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G. K. Gilbert, as a member of the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899, studied and described nearly 40 glaciers, many of which reached the sea and produced icebergs. Gilbert’s maps and photographs from marked locations are still being used to record glacier fluctuations, as at Columbia Glacier. Noting that some termini were stable or advancing but that others were retreating rapidly, he suggested that a general change in climate, perhaps related to a change in ocean temperature, might cause such local differences in behavior. This conclusion was remarkably prescient, but it is now known that terminus stability is also involved. Gilbert’s discussions of the processes of glacier flow adjustment to an uneven bed, glacial erosion (including erosion below sea level), and variations in the rate of iceberg calving are remarkably modern and relate to one of the most important problems in glaciology today—the role of a water layer in coupling a glacier to its bed.

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