and he co-founded the town of Haines with traveling companion Presbyterian missionary S.Hall Young. The City of Haines recently became sister cities with Dunbar, Scotland, Muir's birthplace.

Inspired by memories of his boyhood home in Dunbar, Scotland, his experiences in his adopted home of North America, and his extensive travels in Africa, Alaska, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, India, Central and South America, Russia and New Zealand, John Muir ultimately became the archetypal global citizen and a man for all ages.

His writings enshrine him with the great 19th Century Transcendentalist philosophers of America, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and his personal friend Walt Whitman.

As adventurer, explorer, scientist, author, and finally charasmatic and visionary activist, Muir Fathered the modern National Parks and Conservation Movements the monumental legacy of a uniquely sensitive spirit and towering genius. The generations that follow must attend to his words and deeds which may be the salvation of the planet.

©'2002 HJMA
Visit the Haines, Alaska John Muir Association Website
John Muir's "Voyages of Discovery"
S.E. Alaska 1879 and 1880

Muir first came to Alaska by steamship in both 1879 and 1880 to pursue scientific nature studies. Each summer Muir and his new found Presbyterian missionary friend S. Hall Young accompanied by Tlingit Indian guides launched extensive "voyages of discovery" in a 30' native canoe. Highly efficient under paddle and very fast under twin sails this mode of transport allowed the party to safely and quickly cover great distances and explore both the vast and intimate places which Muir and his successors would make world famous.

They easily navigated deep into the awe inspiring narrow glacier carved channels of Tracy and Endicott Arm and Ford's Terror which had eluded detection and charting by even the great Captain Cook. Muir's most majestic "discovery" was Glacier Bay whose main glacier had only recently receded opening the Bay to navigation and exploration. He mapped the Bay for the U.S. Government and its main tidewater glacier was named after him.

He studied and reported on the abundant resources of the region and his observations on the Tlingit Indians and emerging White society were very insightful. Muir's fondness and respect for the Indians culminated in his "Brotherhood of Man" speech to the greatest of the Tlingit Tribes, the overlords of the vast regions of Tlingit domination, probably at the Yendestakyeh Village Site near modern Haines. At the invitation of the Tlingits, the charismatic Muir and Missionary Young took turns preaching and after three days they were given approval for the Presbyterians to establish a Mission School and Church in the area. The Tlingits initially thought Muir was to be the teacher and minister. Thus the White community of Haines was born.

Muir's numerous epiphany experiences while exploring in Alaska are powerfully documented in his writings. They were an important source of the inspiration for his monumental achievements later in life which have elevated him to "patron saint" of the modern conservation movement.

Copyright '02 Nanney, Haines,AK

"TRAVELS IN ALASKA" - CHAPTER X - "The Discovery of Glacier Bay"
After visiting the village of Hoonah they crossed Icy Strait into Glacier Bay. Camping in the innermost fiord on the beaches of the Grand Pacific Glacier he describes the sunrise against the Fairweather Range, "every mountain apparently was glowing from the heart like molten metal fresh from a furnace....the supernal fire slowly descended... peak after peak, with their spires and ridges and cascading glaciers, caught the heavenly glow, until all the mighty host stood transfigured, hushed, and thoughtful, as if awaiting the coming of the Lord." He notes that "Glacier bay is undoubtedly young as yet. Vancouver's chart, made only a century ago, shows no trace of it....even then the entire bay was occupied by a glacier....nearly as great a change has taken place in Sum Dum Bay...the main trunk glacier there having receded from eighteen to twenty-five miles from the line marked on his chart."

"TRAVELS IN ALASKA" - CHAPTER XIV - "The Trip of 1880 - Sum Dum Bay"

"In this eastern arm of Sum Dum Bay and its Yosemite branch, I counted from my canoe, on my way up and down, thirty small glaciers back of the walls, and we saws three of the first order; also thirty-seven cascades and falls, counting only those large enough to make themselves heard several miles." Going into Tracy Arm he says, "no ice-work that I have ever seen surpasses this, either in the magnitude of the features or effectiveness of composition...glaciers are seen, still busily engaged in the work of completing their sculpture. I counted twenty-five from the canoe. Probably the drainage of fifty or more pours into this fiord." Everywere icebergs abound and he says, "The water spaces between the bergs were as smooth as glass, reflecting the unclouded sky, and doubling the ravishing beauty of the bergs as the sunlight streamed through their innumerable angles in rainbow colors."

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