Saturday, June 07, 2014

Alaska Day 5: Bartlett Cove & Glacier Bay

I'm sad to say that I woke up feeling a bit under the weather, all of my recent plane travel having caught up with me. (I catch a cold every single time I fly.) I was especially bummed because we were embarking on the part of the trip that I was most looking forward to - Glacier Bay National Park! Before we could get to the ice, however, we stopped at the ranger station in Bartlett Cove to pick up our ranger Jeanine. We were given the option of a shore stroll, a forest hike, or hiking on our own in groups of three or more (apparently bears don't like to mess with groups with three people; two you're in trouble). Some of the folks we'd met during the cruise thus far were talking about getting the lead out, so to speak, and so we knew given my extreme fatigue and cough that going on one of their hikes would be too much for me. We chose to go on the ranger-led forest hike and it was very informative so I'm glad we chose to do it.


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Getting back on the boat, I decided to take a nap so that I'd feel better when we got to the glaciers. This part of the trip was the reason I lobbied hard for us to take the two-week trip, and I wanted to feel as good as possible when it mattered. Alan reports that I missed out on seeing puffins, mountain goats, and a bear way off in the distance. When I did wake up we were coming upon South Marble Island, a nesting colony for the pigeon guillemot and a haul-out location for the stellar sea lions. Living so close to San Francisco, I've seen my fair share of sea lions up close and personal, but I can't help but to still be fascinated by the big, loud buggers. And I love photographing them and harbor seals. I also love, love, love gulls (I know, I'm probably the only person you know to make that claim), and there was no shortage of a few different species of gulls. Unfortunately, I had a heck of a time getting any pictures of them.

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You'll notice in these pictures that the color of the water began to change from a steely blue to a lighter, milky blue color. This is because of the glacier silt, or glacial flour - fine-grained, silt-sized particles of rock that have been ground down by glacial erosion. It becomes suspended in the meltwater, which is what gives the water its milky, lighter color. Making our way toward Tarr Inlet, we soon came upon our first iceberg and shortly thereafter, while eating dinner, our first glacier.


After dinner we made our way to our destination - Margerie Glacier, s a 21-mile-long tide water glacier. While many of the glaciers in Glacier Bay are receding, Margerie is unique in that she is stable (while Johns Hopkins glacier is said to be advancing). I've heard stories of amazing calving at Margerie, so I was pretty excited to see what we'd witness in our time up there. While it was a stunning glacier, to be sure, we had very small calving, which still managed to produce some thunderous noise. After about an hour, the captain turned the ship around and we made our way down to Reid Glacier where we'd anchor for the night.

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