As I type this, I’m enjoying the scenery of Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. I’m nice and comfy in my stateroom, though I do make frequent trips outside to take in the scenery as well and the clean, crisp scent and the sound of water against the cruise ship.
The water is a gorgeous blue/green, reminding me of Caribbean waters. It’s not the dark blue one might expect from cold water, often found in the northern oceans. The color surprised me the first time I saw it. I’m sure the ocean here is frigid but since I haven’t touched it, I’ll just go with my intuition. Mountains rise up all around us. As we’re in the lower part of the bay, the mountains are covered in trees, some two hundred years old. There are clouds and haze, lingering where the sun’s rays haven’t yet reached.
Since the view from my balcony was limited, I explored the ship. I visited the back of the boat on the upper deck, where the scenery was just as gorgeous. Mom & I walked around the promenade deck, visiting both the port and starboard sides of the boat. We also ventured to the bow, where it was quite windy and cold. We were served hot pea soup and it was very warming and hit the spot. We eventually made it back to our room. What was nice about being in the public, outside areas was the occasional commentary by a visiting park ranger. Two boarded our ship to share their knowledge with us about the bay.
I moved to our balcony and by this time we had sailed into the upper part of the bay, right next to Marjorie Glacier. We were so close and I feel like I could have reached out and touched it. Parts of the glacier are dirty and remind me of the yucky snow on the side of the road after it’s been plowed. Other parts are white, where I’m guessing the glacier has calved. Parts of the glacier have a bluish hue. The water is still green but has sediment mixed in so has a brownish color to it. The glacier is noisy as it moves. The Marjorie is moving 7 feet a year. I was able to see some small pieces fall; it’s not a quiet process.
Right next to the Marjorie Glacier is the Grand Pacific Glacier. It does not look as large as the Marjorie but it is the glacier responsible for carving out most of Glacier Bay as it receded. Glaciers, as they grow, remove everything that’s living, right down to the bed rock. As it recedes, it leaves the bare bedrock behind. Slowly things start to grow again. Lichen and moss come first, preparing the way for small flowering plants, which prepare the way for the trees that eventually start growing again. The trees closer to the glaciers are much smaller than those in the lower bay as they have had less time to grow.
We had a gorgeous day to be in Glacier Bay. The sun was shining and was warm on my face as the boat turned around and we headed back the way we came. We’ll head up another “arm” to see a few more glaciers. They all tend to look alike. They are stark but beautiful and they command your attention. The seeming barrenness is also beautiful. If you look closely you can see life. There were a few harbor seals playing and eating near the base of the glacier. There were lichen and small flowering plants and bushes and trees growing where there once was glacier. Fresh water streams flow down, little streams of melted snow, making its way back to the ocean. There are also mountain goats around as well as birds. And who knows what kind of fish and mussels and other kinds of life are abundant underwater, hidden from view? In Johns Hopkins Inlet we saw a Humpback whale surface twice for air.
We visited Johns Hopkins Glacier, named after the university in Baltimore, MD. It is one of the few glaciers that is growing. It is a mile wide and the ice towers two hundred and fifty feet above sea level with another two hundred feet of ice below. The glacier is an amazing blue color with towering snow covered mountains behind it. The mountains that are ten thousand feet high and the snow from them feeds the glacier. Right beside the glacier is Mt. Abbey, which is eight thousand feet. In it’s shadow is Gilman Glacier, which is a tributary of the Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins moves 10-15 feet a day and while we were there we were able to see some calving; the splash from the dropping ice was incredible. It sounded like a freight train. It amazes me that you can hear the glacier moving. I found it fascinating that cruise ships are not allowed to this glacier until after September first. The harbor after Jaw Point is a Harbor Seal breeding area. The number of Harbor Seals are in decline so they are doing what they can to protect them. We were able to get extremely close to the glacier, something we were told that doesn’t happen very often. It was incredible!
My words really do not do this place justice. It is a place that must be seen to be fully enjoyed.