Update July 18, 2014 at 12:29 pm
The ice cave has partially collapsed near the entry. Laurie Craig of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center said it happened sometime between late Thursday night and Friday morning.
Craig said in a printed statement that guiding company co-owner Becky Janes of Above and Beyond Alaska notified the Forest Service at noon Friday of the collapsed entrance. Above and Beyond Alaska is one of two commercial guiding companies holding permits to escort visitors along the west side of Mendenhall Glacier.
“The ice cave remains unstable and unsafe,” said Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Director John Neary. He said the collapse is a sign of structural weakness in the ice that may extend beyond the freshly broken ice.
Original story July 18, 2014 at 6:54 am
The much-visited ice cave at the western terminus of the Mendenhall Glacier is showing signs of imminent collapse. A flight over the cave this week showed thinning ice around the entrance of the cave and new holes in the ice surface.
Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Director John Neary flew over the cave on the way to check up on Suicide Basin. Neary says the cave seems “particularly ready to collapse,” in a press release sent out last night.
Commercial tour operators Above and Beyond Alaska suspended visits to the cave earlier this month after determining it was no longer safe to enter, according to the release.
Forest Service officials are asking that people stay away from the cave.
Neary provided more details about potential collapse on KTOO’s Morning Edition program on Friday. He warns that visitors inside the cave or on top of it could be seriously injured or even killed from falling ice and rock.
“When I was flying in the chopper,” said Neary, “I could see at least ten people climbing around on top of the ice not far from those holes. And, that’s just crazy.”