Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Alaska Glaciers

Last week I went down to Southern Alaska to see what this enormous state had to show me. I took a wildlife/glacier cruise out of Seward. The drive from Anchorage to Seward was breathtaking! A few Bald Eagles and moose to be spotted along the roadside. Mountains that seemed to tower above us, the tops covered in snow and waterfalls flowing straight from the snow. When I got to Seward, the cruise started with a gentle rain and a fairly cold breeze going through the bay. As we headed out to Resurrection Bay, I saw my first Alaskan Sea Otter!
As we continued towards Harding Gateway we saw a pod of Orca's, a young humpback whale, a fin whale, oodles of puffins and more otters! No pictures of those guys because apparently they knew when my camera was pointing at them and they dodged under. Camera shy little beasties!
When we got to Cheval Island, we found beaches of a fair number of Steller Seals. These guys are so beautiful! Deep amber colored coats but they are still clumsy seals on the rocks. While we were there, two of the bulls got into a roaring match. Lots of noise and posturing! The ladys continued laying around like tossed little coats, not paying any attention to the show that was being put on for their benefit.
We traveled around the Bay, saw several glaciers including the Bear Glacier that calves directly into a small fresh water lake.
We got to see the Holgate Glacier, the Exit Glacier and the Prospect Glacier. If you are like me, your impression of glaciers has always been,"Ok, so its a bunch of ice and snow that moves along." Needless to say, I have learned better now! Glaciers are actually more than ice or snow, they develop over time from ice and snow, but have all the air pressed out of it! It turns this amazing color that I just couldn't capture with a camera or with every explain. Glaciers are full of sharp peaks and deep valleys of "ice." The finality of this trip was the Aialik Glacier. It is one of the largest tidewater glaciers. That means that it terminates at sea level and calves directly into the ocean. Its face is just around 400-700 feet tall and is over a mile long. As we moved closer to the glacier bay, we found harbor seals lying around on the large calved pieces of ice and playing in the water. They would poke their little heads up, and then "BLONK" they were gone.

The Aialik Glacier itself was breathtaking! We had the rare opportunity to witness the glacier calving. Sorry no pictures. It was one of those moments in time that you are lost to yourself and simply become a part of the event. Stunning and awe inspiring!