Mount Baker from Everett, Washington

May 03, 2014

DSC0Baker Black and White

Photographer: John McAlpine
Summary Authors: John McAlpine; Stu Witmer

Taking photos of the most prominent landmark in the northwestern corner of the state is something I do as often as it appears. Which is to say, not very often. But I notice that, whenever it does appear, it draws me like a moth to a flame. Mount Baker has one of the more distinctive profiles of all the Cascade volcanoes. One reason for this is its closeness to sea level. I took this photo from a pier at a boat launch area in the city of Everett about 55 mi (78 km) SSE of the summit (10,781 ft or 3,286 m).

Another striking feature is all the snow. The permanent whiteness of the mountain includes a total volume of about 0.43 cu mi (1.8 cu km) of ice and snow. This is more than all the other Cascade volcanoes together, not including Mount Rainier. Mount Baker holds what’s believed to be the world’s record for seasonal snowfall, with about 1,140 in (2,896 cm) in the winter of 1998-99.

Mount Baker is a stratovolcano and has been active off and on for more than a million years. The distinctive flat top is relatively new. Beneath it is an older cone which was active between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago. Considerable erosion took place during the most recent ice age which ended 15,000-20,000 years ago, giving us the mountain we recognize today.

With all these outstanding characteristics you might think this mountain should have an equally unique name rather than that of Lieutenant Joseph Baker, who was the first member of George Vancouver's 1792 expedition to sight it. Two years earlier, when Gonzalo Lopez de Haro sailed through the straits and saw the mountain, he was reminded of the white robes of Carmelite monks and gave it the somewhat more fitting name, La Gran Montana del Carmelo. Perhaps most descriptive of all is the name the local Nooksack Indians have for it: Koma Kulshan. Appropriately enough, this name can have many meanings, including steep white mountain, broken or damaged, lown off, or Great White One. Photo taken March 26, 2011.

Photo Details: Camera: SONY DSC-H12; Focal Length: 72.0mm; Aperture: f/5.6; Exposure Time: 0.0031 s (1/320); ISO equiv: 80; Software: Adobe Photoshop CS2 Windows. I desaturated the photo to emphasize the shadows.