The two engines generated a vibration that started at the front of the plane and work its way back past the eight passengers to the tail and then returned to the front. Roy Graham, Marcy Wallingford, Tom Gilmore, Raymond Wallace, Grant Barnsworth, Brad Longstreth and Michael Kirby watched the coastline pass under them. To the left were the blue waters of the Pacific spotted with the white capped waves. Small fishing boats could be seen hanging onto the mile long fishing nets which acted like sea anchors. The boats and nets looked like streaks of grey paint on the blue and white canvas. To the right was an endless row of mountains and high ridges separated by white and brown ribbons of glaciers covered with rocks. Large glaciers, a half a mile or more wide, flowed from the mountains down to the ocean and pushed their snouts into the currents. Grey silted glacier water flowed into the Pacific and turned south as it mixed with the currents running past the glaciers. When the plane passed over a glacier it would drop several feet. George Baker, the pilot, explained that the glacier cooled the air so they lost the lift associated with the warmer air over the land. When they finished crossing the glacier the plane rose rapidly. He said there were times in the fog that he knew were he was by how far the plane dropped and how long it took to fly over the glacier.
George Baker, watching the horizon
shouted over the engine noise, “Most of the bays, inlets and lakes in
Grant says, "It looks like some of the glaciers are going north and south instead of down the mountain."
"Most of the glaciers running north and south are following old earthquake fault lines. The east and west running glacier are due to the land rising and the ice keeping pace. There are lots of earth quakes and fault lines up here."
"Why do they follow fault lines?"
"The bedrock along the faults lines has been cracked and weakened. The glacier can dig in along the weak rock. Path of least resistance."
Grant asks, "Why is that river white? He pointed to a stream they were passing over. "
The pilot rolled the plane so the passengers on the left could look down at the coastline. Water from a river carrying rock flour was milky white and sent a cloudy streamer into the ocean. The streamer flowed out several hundred yards before turning south as it mixed with the offshore current. He rolled the plane to the right so the other passengers could watch the remains of former mountains washing into the ocean.
"The larger glaciers flow to the ocean and some places are so covered with dirt that forests grow on top of them. The trees eventually fall into the ocean when the glacier is eroded by wave action."
The pilot announced that they were
Lituya bay is a six-mile body of
water shaped like a fat
"T". The top of the
"T" run north and south and was formed by the south flowing Lituya
glacier turning westward where it merged with the north flowing Crillon glacier
and then flowed west to the ocean. The
ocean flooded the valley left by the receding of the single glacier and the two
that fed it. The bay is pear shaped with
the narrow stem reaching into the
The pilot continued his
descriptions. "A number of fishermen are superstitious about
He flew inland. "Below us is
Over several centuries the Crillon glacier receded leaving a deep lake several miles long and half a mile wide. It will grow longer as the Crillon glacier recedes. The glacier still dominates the eastern end of the lake. Blocks of glacier ice the size of large houses would calve off the front and drift in the quiet lake. The tip of an iceberg in the lake might be no bigger than a large car or truck but ninety percent of it was under water. Rain and sun erode the top and waves lapping at the floating mass of ice wash away the edge of the top forming a large flat shelf a foot below the surface. The submerged shelf can reached out fifteen to twenty-five feet from the ice exposed above the surface. The icebergs develop a delicate floating balance. If the balance was upset due to erosion or piece breaking off, the iceberg goes into a slow motion roll. It could turnover if even a few large chunks were removed from the tip."
"A number of fishermen, out to get ice cubes for their evening drink, have found their boats lifted by the submarine shelf that rose when the iceberg balance was upset after they knocked off a piece of ice with an axe or shot off a piece with a pistol or rifle, and the iceberg turned over. At times the weight of the long shelf rising in the air as the iceberg rotated would split the iceberg and the two parts sink and rise in a slow dance. Rings of small waves would radiate out from the two. As they oscillated up and down they bumped breaking small chunks of ice filling the area with white debris."
Marcy asked, "Like mermaids calling to lonely sailors?"
George dropped the plane below the
tree line and flew above the lake to give everyone a close view. George said, “One small advertising firm in
Raymond said. "We'll get some when we go back."
George gained altitude and climbed over
the trees at the western end of the lake and over a ridge that separated
A few minutes later he pointed down and indicated they would be landing. He took the plane down to two hundred feet and circled over the bay to find a clear landing path through the maze of icebergs.
"My god,” Brad exclaimed, “if we get any closer to those trees we'll crash.”
