A Haunting Day in Glacier Bay

DSC_1554We woke up this morning sailing into the mouth of Glacier Bay National Park. A surreal place made even more mysterious by the fog and suspended clouds and bits of glacier ice. You can only visit this magical place by water. It was cool, calm and so quiet.

The only break in the mirror-like blue water was the gentle wake as the ship made it’s way slowly along the 65 mile-long passage.

The visitor’s center is like no other national park’s. It’s the only one where the rangers have to come to you in a pilot boat and board via a ship’s ladder. They joined us at 7 am along with a very interesting and informative member of the Tlingit tribe who grew up in the area. They brought literature and narrated and lectured during the course of the trip. We were glad we already experienced the Mendenhall glacier at Juneau so we had some basic understanding of how this place was (and is still being) formed.

We dressed in layers and stayed on deck almost the entire day. How could you turn your eyes away from this. We were rewarded by the clouds lifting and exposing the blue of the sky, imitating the blue of the glaciers. Ahead was the ice field feeding the Grand Pacific glacier.

At the very top of the bay was the castle and spire-like Margerie Glacier. The ship stopped and drifted closer and in a circle for over an hour so everyone could be filled by this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. The glacier terminus is the height of a 25-story building. Visual spacial reference is null and void here.

Your imagination just runs wild. Do you see the rocket ship? (Guess I’m the only one). And it’s constantly changing as the glacier retreats and changes its face.

I’m the lucky one to capture one of several “calvings” we saw during our stay. Large chunks of ice fall from the face with a cracking and thundering louder than a lightning storm. It looks close enough to touch, but the ripples from the falling ice take an incredibly long time to reach our vantage point. We also hear booming from the interior of the glacier as ice collapses, forming crevasses.

From the surreal to the bizarre as stewards come around offering bowls of hot pea soup – apparently a Dutch (or Holland America) tradition while sailing Glacier Bar. It’s delicious, warming, and becomes an important part of the experience.

As we begin to sail back toward the entrance we make a hard right turn up the Johns Hopkins Inlet beyond Jaw Point and toward the immense Johns Hopkins Glacier. We don’t approach too close to avoid frightening a new crop of baby sea lions.

We also pass the Reid and Lamplugh Glaciers. Another ship is closer to them and it gives some perspective. The giant cruise ship up against the wall of ice looks like a tiny bathtub toy.

As the spectacular journey draws to a close we discover that Linda and Josh are celebrating their anniversary this very day. An anniversary never to be forgotten…by any of us. We toast the doubly special day with a beautiful bottle of champagne at dinner.

We sailed out into the Bay of Alaska for our last night aboard the Statendam. Early the next morning we would dock at Seward to begin the land (and some sea) part of our adventures.

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2 Responses to A Haunting Day in Glacier Bay

  1. dona says:

    i saw the rocket ship, joel.

  2. Wow! So immense and gorgeous and scary. Beautiful pictures!

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