Peering Into the Awful Depths

Peering into the Awful Depths of a Crevasse, Stevens Glacier, Mount Rainier National Park.
This awesome crevasse down whose crystal depths you can see for hundreds of feet, is on the southern slope of Mt. Rainier and in the souther part of the park. It is impossible for anyone who has never seen such a thing to have any idea of the depth and grandeur of these glaciers. Glacial ice is not formed like the freezing of water in a pond, but by the pressure of vast quantities of snow. The weight of the snow itself squeezes out the air and packs the original snow crystals into a solid mass. The valley here is very, very deep. The packed ice sheet fills the vast trough in the mountainside just as water fills a river bed, and it is all the time wearing and scouring the hollow place deeper. The summer sunshine melts the lower parts of the ice sheet into mountain brooks. When a great strain comes on the ice it cracks and makes a vast crevasse like the one show in the view.

Constantly the whole irregular mass of ice is sliding and scraping down the slope, but so slowly that the clouds sweeping over its summit have time to add snowfalls which replace the melted snow and the process has been going on for many centuries. As it goes downward it plows and tears away pieces of rock along the way, grinding them smaller as it goes. Then it hands them over to mountain brooks and they grind them more, and pass them on to the rivers. The rivers break them still finer. Certain kinds of plants feed on this ground-up rock, and the remains of plant life, mixed with the rock-waste, form what we call soil. Much of the rich bottom land upon which our food is grown today was formed in just such a way.

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