A Short and Somewhat Personal History of Yukon Glacier Studies in the Twentieth Century


  • Garry K.C. Clarke




glacier studies, St. Elias Mountains, Icefield Ranges Research Project, Kluane Lake Research Station, Yukon


Glaciological exploration of the Yukon for scientific purposes began in 1935, with the National Geographic Society’s Yukon Expedition led by Bradford Washburn and the Wood Yukon Expedition led by Walter Wood. However, Project “Snow Cornice,” launched by Wood in 1948, was the first expedition to have glacier science as its principal focus. Wood’s conception of the “Icefield Ranges Research Project” led the Arctic Institute of North America (AINA) to establish the Kluane Lake Research Station on the south shore of Kluane Lake in 1961. Virtually all subsequent field studies of Yukon glaciers were launched from this base. This short history attempts to document the trajectory of Yukon glacier studies from their beginnings in 1935 to the end of the 20th century. It describes glaciological programs conducted from AINA camps at the divide between Hubbard Glacier and the north arm of Kaskawulsh Glacier and at the confluence of the north and central arms of Kaskawulsh Glacier, as well as the galvanizing influence of the 1965 – 67 Steele Glacier surge and the inception and completion of the long-term Trapridge Glacier study. Excluded or minimized in this account are scientific studies that were conducted on or near glaciers, but did not have glaciers or glacier processes as their primary focus.