Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Alaska: Glacier Bay Another Winner in the Scenery Competition

A pattern emerges as you cruise through Alaska's Inside Passage. Early morning finds you sliding silently through eerie banks of clouds and fog that either covers the shoreline trees and mountains

 or reveals them as if through some kind of smoky grey filter.

As the day wears on patches of bright sunshine creep in and suddenly the snowy peaks and the glaciers are gleaming down at you.

Glacier Bay National Park is composed of 3.3 million acres of mountains, forests, fjords, islands, snow, and ice.  Two hundred fifty years ago it was literally all ice--a hundred miles long and thousands of feet thick.  The glaciers have receded now to the point where we can cruise its deep fjords and watch as the remaining glaciers press down from the coastal mountains to drain or calve their contents into the encroaching sea. All boats need permission to enter these waters and the larger ships take on National Park Rangers to inform and instruct during the hours you are in the park.
Our folks came out in a speedy little launch from the Visitor Center near Gustavus.

The Rangers help you spot wildlife such as whales and eagles.


They also talk about the nature of the topography and the types and evolution of glaciers. The most fascinating part of our few hours in the bay was when we were parked in front of the magnificent Margerie Glacier and were able to both hear and see the calving off of several huge chunks of ice.

This is the glacier in a couple of longer views.

It is hard to get the scale of the glacier face without something of known size in the  foreground.   Look at the small boat to the left.  Even if it is only fifteen or twenty feet above the water, that chilly white cliff is at least twenty times higher or some two hundred feet.

As we gathered at the rail on our much larger ship, we could hear some low cracking sounds.

 Then a huge chunk fell into the ocean.

Shortly after that it was another ship's turn to sail into this secluded bay and they passed us we steamed out.  

When the light fades late into the evening the clouds generally float back.

 and the mists reclaim this harsh but beautiful land. .    

During the night our ship will traverse some more of the Icy Strait and then turn back up to the Northwest on the Lynn Canal.  By morning we will be resting comfortably dockside in Haines, AK and ready to take on another adventure.  See you then.

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