Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Glacier Bay National Park

We're spending all day in Glacier Bay National Park. Picked up a Park Ranger at 6 AM. His name is Richard--goes by Ranger Rick.

Puffins, sea lions, seals, eagles, gulls on an island we pass SLOWLY. The sound of the sea lions and gulls is amazing. the smell of the sea lions will wake you up if you missed your morning coffee. The Glacier left this island about 180 years ago.

Glacier Bay was not here in 1776--It was all Glacier and no bay. The Glacier advanced in the little ice age and filled the bay. The local native (Tilngit) oral tradition is that the glacier advanced "faster that a lame dog could run." It flattened a native village. At one point Muir glacier was 5000 feet deep (4000 above sea level). In the late 1700's it started to retreat. Once it started retreating, it retreated very fast (the ice started floating and broke up quickly. With the weight of the glacier gone, the land here is rebounding (rising) about one inch per year.

Most of the time we think of geologic processes of taking millions of years. In Glacier Bay you see a bay, islands, cliffs, moraines and mountains that were covered with glaciers less than 200 years ago. As you go up the bay, you see land scape that has been exposed for less and less time.

Checked out a bay called Sandy Cove for wildlife--saw one humming bird.

A little further up the bay five mountain goats on the hillside--one at sea level with a kid laying in a crevice.

The weather is fantastic--partly cloudy, temperature in the 60s (very warm and sunny for Glacier Bay).

Got to Madeline Glacier--over 20 miles long, 250 feet above the sea and 50 feet below, over a mile wide. White and blue ice. Next to it is the Great Pacific Glacier--two miles wide and over 30 miles long. It caries a lot of rocks and gravel and is covered with it at it's end looks like the ugly black crud the collects under your car's wheel-well.

Madeline calves (drops big chunks into the sea) every day. Great Pacific calves very infrequently. Ranger Rick is out here every day and hasn't seen Great Pacific calve this year. Both glaciers calved while we were there. The sound of cracking is is like a large canon going off--even though we are 1/4 mile away. I think we sat in front of Madeline and Great Pacific Glacier for an hour (I make a point of not wearing a watch on vacation).

Going into John Hopkins Bay, saw a sow bear and three cubs galloping down the snow to the ocean.

Dock at park headquarters at the mouth of Glacier Bay. This is the only time we get off the ship today. Take a one mile hike--very civilized, typical National Park nature trail--no boot-sucking mud.

Sunset is at about 10:30 but it still doesn't get dark.

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