August 8th, 2012
To even think for a moment that I could be sitting in a deck chair, laptop appropriately on lap, in shorts and t-shirt basking in the Alaska sun overlooking Glacier Bay, is quite incredible.
Glacier Bay is a beautiful channel, with narrow waterways 65 miles long weaving around pristine islands and inlets, banked by snowy alps on either side.
250 years ago there was no bay, it was a giant wall of ice.
There are scores of glaciers at every turn, but none more impressive than the Margerie Glacier, one of the few tidewater glaciers that remain.
Nestled in the most northern arm of Glacier Bay, Margerie has been retreating steadily. Standing approximately 250 feet high above the tidewater, pinnacles of ice with aqua blue centres stand to attention at peculiar angles.
The sight is impressive, but the noise is incredible.
The sound of cracking lightening then a thunderous roar as massive shards of ice tumble like a tower of cards into the sea below. 150 foot towers calve off the face then explode with force into the sea, creating a tsunami type ripple effect that ricochets momentarily before dispersing into the sea.
The green glacier waters beneath are saturated with silt, a stark contrast to the blue ocean waters. “Icebergs” float in chunks, in a variety of dirty greys and stunning blues.
Sadly the Margerie Glacier is retreating at a rapid pace. With the ice falling before your very eyes, it may only be 20 years before it disappears up the mountain and unseen by boat.
Only permitted vessels are allowed to enter the Glacier Bay National Park each day and this is governed by rangers, with Tlingit claiming Glacier Bay as their spiritual homeland.
Glaciers aside, the scenery is breathtaking, the wildlife is tremendous.
You will hear the ‘th-wmmpfff’ as the humpback’s blowhole bursts air through the water, long before you may be able to spot them. Then, with the grace of an acrobat, it will arch before your very eyes as it rolls into a dive. Followed closely by the distinct V tail as it flicks a fond farewell. If you are lucky you’ll get to spot them breaching, and slap the water with their full body weight has they playfully return to the sea.
These are massive mammals. They grow up to 50 feet long. Each humpback can be identified by the shape of its tail, and like our fingerprints – no two are the same. The sightings were so numerous I gave up counting.
With humpback whales in the water beside you, and grizzly bears roaming the foreshores for berries, Glacier Bay is truly a slice of Alaskan paradise.
Special thanks to Holland America ‘Statendam’ and the National Park rangers for a wonderful day.