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topography in glacier bay

Extract from 1938 Season's Report of H. Arnold Karo,
Hydrographic and Geodetic Engineer
Commanding Officer, U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
Motor Vessel WESTDAHL
(From the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
no. 12, December 1938)

The survey of the lower part of Glacier Bay was not without its compensations, however. The local name for Point Gustavus is Strawberry Point and investigation readily shows why it is so called. Thousands and thousands of strawberry plants (and almost an equal number of bear tracks), covered the point, although few berries were obtained this season due to the continued cold and rainy weather. It is reported that in summers when good weather prevails, the strawberry crop is most prodigious. Wild strawberries are found along the shores of Glacier Bay as far as the party worked this year although the crop was very poor due to unfavorable weather. However, a few tasty feasts of berries were gathered and proved a welcome change of diet. From all reports, the topographic party usually managed to take their noonday lunch in the center of a favorable strawberry patch. While it was not admitted by them, it is believed by the remainder of the party that their taste for strawberries was the cause of their skirmish with a black bear, which fortunately, ended in a draw.

cartoon depicting surveyor and bear

(The article is accompanied by a cartoon by C. E. Pedersen showing a bear taking an interest in plane table operations in Glacier Bay. The characters speak as follows. Rodman: "Yo-oo-you'll h-h-have- e-e to h-h-urry--- Gulp!!" Bear: "?" Man holding instrument shade: "Huh! Looks like a bear don't it?" Topographer: "Yeh- HEY! Hold that rod steady!")

On this particular day the party was working in the bight south of Berg Bay - a particularly choice location for the elusive berry. Seeing the rodman waving frantically and hearing him shouting to hurry up with the rod readings, the rest of the party were at a loss to understand this sudden burst of activity on his part. After each rod reading he would literally run up the beach to the next point, and would again wave frantically and beseech the topographer to hurry and read the rod. He was rodding toward the plane table setup and as he rounded the point and approached closer, the reason for all this agitation was soon apparent; for rounding the point about a hundred yards astern of him, was a black bear of no mean proportions! Each time the rodman stopped to give a reading, Mr. Bear stopped still and stood upright, almost in imitation. When the rodman started up the beach, after him came Mr. Bear on all fours.

This strange game of tag or "hare and hounds" was most amusing to the party gathered around the plane table. Closer and closer came the rodman and after him the bear. It soon became apparent that Mr. Bear was bent on a thorough job of investigating these strange creatures who had apparently interrupted his feast of strawberries. Having no firearms, the party armed themselves with the axe and stood their ground, although ready to take to the boat if necessary. The rodman reached the party and on came Mr. Bear. Brandishing the axe and clubs and letting forth blood curdling yells, the whole party gave a good imitation of a headhunter's dance. In spite of this unholy din, it looked as if a Kit Carson act was called for or else that discretion should be the better part of valor and the entire party would have to retreat to the boat. Just as the party was about to abandon its position, the bear turned around and lumbered off, having approached to within thirty yards of the party.

Many bears were seen by the parties at various times and some of the hydrographic signals were destroyed by them. Tripod signals having red cloth on them seemed to be the big attraction as several of these were destroyed. Bears were seen along the beach on several occasions, presumably eating strawberries, and one spent the entire day wandering up and down, retiring to the bush only when attempts were made to photograph him and appearing again as soon as the photographers returned to the ship.

Bear tracks and wolf tracks are in evidence wherever one lands on the beach and the howling of wolves on the mainland and on some of the Beardslee Islands was not uncommon. Woodchucks or groundhogs of extremely large size were found in many sections. Hair seals are found in large numbers and it is reported that the natives still make sealing expeditions up Muir Inlet and into Beartrack Cove for their supply of sealskins et cetera. The Beardslee Islands are the nesting place for eider ducks, and many geese, ducks and other water fowl are to be found in the lower parts of Glacier Bay. These geese are said to be native of this area and closely resemble the Canadian Honker.

I know of no other place where the sight of one or more whales is a daily occurrence. During the entire time spent in Glacier Bay this season, if visibility permitted, we saw at least one whale each day and at times as many as four or five, often approaching within a few yards of them in the course of our work. At times they seemed most playful and on more than one occasion various members of the party saw them leap clear of the water and come down with a resounding crash, throwing spray a hundred feet or more in the air, apparently from mere exuberance of spirits, for no trace of killer whales was seen at the time. At times they would be close inshore on the reefs, apparently "scraping the barnacles off their bottoms."

Crabs abound in the waters of the bay and more than one feast of this delicious seafood was enjoyed by the entire party. A small amount of commercial crab fishing is carried on, as well as halibut fishing. While anchored at night in Berg Bay, thousands of shrimp, attracted by the lights, were seen swimming around the ship.

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