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Field Division of Education
Mount Rainier: Its Human History Associations
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SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION OF MOUNT RAINIER


The next important scientific work done on Mount Rainier after that of Emmons and Wilson in 1870 was Bailey Willis in the early 80's. He explored and mapped the northern slopes, 1881-1883. "To this day, people who visit the northern slopes, and parks of the mountain become familiar with the Bailey Willis trail and from Moraine Park they get a view of the wonderful Willis Wall named in his honor." (Meany, 1916, 142). He gave a brief statement of the results of his observations in the now extinct magazine, The Northwest for April, 1883, under the title, "Canyons and Glaciers. A Journey to the Ice Fields of Mount Tacoma."

Much of the important geological survey work on Mount Rainier was done by Professor Israel Cook Russell, "one of America's noted geologists." He became Professor of Geology in the University of Michigan in 1892, but continued to spend his summers in field work, most of which were devoted to the mountains and valleys of Oregon and Washington. "It was during one of these trips, in the summer of 1896, that he made the exploration of Mount Rainier, the extensive record of which, fully illustrated, appeared in the Eighteenth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey for 1896-1897. When the Mountaineers Club ascended the mountain in 1909 they named in his honor Russell Cliff, a majestic crest near the summit and overlooking Winthrop and Emmons Glaciers, and later a glacier on the northern slope, near Carbon Glacier, was named Russell Glacier." (Meany, 1916, 159).

In 1897 occurred the death of Professor Edgar McClure of the University of Oregon while on a scientific observation tour of the mountain. This was "one of the most tragic incidents in modern science." "As a member of the expedition Professor McClure was placed in charge of the elevation department and set before himself . . . the definite purpose . . . to ascertain . . . the precise height of the mountain." The figures he obtained were 14,528 feet, and "remained in use until 1914, when the United Stats Geological Survey announced its new and latest findings to be 14,408 feet."

Herbert L. Bruce, writing in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer November 7, 1897, tells of McClure's death in the following words: "While standing on the perilous ledge, whence he took the fatal plunge, he turned to sound to his companions whom he was leading in a search for the lost pathway down the mountain. 'Don't come down here; it is too steep,' he called, turning so as to make his voice more audible. These were his last words. He vanished in the night and the abyss. It is likely that the tube (the barometer) he was carrying, three and a half feet in length, caught as he turned and helped to hurl him from his precarious footing. Like his own high-strung frame, the delicate instrument was shattered; but neither of the twain went away from the world without leaving an imperishable record." (Meany, 1916, 186). McClure Rock above the Camp of the Clouds has been named in honor of Professor Edgar McClure.

A few of the other scientists who have done work on Mount Rainier may now be quickly passed over a brief mention made of their publications. Professor Henry Landes of the University of Washington, State Geologist of Washington since 1895, has published many articles on geological subjects. His "Field Notes on Mount Rainier" appeared in Mazama, December, 1905. Francois Emile Matthes has done important topographical work for the maps of Mount Rainier National Park. His pamphlet on "Mount Rainier and Its Glaciers" was published by the United States Department of the Interior in 1914. Director George Otis Smith of the United States Geological Survey had been making a study of the rocks of Mount Rainier before he joined Professor Russell in the explorations of 1896. The record of those studies was published at the same time as Professor Russell's report. The account of the flora of Mount Rainier was made by Professor Charles Vancouver Piper in The Mazama for April, 1901, and for December, 1905.



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