Finishing the circle, George took the plane out over the ocean turned and came in low over the forest of hundred foot spruce trees guarding both sides of the entrance to the bay and dropped abruptly to a few feet above the water leveled out and then let the plane glide down slowly. As the pontoons skimmed the surface he revved the engine to a roar to compensate for the drag of the water. Under control he settled the plane on the surface and idled the engines. He taxied around a number of icebergs and drifted up to a log-strewn beach at the mouth of Coal creek.
The passengers got out and walked a
pontoon to where they could jump onto the beach. The pilot handed
"It is so quiet I can hear my heart beating." Marcy said in whisper just as the engines roared into action. George revved the engines sending water and wind on those standing on the edge of the beach. The plane taxied into the bay, around some large chunks of ice and turned west. The pitch of the engine increased and the plane moved forward, picked up speed. The pontoons lifted out of the water, leveled out and skimmed along the surface. Sea gulls scattered. The sound echoed back and forth across the bay and amplified in intensity. The plane continued down the bay a distance before lifting off the water. It banked left and disappeared from sight behind the forest lining the bay and with it the sound of the engine. The only thing to be heard was the cry of the gulls as they settled back to the water.
"I've never been anyplace so quiet," Marcy said.
"Kind of chilly out here," Brad said, and flapped his arms across his chest.
"What a waste of time." Michael Kirby said. "We could be testing..."
Raymond returning with an armload of fire material cut him off. "Stow it Kirby. There is a reason we are out here. If you want to test something, test your Boy Scout skills and start a fire."
Tom and Grant found a log to sit on and Tom set up a chess set he had pulled from his pack.
Raymond explained to
Michael started some moss and small twigs burning and piled large pieces of pitch-laden branches on top. The smoke from the fire rose straight up.
"I knew you could do it if you set your mind to it." Raymond said to Michael.
Marcy started to walk down the rocky beach towards the ocean and returned. "The mosquitoes are eating me alive." She said.
In air was cool and crisp.
Marcy put on her red parka and gloves for protection from the mosquitoes and returned to her walk down the beach. Brad and Michael stood by the fire and took turns putting dried branches on it. From time to time they moved away from the smoke as a gentle breeze shifted its direction.
Raymond and Roy walked up the beach to a moss-covered log where they sat. They could see the campsite and Marcy farther down the beach but were far enough away that nobody could hear them talking.
"How did Wallace Images get
"I was in the Air Force for twenty-years as a contracting officer." Raymond Wallace answered. "Originally I had a degree in electrical engineering degree. I tried to keep abreast of the developing computer and graphics display technologies. I knew that when I retired I wanted to start a small company. The technology fascinated me then and still does. I was also fascinated with the organizational aspect of making technology work. For a couple of years before I retired I tried to identify some bright engineers and programmers that had an inclination for innovation that I might recruit. When I did retire I stayed in touch with some friends at the Department of Defense and some of the contractors I met over the years. I was able to get some contracts with companies to do design work and to develop prototypes in such a way as to avoid conflicts of interest and provisions that I not work on projects that I was involved in at DOD for at least two years."
"One of the people I had met earlier was Tom Gilmore. He was, and still is, a brilliant techi. Kind of loner. I could suggest a few things to him and he would come back with a few questions disappear into his lab and come out in a couple of days with a working prototype. I would go out and peddle it. We worked like that for years. We were close. It was kind like our minds met on the techi fringe."
"We didn't have to deal with production because somebody else always built the final products from prototypes that Tom developed. Tom didn't want to deal with the problems of production. The only thing he has liked about production once we started, was what he called the endless supply of parts. He really screwed up production a couple of times by pilfering production inventory for use in the R&D labs. Kirby in production even had to go down to Radio Shack to get parts to keep the assembly line going. We nearly had a blood bath on that one." Raymond chuckled. "There have been some moments. Anyway, Tom was happy creating."
"The only other thing that he seems to do is play chess. Always has. Every year he would go to a chess tournament or two. He is good. He even had a draw against Gasperoff."
"How about Grant Barnsworth?
Didn't he start with you and Tom?"
"Pretty much from day one." Raymond answered. "When I was starting I knew we needed some computer support for design work and simulation of prototypes in a working environment. A friend at Wright-Patterson Air Force base suggested I contact Grant. He was working in a small company that had a contract with Wright-Patt and didn't seem happy with the company he was with. They were milking his ideas and not giving him any credit. He jumped their ship and has never looked back. In the last few years though he seems to have lost some of his original zeal. His computers have gotten bigger and faster and more expensive. His commitment to security seems to bog him down. I am not sure he is able to stay flexible and stay on top of the broader range of computer technology that has been occurring."
