Growing up in Ohio, I had heard stories of "famous" family members. There seemed to be more of the infamous variety, but I was intrigued when I found out there was a glacier by the name of Mendenhall in Alaska, which was my maiden name. This is not a common name and knew somehow we had to be related to its namesake, but it wasn't until just a couple of years ago that I was able to verify the family connection.
There were two famous Mendenhall men who had ties to Alaska. The first was Thomas Corwin Mendenhall. He was, among other things, the superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, and it was in this official capacity that he was responsible for defining the exact national boundary between the United States (Alaska) and Canada. In 1899, the largest glacier in Juneau was renamed Mendenhall Glacier in his honor by then President Harrison. It's original name was Auke Glacier and it was given that name by John Muir who had also explored the area. Here is a picture of the most famous glacier in southeast Alaska:
Another famous Mendenhall was Walter Curan Mendenhall. He was, also among other things, Director of the USGS appointed by President Hoover. He was an explorer and photographer who documented and mapped many areas of Alaska, and other parts of the country. The USGS has a great library of his photos online. The one I have chosen below is of Matanuska Glacier. This glacier is in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough of Alaska, very near to where I live. This glacier is beautiful and one of the easiest glaciers to access. You can literally drive up to it, get out, and take a walk. I love this glacier because of it's beauty and it's connection to my family's past: Walter Mendenhall actually gave Matanuska Glacier it's name. Often my husband and I have driven by the very point where this old photo was taken and I've wondered what it was like to be Walter, hiking and exploring the area 100+ years ago. How thrilling.
Below is a photo of how Matanuska Glacier looks today. This picture is of the glacier's terminus, or end. The older photo above is taken from a vantage point looking up into the mountain valley where the glacier originates.
Above is me on my first trip to Matanuska Glacier, with video below - isn't it beautiful?
Fun Fact: Glacier ice often appears blue to the eye because it absorbs all the colors of the spectrum except blue, which is scattered back.