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The Cover
July 15, 2009

Muir Glacier

JAMA. 2009;302(3):234. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.892

Alaska abounds in stark and unspoiled beauty, yet nothing symbolizes the “Last Frontier” better than the mighty glacier. Muir Glacier (cover) features one such glacier as it appeared in 1889, ten years after its discovery by naturalist John Muir. Now a shadow of its former self, Muir Glacier stands amid the other massive glacial phenomena in Glacier Bay. Situated southeast of Prince William Sound, Glacier Bay was discovered in 1794 by British explorer Captain George Vancouver. The bay, its mouth then choked by rivers of ice, is now navigable to its far reaches. Muir Glacier alone has retreated so far since 1889 that it no longer is a tidewater glacier—one whose face meets water—and is now termed a terrestrial, or valley, glacier lacking aquatic contact. Despite major glacial retreat, several glaciers, most notably the Johns Hopkins Glacier in Glacier Bay, remain in advancing mode: gaining more ice, they forge and scrape their sweeping path.