Thursday, September 09, 2010

Glacier Bay National Park

On the sixth day of the cruise (Remember the cruise? I still am working on the travelog for it) we cruised through Glacier Bay National Park. For me, this is Alaska! It was absolutely beautiful. This is a very picture heavy post, and believe me, there are SO MANY that I'm not including here; it was hard to choose just a few.

Glacier Bay, in 1740, was a glacier, not a bay. A native American tribe even lived at the mouth of the "not-a-bay." When Vancouver came to the area in 1794, the entire bay was frozen over. Since that time, which was at the end of a "Little Ice Age," the glaciers have been retreating, leaving behind this gorgeous body of water, full of ice bergs and surrounded by mountains and tidewater glaciers.

Tidewater glaciers have their face in water, so one of the actions of the glacier is to calve -- drop parts of itself into the water as the integrity of the glacier is broken down at its face. Remember, glaciers are actually not stationary, but move -- either advancing or retreating. That movement forms the geological structures left behind. In fact, glaciers are noisy -- they pop and crack all the time.

The glaciers of Glacier Bay National Park actually have their beginnings in the Fairweather Mountains. As snow piles up, never melting, it is compacted. Glaciers, flowing down the mountains, are a wonderful blue color, as is the ice they "calve."

We saw several of them in the Park, and became good at spotting them later. Glaciers have a distinctive look. The first glacier in these images, near the top of the post, is Lamplugh Glacier. The next one is Muir Glacier (named after the naturalist, who visited the area). This glacier has retreated so much that it is no longer actually a tidewater glacier; it's face in on land. The glaciers dig into the rock so much that it can pile up at the face.

The third glacier you see in the images Margarie Glacier. It calves very frequently. We spent 1/2 an hour or so "parked" at its foot, watching for it to calve. It did while we were there. Unfortunately, I was changing camera lenses at the time, and missed taking its picture. Steve got a little video of it. It is a magnificent sight!

We were in the bay on a beautiful day! The weather was perfect. Blue skies, no clouds. In fact, as we left the bay later in the day, the naturalist pointed out Mount Fairweather (the world's highest coastal mountain) telling us that he had never actually seen it before -- it is always clouded over. We spent the entire morning on the deck rail, watching the scenery go by, as the Park Naturalist (who we picked up at the mouth of the bay) tell us about what we were seeing. It was COLD and windy -- I wore a t-shirt under a sweatshirt under a jacket under a blanket. If you know me, you know it was COLD. It was totally worth it, though. It was some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.

Next time, I'll talk about the wildlife we saw that day, but for now, the last image is of a bald eagle, hanging out on an iceberg.



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