April 25, 2002 11:00 pm
Miles of ice: The Mendenhall Glacier, located near Juneau, Alaska, is 12 miles long. Ron King, above, obtained a piece of the glacier to send to Elgin. (Submitted photo).
Miles of ice: The Mendenhall Glacier, located near Juneau, Alaska, is 12 miles long. Ron King, above, obtained a piece of the glacier to send to Elgin. (Submitted photo).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

ELGIN — This Alaskan souvenir is not sold in gift shops.

It is a splinter of frozen history — a piece of Alaska's famed Mendenhall Glacier.

Students at Stella Mayfield Elementary School in Elgin got to see it and touch the piece of the glacial ice this week. They may have made history in the process.

It is believed that no piece of the glacier has been sent to Oregon before, said Gary Nolt of Elgin. Nolt, who owns a fisheries company in Alaska, helped obtain a piece of the glacier to allow fifth-grader Ariel Fruitts to complete a class project.

Ariel, the daughter of Dolly and J.R. Fruitts, is Nolt's neighbor. She was preparing a report and presentation on Alaska and asked Nolt if he had anything from Alaska that she could borrow for her project.

Nolt, who lived in Alaska for three decades, was momentarily frustrated.

"I couldn't believe it. I had lived in Alaska for 30 years but I didn't have anything,'' Nolt said. "I didn't have anything like a walrus tusk lying around.''

Nolt took a most unconventional step. He called Ron King, a friend in Alaska who is related to the Keatings of Elgin, and asked him to get a piece of the glacier, which is 3,000 years old and located near Juneau. It is one of the most visited glaciers in the world, according to Linda Freeman of www.snowcrest.com.

Getting a piece of the glacier was not a simple process because of laws protecting it. King received clearance from the offices of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Alaska's lieutenant governor's office. King got a piece of the glacier with help of people at the glacier's visitors center.

King was told by the representatives at the center that a piece of the glacier had never been sent to Oregon before.

The piece of glacier was then flown to Walla Walla by Alaska and Horizon airlines, which transported it at no charge and kept it refrigerated. The piece of glacier was driven to Elgin.

Ariel brought the glacier to school Wednesday and gave a presentation to younger students. Diana Grandeen, a fourth-grade teacher, played a major role in organizing the presentation.

Children touched the glacier after Ariel's presentation.

"They were thoroughly fascinated by the fact they were touching ice that is thousands of years old,'' said fourth-grade teacher Steve Stanhope.

Stanhope said having a fifth-grader give a presentation was inspiring.

"It was exciting. It let them see what they will be capable of in a couple of years,'' Stanhope said.

Ariel has a special interest in Alaska because her father is working in the state on a construction project.

The piece of the glacier was brought to the school with help from Pet Protectors Inc., a firm of which Nolt is president. The company makes whistles which keep deer away from cars.

Nolt wants to keep introducing students at Stella Mayfield to Alaska's wonders. He hopes to organize a trip for students to the state this summer.