A Magnificent Cruise

Today is Matt’s birthday – 20 years old! To celebrate, we took a cruise of Prince William Sound and got cozy with some glaciers. It was a tremendous cruise with lots of wildlife and wilderness along the way followed by an up-close encounter with a glacier and calving ice. Truly an amazing experience.

Started out the day in normal early morning excitement:

Calm down, birthday boy...

Down at the docks, the Nunatak was waiting:

Captain Ryan ran a good cruise with good commentary on history, wildlife, and the peculiarities of the Sound.

We came across a mountainside that was home to thousands of kittiwakes. Real estate is at a premium here and the best perches are always being challenged. Very noisy!

The rustic beauty of Prince William Sound was fascinating:

We saw some gill netters out on the Sound. Their nets are set at about 5″ square to catch the nice sized salmon. Periodically, they would rev their boats up and pass back and forth in front of their nets to scare any lingering fish into them where the large ones would get snagged trying to go through.

We had some welcoming fans, of course:

Sea otter waving to us

"Thanks for coming. Now go home."

And there were glaciers. Lots and lots of glaciers:

There are many different types of glaciers. On the way into Alaska, I saw the Matanuska Glacier which is a Mountain Glacier that terminates into a valley below the mountains. There are Cirque Glaciers that usually reside high in mountain bowl-like hollows and they are usually very wide rather than long. Like this guy:

Here’s an example of a “Hanging Glacier” that sits on a mountain side but never reaches the bottom:

The one we got the closest to was Surprise Glacier which is a Tidewater Glacier – meaning that it reaches the water and periodically calves pieces off into that water.

Surprise Glacier

The blue ice is beautiful. The glacier forms high in the mountains as heavy constant snowfalls pack tightly together forcing air pockets out. The ice becomes amazingly dense to where it absorbs all sunlight except the highest frequency – blue.

We're about 1/4 mile away

The water was an eerie grey slate color. As glaciers move down the mountains (at about 2ft per day), they grind the rock into silt. There’s water moving under the glacier and it brings the silt into the Sound. Glacier water is fresh water and, when it hits the salt water of the Sound, it sits on top for quite a while until eventually merging with the salt water.

Whatchu guys lookin' at??

We got to see some calving:

When we got to the glacier, the captain cut the engines and we were able to just float there and admire the scenery. There was constant cracking of ice that sounded like rifle shots as pieces broke off. It was hard to tell how big some of these pieces were, but the largest one was probably close to the size of our boat.

Later today, I’ll be posting an extensive photo album with, hopefully, some videos of more calving.

Floaters leading up to the glacier that look benign but have some danger to these small boats

More locals

It’s hard to describe how this part of world affects you. The sea otters and seals litter the ice floes and the eagles and gulls are constantly flying around. There is absolutely no civilization out here. Occasionally, you’ll see a couple of kayakers slowly moving up the sound but, other than that, this place belongs to these wonderful creatures.

It was a moving experience to witness nature in its most pristine setting and realize that our world is so temporary – as this natural phenomena has been around for so many more years than we and, hopefully, will continue undisturbed for a million more.


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