Wednesday June 22, 2016
One of Lance Goodwin’s pilots noticed something strange as he flew over the Slims River a few weeks ago. He told Goodwin about it when he landed, and the next day, they went out together to take some photos.
The Slims River, they discovered, isn’t really a river anymore. It’s more of a trickle.
And since Goodwin posted the photos online, the discovery has made geologists and glaciologists excited to study a phenomenon they don’t get to witness all that often.
The Slims River, now officially called the A’ay Chu, is largely fed by meltwater from the Kaskawulsh glacier, which has flowed out into both the Slims and the Kaskawulsh rivers for the last few hundred years.
But this year, something has shifted as the glacier retreats. And now, almost all the water is flowing into the Kaskawulsh River and from there into the Alsek, leaving the Slims River valley dusty and dry.
The process is called river piracy, and it wasn’t a gradual change. Goodwin, who owns Icefield Discovery, a local glacier flightseeing company, said the Slims was flowing well in April. But by the end of May, suddenly, everything was different.