Alaska: Glacier Bay

Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay Alaska

Tues. Sept 4th:  Early this morning the Captain informed us that we were moving into Glacier Bay. At 9 am we headed to Vista Stage on Deck 2 to watch a show about the glaciers. The MC was Jillian from the night before and she indeed was wearing a puffy white sweat shirt. She told us what to expect that day then she introduced a Ranger from Glacier National Park, who explained to us that she was ferried to the Noordam earlier that morning, and she and several others boarded via a rope ladder. She used a remote to scroll through a slide show about the glaciers. We learned their names, how they were formed and how they are not stagnant, but always moving and ever changing. At 9:45 a woman from the Tlingit people, original natives of the area, gave an interpretive performance and talk about the culture of her people. In 1750, during the Little Ice Age the tidewater glacier moved forward at such a great pace that the Tlingit said it came “faster than a dog could run.” The glacier wiped out their villages and they were forced to move away, but the people preserved their culture and oral history, passing it on to each generation. Today scientists can attest to the validity of their version of what happened less than 300 years ago. They know the glacial ice extended all the way to the Gulf of Alaska and has been receding since the late 1700s, each year moving further inland.

Lido deck to try to get some lunch before we got to the glaciers, but as soon as we sat down and had our drinks a voice over the intercom announced that the first glacier was coming up on the left or port side and the best place to view would be on the top deck. So we jumped up and headed outside. It was a beautiful sunny day, a little cooler as the boat neared the glacier.  We ran into the Hoppers and Gloria on the Observation Deck, a semi circle deck on the uppermost bow. The area had a high plexiglass wind guard to keep passengers from going overboard.  [Glacier photo here] Gloria calls this area the “Jack and Rose section” in reference to the movie Titanic. We ended out sitting on the deck chairs enjoying the cool breeze and bright sun as we slowly moved in to view two more glaciers close up, the John Hopkins (I don’t know how it got its name) and the Margerie. The ice on either side of the glaciers reminds me of dirty hard crusted snow piles in parking lots in late winter. You can see the silt packed along the outside edges, picked up as the glacier moves through the earth. But the sunlight penetrating the heart of the ancient ice gave off a spectacular blue hue. No snow or ice I have ever seen comes close to it. At one point we could hear the ice cracking and I even saw a big chunk break a way and crash down into the water. This is called calving. Of course I did not have my camera ready to catch the event as it happened, but here’s a you tube video of someone who did. (Be patient and stay with it for at least 30 seconds to see the massive glacier slag crash into the water and the after effects on the camera-person.)

Ginger and Joe Watkins, Ron and Rita Hopper, catching some Alaska rays.
JR Watkins and Jackie Bontrager; Gloria Herms

After we were out of the glacier area, we ended up on Lido deck where all seven of us had an early dinner. During the end of our meal, we were informed via the intercom, that there were sea lions on a rock island sunning themselves, so some of us left the table and went to the window to see.  I snapped a few pictures, but they look like brown blobs draped on big rocks. I tried zooming in and cropping them, but they still do not look like sea lions.  We sat back down, intending to enjoy our meal and the company, when we were told there was a whale sighting on the port side, which was the opposite side, so we didn’t bother getting up. Then the voice said that in 15 minutes, we could watch the Ranger and her entourage and all her equipment being unloaded via a rope ladder onto the small boat just off the port side. Again we passed.

At eight we all met at the Vista Lounge deck 2 for the show. The MC could have been the twin of the Hunger Games host sans the blue hair as he introduced tonight’s star, a tall bald comedian whose name I do not have. He was funny, doing great impressions of many stars, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro and Johnny Carson, to name a few. But some of his material was dated, as evidenced by a Michael Jackson skit that included dangling a doll on a string.

After the show, Joe and I walked around the deck, and then back to our room. We enjoyed a glass of the wine on the balcony before we turned in for the night.

Read Next Post Sept. 5, Haines Alaska
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