Measures in Time: Explore the Virtual Museum Further Reading


The Illecillewaet Glacier (51 E14'N, 117E26'W, Fig. 2), once known as Aggassiz Glacier (Ingersoll, 1886:243) and Great Glacier (Vaux and Vaux, 1900:158) is the longest studied of Canada’s alpine glaciers. In 1883, Major A. B. Rogers who was in search of potential rail routes across the Continental Divide became the first non-aboriginal to see the glacier (Sherzer, 1907:81). Only two years later, the Canadian Pacific Railway began operating a passenger service through Rogers Pass (Fig. 3) and was soon housing tourists at the newly constructed Glacier House hotel. In the late 1880s the tongue of the Illecillewaet Glacier was only about a half-hour’s walk from Glacier House and a good trail had been constructed to link the hotel to the glacier (Putnam, 1982). At this time it was “...the nearest large glacier to a railway track to be found in America ...”(Outram, 1906:441) and it soon became the “most visited glacier in the Americas” (Sherzer, 1907:81).

Many of the visitors to Glacier House showed such a scientific interest in the glacier that an enormous collection of scientific notes and thousands of photographs were made of the glacier in the early 20th century. Though the hotel no longer exists and the ice front only received sporadic attention in the 1900s (e.g., Woods, 1976, 1977; Champoux and Ommanney, 1986; McCarthy and Smith, 1994), many of the historical notes, measurements and photographs remain and can now be used to develop a detailed record of glacier activity and landscape change.

Figure 2: Location map.

Figure 3: Simplified map of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the early 20th century. The Vaux family travelled from Philadelphia to Canada via the Grand Trunk Railway.

Purpose Archival Evidence of Icefront Activity