Long-gone glaciers echo in landscape

By Cameron Boosman - Staff Reporter



It may be called the Emerald City now, but at the end of the last ice age the entire Seattle region was covered in 3,000 feet of white glacial ice.

The Puget Sound was once the location of a slow but steady march of mile-high glaciers that carved their way through the region tens of thousands of years ago.

Highline Professor Dr. Eric Baer said that it was these glaciers that gave the area its unique topography, and that even now they have a significant effect on our daily lives.

 "It is so easy to go north-to-south in this area," Dr. Baer said.  "But there are almost no major highways going east-to-west."

Dr. Baer said that as the glacial ice moved further south it pushed whatever was on the ground along with it, forming elongated hills in a north-south fashion.  This makes it easy to build infrastructure along the ridge lines of the hills, but attempting to build across them can be difficult and costly.

"The effects of the glaciers aren't only on the surface, but beneath the ground as well," Baer said.

He said as the glaciers pushed sediments along their paths these sediments were deposited in layers of clay, sand, and dirt.  This makes underground projects, like portions of the SoundTransit Light Rail, extremely difficult to accomplish.

"As the drill moves down from the surface it faces varied and extremely different types of sediments in the ground," Dr. Baer said.

While these towering walls of ice are now long gone, their effects on the landscape will ensure people never forget they were once here.

This week's Science Seminar will be held in Building 3, room 102, and will run from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.  Mark Kerr, a guest speaker who worked with NASA's Human Research Program, will speak about his time studying how to help humans survive on other planets.

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