Journey to Alaska's Glaciers
Webquest To Explore How 
Glaciers Shape The Land

This image was taken by 
Matthew Durant at Exit Glacier.
(Kenai Fjords National Park)

Home    What is a Glacier?    How do Glaciers Form?  
How do Glaciers Move? 
  How do Glaciers Shape the Land?


 The Mission





My sources at the Justice Department tell me that you have a growing interest in glaciers.  Don't deny it, they're onto you!!!  I know that you have found yourself wondering about these massive "rivers of ice", just as I have.  I also know that you have wondered:  what is a glacier, how do glaciers form, how do glaciers move, and how do glaciers shape the land?  Its alright, do not panic!!!  These are common questions that almost everyone asks. 

Because of your interest in glaciers, we have chosen you for a very important mission.  





You can call me by my code name: Crystal.  I work for the Office of Homeland Security.  What I am about to tell you is top secret and of the utmost importance to national security.  

50 years ago, a plane carrying our top CIA agent home from a spying mission in Russia crashed into an Alaskan glacier.  It has now come to light, that he was carrying an airtight container (about the size of a small rock) that holds information.  Information that could stop a war our country is about to enter.  You must find that container.




I am leading a group of student scientists on a virtual expedition to Alaska.  Our mission will be to find that "top secret" container.  In order to find the it, we will need to learn more about glaciers, discover how glaciers are formed, explore how they move, and ascertain how they shape the Alaskan land.  From this information we will attempt to piece together the clues and locate the lost container.

I have to go but will contact you again by text messaging.  Remember, besides a few key members of our team, only the President of the United States, your parents,  your teachers, and a few of your friends know about this important mission. 

Please, we need your help.  Will you accept this mission?









I accept this mission





Text Message #1: 

From: Crystal
Subject:  Your Tasks

  • First, you must report to the briefing room so that we can tell you what we have already learned.

  • Second,  you and your team will embark on three separate virtual explorations.

    Virtual Exploration #1: How are Glaciers Formed?

    Virtual Exploration #2: How do Glaciers Move?  

    Virtual Exploration #3: How do Glaciers Shape the Land?

  • Third, you will present your findings to our elite team.

  • Finally, I advise you to read all of my text messages, use your computer to get easy access to information, use your books to explore topics in detail, apply the knowledge you gain to each activity, and use the rubrics to assess your progress.  

Good Luck!!!






  What is a Glacier?



Alaska is covered with glaciers.  Our satellite imaging system has found that there are over 100,000 glaciers in Alaska.  By sorting through these images, we found that over 5% of Alaska is covered with glaciers.  All of these glaciers hold massive amounts of water, in the form of glacier ice, trapped inside.  That's a lot of glaciers.

While we are out on our virtual explorations, we will see three main types of glaciers:  hanging, tidewater, and piedmont.

I want to learn more



Exploration #1

  How are Glaciers Formed?



Snow, snow, and still more snow pile up to create these massive, flowing rivers of ice.  If the amount of snow that falls in the winter is greater than the amount of snow that melts off in the summer, then snow begins to accumulate from year to year.  The pressure of the accumulating snow builds, transforming the snowflakes into firn and eventually the firn into glacier ice.  All of this snow will gradually spill over the side and begin to flow downhill.  A glacier is born!

I want to learn more



Exploration #2

  How do Glaciers Move?



Many people refer to glaciers as "Rivers as Ice".  It's not a bad metaphor because glaciers actually do slowly move.  In South Central Alaska, the snow piles up fast.  Most years, this part of Alaska gets over 700 inches.  All of the snow begins to add pressure to the snow below and it slowly transforms it into firn and then glacial ice.  Finally, the pressure builds so high that it squeezes the glacier ice over the sides and the glacier moves slowly downhill.

I want to learn more



Exploration #3

  How do Glaciers Shape the Land?



Glaciers change the land by eroding it in some places and depositing the rocks that are plucked up elsewhere.  We'll explore these things: how glaciers carve out awesome u-shaped valleys; spit out massive amounts of rock that pile up into glacial moraine; we'll climb on massive boulders (glacier erratics) that were dropped on the tundra plane; we'll soak our sore feet in kettle lakes that were made by glacial erosion; we'll marvel at rock striations; and we'll watch cloudy rivers rage on and on.  Let's go!!!

I want to learn more



Debriefing Room

  What did you find out?


Please report to the debriefing room to receive your final orders and to tell us what you found.

I want to learn more



Home    What is a Glacier?    How do Glaciers Form?  
How do Glaciers Move? 
  How do Glaciers Shape the Land?



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