Mendenhall makes it to North Carolina

Posted: Wednesday, October 01, 2003


t because no glaciers exist in the rolling hills of North Carolina doesnt mean that high school students there shouldnt be able to study the science of glacial ice. At least thats what Tom Savage, a science teacher at Chase High School in Forest City, N.C., thinks.

Getting the kids interested in science is one of the schools goals and certainly one of my goals, he said. I want to capture their imagination with a career in science.

Savage visited the Mendenhall Glacier a couple of years ago while on vacation. A piece of glacier ice was on display in front of the center. Instead of seeing just a piece of ice, Savage saw a learning tool.

I thought it would be something interesting to have in a classroom setting, he said. So when I became a teacher this year, I decided to pursue the idea.

Not sure how to go about securing a piece of Mendenhall Glacier ice for his North Carolina classroom, Savage sent an e-mail to Larry Musarra, director of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.

It was a complete shot in the dark, Savage said.

Musarra received the e-mail in late August and saw no reason that Savages classes shouldnt have a real-life sample of glacier ice to study.

Even if he gets one kid hooked on this stuff thats his goal, if he can get one kid out of the mill town and all of a sudden hes a geologist and doing his own icefield research its a success, Musarra said.

Musarra called Taku Smokeries, which agreed to provide a box and insulation for the endeavor, then he kayaked across Mendenhall Lake in search of a small iceberg to tow ashore.

Using an ice ax, ice screw and rope, Musarra was able to tow what was probably a 50-pound chunk of ice ashore.

It was tough to tow, Musarra said.

The Alaska Natural History Association paid the $115 fee for shipping the ice overnight to North Carolina as part of its education fund, Musarra said.

Savages physics students used the ice to compare the density of glacier ice with that of regular ice created by freezing tap water. The earth science classes at the school are inspecting the ice under a microscope to see if any foreign particles were trapped in the ice.

Biology classes will try to detect pollen in the ice from the spores of trees. Theyll also search for the presence of sulfite and chloride ions, which would indicate volcanic activity, Savage said.

To the knowledge of current employees at the visitor center, no ice from the Mendenhall has been shipped to other areas of the country, Musarra said. No Juneau classroom has called him with a request for ice to study either, though he would gladly kayak out as long as the lake ice remains unfrozen.

It was a good experience, Musarra said. Well see what happens. Maybe it will be a regular thing and well just have to put a limit on it. Well see how it goes.

Christine Schmid can be reached at

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