"Early on, maybe twelve years ago, Grant added a simple accounting program to the system which was abandoned because of a conflict that occurred that interrupted design work. Tom Gilmore had lost some critical design work. The furor that occurred resulted in a general dictum that no business oriented work was to be placed on the design machine platforms. Administrative work would be done by hand and project tracking would be done by hand."
"I suggested once that a PC could be used for project management. Grant was generally unresponsive to this suggestions and even stonewalled the incursion of PC's. While I have dropped all conversations with Grant about PCs, one of the things I hope to work out over the next two weeks is his relationship with Ian."
Raymond answered. "I sort of suggested to little brother James that we needed some PC support and left Ian's resume lying on my desk. He hired Ian and lets everyone know it was his idea. That is exactly what I wanted. I don't want Grant thinking I am the one stabbing him in the back as he calls it. You might have gathered already he doesn't like Ian's approach to computer usage and gets paranoid about operational data. Last year Grant even removed a number of accounting functions from his department that were on a non-design support partition of his AS-400 and farmed them out to an accounting service so that Ian couldn't integrate those accounting functions into some of his efforts. Kind of cutting off his nose to spite his face. I really think it is better if he thinks James is responsible."
"Speaking of James."
"In our third year. That was, twelve years ago." Raymond
answered. “James graduated from the
Roy and Raymond talked for nearly
two hours before the plane returned with rest of the team.
Gulls screamed and circled high above the bay as the plane taxied into the shore. When the propeller stopped spinning, the rest of the team scrabbled to the beach.
"Wow," Tod Malcom exclaimed, "did you ever see so much ice."
There was a short flurry of comparisons of what each had seen on the flight.
George Baker unloaded their
equipment handing it to Roy who stood on a pontoon.
When the sound of the planes engine was a fleeting memory and the screamed of the agitated gulls returned, Marcy handed Harry Kuznets some insect repellant. "Here boss, you might need this."
Juan went into woods and returned
with a thick huckleberry branch that had three forks on it. He split each branch and fanned them out so
there were six radiating spokes.
"Those gulls sound like a board meeting," Ian said, and shrugged his shoulders when nobody responded.
Tod asked, "What's that sound?"
A distant thumping sound mixed in with the cries of the circling gulls. The sound of three helicopters became distinct. Every body was looking down the bay toward the ocean.
Ian pointed up and said, "There they are, up there."
Three helicopters circled high above the spire of smoke from the fire, went north out over the bay and descended. They landed a small distance up the bay from the group on the water riding on pontoons and drifted into the beach. The equipment was loaded inside and onto racks on the outside. The fire was doused with water. Everybody climbed into the helicopters to ride up to their first base camp area. Lituya bay grew smaller and disappeared from view as they went around the southern shoulder of the mountain at the head-end of the bay. As they moved east, the only thing visible as far as anyone could see was brown and rust colored rock peaks and ridges, snow slopes and glaciers. They passed the mountains that ran along the ocean and flew across what seemed an endless expanse of white snow and deep shadowed crevasses.
"How big is this glacier? Tom Gilmore asked. The pilot indicated it thirty-miles across in the direction they were moving.
The helicopters descended into the
glacial valley from the north heading toward an 8,000-foot cliff. The west and east sides of the valley were
bounded by ridges three to six thousand feet above the valley floor. The north side opened onto a glacier that
flowed to the west. From their position
high above the glacier, it had the appearance of a woven Indian rug with
symmetric black and brown patterns running its length and width. As they descended, the fabric of the glacial
tapestry turned into piles of rock.
Dirt and boulders that had rolled and crashed down the sides of the
ridges moved on the top of the rivers of ice.
