Thursday, March 28, 2013

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 84

Paradise Ice Caves, Rainier National Park


 Mt. Rainier, Washington, ca 1909

At one time there were ice caves at Paradise at Mount Rainier.  The postcard does not do justice to the color of the caves.  I can remember going there one summer around 1966 or 1968 and marveling at the intense blue color of the ice.  We went in late August, the sun was shining and the entrance to the caves was dripping large drops of ice water.  After a fairly long hike to get up there on a warm day the breeze by the caves was wonderfully refreshing and cool.  We did go inside just a short distance and did not stay long since it was very wet and dripping inside.  These caves were also known as the Paradise Glacier Caves and consisted of an extensive series of interconnected ice caves. 

Seal of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, 1909

The postcard has the 1909 Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition seal on the reverse dating it to 1908 or 1909, telling us that people had been visiting the caves even as early as that time.  The caves were only open for a short period of time in the late summer and sometimes not every summer.  The maximum length of the cave system was surveyed at 13.25 kilometers or a little over 8 miles in 1978 making them the longest mapped such caves in the world.   Sadly, by the mid 1980s the caves no longer existed because of glacial recession.  

In 1906 Paradise Glacier was one vast ice sheet.  By the 1930s the glacier had separated into two sections, upper and lower.  If a glacier is moving substantially the movement closes up the cavities that form the caves and therefore the ice caves disappear.  The caves are formed under stagnant, melting sections of the glacier.  By the 1980s the glacier had retreated to the upper half of the valley that had formerly been filled with ice caves.  A glacier cannot survive without accumulation and snow cover that lasts even through the summer months. 
Today there is no remaining snow cover that lasts throughout the year on either the upper or lower sections.

1908 Series Stamp, Franklin profile

This is a used card that appears to have been sent by Bessie to herself.  The stamp is from the 1908 series and has a Benjamin Franklin profile.  These stamps were in use between 1908 and 1922. 

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