Wednesday September 10
Today, it was on with our long undies and warm layers and rainproof jackets and woolly hats as we cruised along shorelines that, only 200 years ago, were completely covered (up to 4000 feet thick) with ice. We’d reached the northernmost point on our cruise, the World Heritage Park known famously as Glacier Bay. And I wish I could recall all the staggering facts we’ve heard these past few days.
For example, the monster rivers of ice we saw today began life some 4000 years ago, and were formed high in the Alaskan/Canadian mountains from compacted snow (just like the glaciers in NZ). When these giant, now rock-solid iceblocks get heavy enough, they begin inching (centimetring?) downhill, reshaping the landscape and gathering rocky chunks and rubble on the way. When their front-ends finally reach the ocean (the glaciers we photographed were a LOT further away than they look, and some were one-to-two miles across) they begin breaking up …
And that’s where it gets exciting!
It’s called “calving”. It happens when monumental slabs of ice split off from the towering face of a glacier and crash into the sea. And when it happens (especially if it’s a big chunk) it sounds like thunder and the impact shoots water hundreds of feet into the air. And here’s another useful stat: Glacier Bay has more actively calving tidewater glaciers than any other place else in the world. (You didn’t know that, did you?)
Anyway, we stood for hours on deck this morning trying to capture this explosive moment on our cameras – not caring that we got cold and wet and frostbitten. We waited, and hoped, and held our breath, and even prayed for a calving-to-beat-all-calvings. But the best we saw (well, me, anyway) was a few smaller ice-crunches that went off like a gunshot and hit the water in a cloud of spray. Not that it mattered. Because this was yet another gob-stopping, eye-popping Alaskan experience that we will never forget.
As you can probably guess, our mad midlife Kiwis continue to feel VERY happy and VERY upbeat. And there was no shortage of things to talk about around our dinner tables tonight as we compared notes, selected yet another four-course feast, and added a few more millimetres to our waistlines.
TOMORROW: We’re gonna go totem-poling and axe-throwing in Ketchikan. So stay tuned, folks …
Yours bloggedly – JOHN
P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on ‘COMMENTS’ (or ‘NO COMMENTS’) under the title for the day’s blog, and type away! And don’t worry: we’ll make sure they get these messages. Also, if you want a better look at our route map and some of the photos here, just click on them and they’ll enlarge – magic!