Glacier Mice

Learn about the glaciology of the Matanuska Glacier

Due to harsh conditions, cold climate, and lack of soil on the glacier’s surface, it is quite impossible for anything – even bacteria – to effectively survive and thrive. The Matanuska glacier sits between the Chugach and the Talkeetna mountain ranges, and because glaciers are ever-moving forms, it is constantly grinding away at the bedrock it sits upon as well as the base of either range. When this occurs, sediment and plant debris get drawn into many circulating subterranean channels that travel chaotically below and above the glacier’s surface. Much of this sediment and debris get circulated and deposited throughout the glacier, often on its surface. A large portion of this plant material consists of Bryophyta, which classifies most mosses. Mosses stem from primordial plants that are extremely resilient and hearty, exemplified through their ability to thrive after prolonged periods of cryptobiosis. Cryptobiosis is the process of metabolic activity in an organism slowing to the point of almost being undetectable, which particularly occurs in freezing. Moss, particularly acrocarpous moss, is highly adaptable and can reproduce asexually, so when fragments that have been frozen for extended periods of time are exposed to sunlight they can spontaneously begin to photosynthesize again.

When this occurs, these fragments adhere to small particulates of sediment and grow around its surface entirely. Because glaciers are always moving, these new forms begin to rotate and flip, exposing all sides to sunlight and promoting growth to continue in a layered process like that of an onion. These globular forms can grow to the size of basketballs, and maintain an internal temperature of 5 degrees above the surface of the ice they sit upon, even in the winter. Because of this incubatory factor, tiny microorganisms and invertebrates can survive within – typically about 70 per quarter-sized moss ball.

In the early 1950s, these globular forms of moss were given their playful name by Swedish plant biologists studying Falljokul glacier in Iceland, who came across a large dispersal of these cute rounded clumps, and coined them “Glacier Mice”. Here on Matanuska Glacier, you can see these throughout your trek on guided and unguided trails, particularly in the summertime when they are soaking up the sun and glowing that fabulous fluorescent green against the ice!

Summertime on the glacier!

Summertime tours are now available which means trekking across glacier terrain, drinking glacier water, and sunshine. We are open seven days a week, 9am-9pm! Due to summer conditions, ice caves are no longer available for exploring. However, ice cave tour season will be back before you know it! Give us a call for more information […]

Alaska Glacier Tours Matanuska Glacier

Springtime on the Glacier

Happy Spring! Here in the Matanuska Valley, we are experiencing rising temperatures and bluebird days. That means we are transitioning from the winter season to the summer season. Here are some of our recent pictures for you to enjoy. We hope you come and enjoy the glacier before the winter conditions are gone! We are […]

Blue Ice Cave Matanuska Glacier in Alaska

Blue Ice!

Here at the Matanuska Glacier, we have plenty of blue ice to explore! Vibrant colors shine in both the winter and summer seasons for our clients to enjoy and photograph. Ever wonder why blue ice is blue? Well, due to the chemical bond between oxygen and hydrogen in water, it absorbs light in the red […]

Matanuska Glacier is a fun Alaskan Adventure

Looking for an authentic Alaskan adventure? We got you covered.

Looking for an authentic Alaskan adventure? We got you covered. The Matanuska is the largest glacier accessible by car. Beginning in the northern snow and ice fields of Mount Witherspoon (12,023 feet) and Mount Marcus Baker (13,176 feet), it begins its descent from a hanging glacier to the valley floor. The Chugach mountains receive the […]

Matanuska Glacier Ice Caves

Into the unknown: ice caves

November 14, 2017 Yet another Alaskan winter is upon us here at the Matanuska Glacier. The snow has fallen, covering the many cracks and crevasses of the glacier. With this, glacier caves are beginning to form within the ice. Caves are carved out by water running through the glacier producing one of the most popular […]