Wednesday 13th May.
Woke at…you guessed it…5.30 am and found we were within the waters of Glacier Bay.
This was the beginning of a spectacular ooh and aaah day.
At 6am Alaskan Park Rangers arrived on their park cruiser. After matching speed with the ship three rangers climbed a rope ladder to board the ship.
From mid morning until 1pm a ranger gave a running commentary on the history of flora, fauna, native American and white arrival in the area. Importantly the talk included much information about each glacier that we saw. Much has been made in the media about the greenhouse effect and the glaciers melting and sea levels rising and how much of the planet as we know it will soon be under water. I can only say according to the maps, charts and commentary that many glaciers are in fact retreating. They have been retreating since man arrived and started to keep records. However some glaciers are constant and some are advancing.
The glaciers we saw were;
Margerie Glacier – the biggest and most spectacular and still growing- which once upon a time joined the
Grand Pacific Glacier which is receding.
Johns Hopkins Glacier
Margerie Glacier is calving about two metres every day.
It was named for the famed French geographer and geologist Emmanuel de Margeries who visited the Glacier Bay in 1913.When a section of ice and snow is about to break off there is a loud booming sound when suddenly a wall of ice will fall into the sea. With large falls an icy wave forms spreading out across the bay. Photographing a fall is an almost impossible task as you cannot know where along the 1.6 Klm face the next fall will be.
Grand Pacific Glacier although receding may have slowed due to the rock and debris collected by the glacier in its grind towards the ocean. Where the rock debris is more than 25mm thick it has insulated the glacier ice and slowed the recession.
Johns Hopkins is another glacier considered to be advancing.
Again today I do not have enough superlative words to describe the huge mountain peaks, the snow, the ice, the glaciers and icebergs. It was awesome to be among all of that spectacle only nature can give us. Our ship which appears so large, cruised to what appeared to be a few hundred meters of Margerie Glacier but in reality was probably more like a kilometre off the glacier face. The ship was able to turn 360 degrees, twice, so everybody on each side of the ship was able to have a perfect view. Most passengers crowded the bow section to gain the longest views. By late in the afternoon we were both spectacle overloaded.
By 3pm the Park Rangers who had given a running commentary most of the day, handed out printed material and after lunch gave a Power Point Presentation lecture in the Stardust Theatre, left the ship as we approached the mouth of Glacier Bay. Passengers lined the rails to watch the rangers as their boat matched speed with PEARL and they clambered down a swaying ladder, boarded their boat and within minutes they were gone.
On reflection and looking at a chart of Alaska it is apparent that we saw only a small portion of the snow, ice, glaciers and vast distance of this umm err frozen land.
We still have four more days of cruising and visiting ahead of us.