As the ice from the glacier they landed on merged with another westward
moving glacier the rocks from the two glaciers flowed together and formed a
band of rock a hundred yards wide. Where two glaciers merged another ribbon of
rock was added. It was hard to imagine that these patterns were only a slow
moving rock conveyor belt carrying mountains to the ocean. Maybe in a million years these rocks would be
sand on the western rim of the
The pilots turned the engines off and let the long blades slow down while the passengers departed. Packs, tents and climbing gear were unloaded and placed in piles thirty feet away. Everybody made three to four trips between the helicopters and the pile of equipment. After ten minutes the pilots turned on the engines and the large blades quickly turned into a circular blur. One helicopter lifted up slowly then moved toward the glacier to the north, nose tilted down like it was sniffing out the trail away from the valley. It cruised fifteen to twenty feet off the glacial floor for several hundred yards before climbing and disappearing to the west around the shoulder of the snow and rock ridge. The second helicopter rose, sniffed its way down the glacier, climbed and disappeared. The third followed the pattern
No one spoke for several minutes. The sound of the helicopters echoed in their memories briefly and all was quiet. Everybody was looking to where the helicopters had disappeared. On the bay there were the cries of the gulls and breeze blowing through the trees. Here, there was no sound.
Slowly all eyes started scanning the ridges, the avalanche paths of rock and ice that descended to the glacial floor and to the immense wall of rock to the south. A sudden explosion followed by the clattering sounds of tons ice and rock cascading down from eight thousand feet above them filled the valley with deafening sound. Everybody moved closer together involuntarily. Which way to run?
Marcy asked. "Shouldn't we run?"
The waterfall slowly quieted down to a grey trickle of ice and rock. A cool movement of air swept by.
Another two minutes went by in quiet.
Brad Longstreth whispered. "God it's quiet out here."
"And cold." Ralph added.
The sun was still high but the ridge to the west cast a shadow that filled the valley. The temperature was a little above freezing. The sun shining on the eastern ridge above the valley warmed the boulders that were held by the ice. A heated rock would slip from its icy grip and accelerate down the steep slope. A depression in the surface pitched the rock into space. When it struck the slope below it would knock blocks of ice and other rocks loose. Within seconds a thundering avalanche would be cascading into the valley.
One by one everyone walked over and shook hands with Kurt. Their next action was to stamp their feet on the snow covering the ice to warm their feet.
Marcy, looking around at the open
terrain and then
"Did you want to choose first?"
"No, were do I go? You know. To the bathroom."
Juan interjected, "Same place as everyone else."
"Juan thinks of
Juan said, "Follow me." He walked up a slight slope and over the crown to a place just out of view of the campsite. First he stomped his boots down compacting the snow over an area three feet by two feet. He set the toilet seat and the poles on the compacted area. The poles went out to the edges of the prepared surface. He marked the location of the seat on the surface and removed the seat and poles. "When you dig the hole that will be under the seat keep if as small and deep as possible." He then put the poles and seat on the surface over the hole.
"How do we sit on that", Marcy asked. It's flat on the snow?"
"No problem." Juan said and dug a small trench up to a foot in front of the toilet seat and then tapered the trench to within six inches of the seat. "Notice, I've left about a foot of snow in front of the seat. Guys, you had better pee standing with the toilet seat up. Aim for the back of the wall. If you don't, the warm water will melt the front of the toilet system and you will have a big mess. Actually, you can stand over there, about ten feet, for peeing. Just sit when you have to. When you are finished put the seat down. If it snows and freezes, I don't want to sit on an icy toilet seat."
As they returned to the campsite Marcy said to the sky. "I wonder if I can hold it for two weeks."
Grant offered, "It might help you disposition."
James Wallace asked, "
Raymond Wallace stared at his younger brother and shook his head and muttered. "You can't even make that simple a decision."
Brad Longstreth piped in; “I second that."
There was a short chorus of "No", "That's okay".
"Boss", Juan commented, "they are not laughing. They must be hungry."
"Mike - James"
"Ian - Ralph"
"Brad - Grant"
"Marcy - Kurt"
"Tod - Harry"
"Since there are fifteen of us there will usually be one odd person in a tent by themselves. Tonight it will be me."
"If the weather is really nice you might want to sleep outside the tent. The stars are spectacular when they finally come out. Some nights the Aurora Borealis is unbelievable."
Brad interrupted, "The what?"
Each tent pair carried their packs a few feet away from the central pile of equipment. There was a flurry of activity as tents were pulled from their bags and poles and stakes were sorted out. A couple of people read instructions and a few others figured out what had to be done. The four tent poles consisted of seven sections each held together with elastic cord. By holding one of the end sections and letting go of the others they would all spring into place and form one long pole. The poles slide through loops along the seams up one side of the tent over the top and down the other side. The ends of the poles fitted into hooks and the bottom of the corners of the hexagonal shaped tent floor. From time to time someone would say, "Not that loop, the one next to it."
Raymond and Eugene shouted in unison,"TA-DA", when they finished the first standing tent.
"Time to start dinner. Ralph, Tod, Mike, will you help Juan with the stoves." "Kurt and I are going to scout the area to set up tomorrow's training sessions." "The rest of you set up the tents."
"Kurt, let's go find a snow slope steep enough to practice the self arrest and a small crevasse that we can use for crevasse rescue." They threw ropes over their shoulder, picked up their ice axes and trudged off toward the west ridge.
Kurt indicated he had spotted some candidate sites about a quarter to a half a mile to the west. They did not bother to rope up. The crevasses were small and the glacier flow too rapid for the formation of hidden crevasses. The snow on the surface had already cooled down from the afternoon sun and was firm under foot and made a crunching sound when they kicked their boots into the slope.
"Wanted to isolate the group as far from civilization as possible where everything they have to do is different from regular day to day living. I was familiar with this area since I had spent a total of ten months wandering around up here when I was in college. I worked for an exploration mining company. For two summers we had a base camp about twenty miles from here, across the glacier."
"Okay, here is what we want. That slope will be good for self-arrest and belay practice. That steep section to the right will work for simulated glacier rescue practice. They stood in front of sloped terrace that looked like the up ramp in a multi-story parking lot. The bottom portion had a gentle slope off the front side. The higher up the ramp went the steeper the drop from the edge became. When the ramp was twenty feet above the bottom section where they stood the drop was vertical. "We can have them climb that vertical face as if it were one side of a crevasse they had fallen into.”
Kurt nodded. "Looks like it should work. What's our plan for the next couple of days?"
"We will spend three day here getting used to sleeping on the ice, learning self-arrest and crevasse extraction techniques and learning how to travel on a glacier. It will give them time to get used to walking with crampons on their feet and carrying forty and fifty pound packs. Try to get them in a little better physical shape. Not all of them went to camp as kids a few of them are not in very good shape. Raymond and Eugene are excellent condition. James, Tom and Tod are in pretty poor condition. The rest are so-so to good. We have time to set a pace that everyone can handle and we will just take our time on the steep stuff on the other side of the glacier."
"It didn't look like we had enough supplies in camp for the trip." Kurt commented.
Kurt sniffed the air. "I think I can smell dinner cooking and its half a mile away."
"Race you to camp."
Juan and the others looked up as
"Hey boss." Juan said. "I thought you said no man could beat you in a race on a glacier to food."
"That is right my friend. This entity standing next to me is a spirit. He is not a man but the spirit of the glacier, born of the union of the god of the north and a beautiful Indian princess who wandered this glacier. Besides, he is hungrier than I am and hungry spirits travel faster than mortals. What's for dinner?"
Juan said, "Tod is the chef for night, ask him."
"Beef Stroganoff and apple pie. Do you realize that this is the first time I've ever cooked over a camp stove?"
A general groan emerged from the group.
"Smells good." Kurt offered.
Juan had dug a small trench that Tod could stand in so the surface of the glacier was waist high. A foot below the top he dug a shelf. Flat rocks were placed on the shelf and four single burner white gas stoves were place on the rocks and were purring. The snow from the pit was piled on the glacier behind the stoves to form a windbreak that kept the wind from blowing out the flames. Two large pots were bubbling with rehydrated beef stroganoff. Water was simmering in the other two. Several people were munching on Triskets and cheese. Others were stirring powdered coffee or hot chocolate in their metal cups with metal spoons.
When they finished their drink they would fill their cup with beef stroganoff. After a person finished their stroganoff they refilled their cups with choice of beverage. It was apparent to everyone that it was easier to reuse the same cup as many times as possible to cut down on the need to wash utensils. There wasn't a lot of hot running water for cleaning dishes.
Tom looked around and asked if anyone wanted to play a game of chess. Harry suggested that nobody humor him but Kurt said he would give it try. Juan said he could switch tents with Kurt and moved his sleeping bag over to where Marcy was. Kurt moved his bag to Toms’ tent Tom was heard asking Kurt if he had played before. Kurt indicated he had, but had not played in a long time.
Brad said he had never slept in a sleeping bag before and wondered what he should wear.
Tod said "Not your boots."
Juan suggested to Brad loud enough for everyone to hear, "You will be warm enough. You can strip down to your underwear or sleep with your pants on. Sleep on your damp socks and they will be dry in the morning. By the end of the trip you will smell so bad you won't have to use insect repellant when we get to the coast."
Marcy moaned. “I need a bath already.”