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Published: October 15th 2008
Alaska-nature's beauty queen
Moving into Glacier Bay, an Alaskan national park. Incredibly beautiful!
Alaska -Sept 1-7, part 2
We were on the Holland America’s ship Westerdam from August 31 through Sept 7, 2008. The last day we received the ship’s log. We went a total of 2016 NM (nautical miles). Seattle to Glacier Bay National Park our average speed was 22.6 knots. From there to Juneau we went a piddling 11.7 knots. Looking at the weather reported in the log, “Overcast” for five days, “sunny” for one day, and “cloudy” for one day. Our trip was the last one of the season, and is cheaper because of the weather. During the summer you get a lot of sunny days. A few other facts: our diesel generators used 216 tons/day of fuel, the gas turbine used 90 tons/day. The ship does a lot of recycling, including cleaning gray water to make it potable. Potable water production was 1,700 tons/day, but we consumed only 750 tons/day. To my environmentalist readers (and most of us are) we were given the Alaska code of environmental ethics. It’s 10 points beginning with “Do not feed the birds and other wildlife that inhabit this region. Do not throw anything overboard. Do not play music or make loud noises on open
Our deck the the opening to the Bay
The deck of our ship. One young man swam in the pool while we were in Glacier Bay. The water must have been hot!
decks. Do not pick flowers or collect any plants.”
I liked the last two points best: “Respect and honor the serenity of the environment. Always conduct yourself in a manner that reflects pride and responsibility to your shipmates and to the environment in which we all live.” These remind me of the comment my sons’ father used to make to them when they left the house, “Bring honor on the family.” I have to admit, when he said it to me, I behaved better. As passengers and visitors to Alaska, we were reminded to behave well. (Of course, that meant we couldn’t shoot wildlife from airplanes and helicopters.)
We turned our clocks back one hour. (Maybe I should measure my travels by time zones.) The first description of Glacier Bay was two hundred years ago on Saturday, July 12, 1794 when First Officer Joseph Whidbey (working under Captain George Vancouver) lowered a boat and set out to survey the area. They were seeking a Northwest Passage, but described a large open bay with masses of floating ice, blocked at its northern end by a great ice wall. By the late 1800s the massive glacier had retreated
Lots of ice around ship
The bay is full of ice chunks. We looked for sea lions resting on the floes.
50 miles, opening a brand new waterway. “Few people other than the native Tlingit people, who hunted seal from temporary camps along the shore, had seen this new world.” (“Daily Program” 9-02-08, Westerdam) The bay is now 65 miles long and filled with fjords and inlets. Glacier Bay’s 3.3 million acres incorporates Wrangell-St. Elias national Park, Kluane National Park and the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park in Canada. It’s included in an international Biosphere Reserve as well as a World Heritage Site.
Mariana and I went up to the top deck, the Crow’s Nest on 10, and using binoculars, cameras, listening to the U.S. national Park Service Ranger narrating for us and following the knots of people exclaiming over what they saw, we recorded lots of calving glaciers, heard the ice noises, saw and heard sea gulls (I wish I had a bird book to identify them), some big black birds, sea lions, and ice of every shape. We stayed in Glacier Bay for several hours, moving very slowly and turning completely around in a narrow fjord. It was very cold, but we were prepared. Some folks, especially one young teenage boy, swam in the heated, deck pool the whole time.
Juneau is the second largest city in the US, in area. The borough covers more than 3,000 square miles—three times the size of Rhode Island. The area is hemmed in by Mount Juneau, Mount Roberts and Mendenhall Glacier, so you can’t drive here from anywhere else. Access is only sea or air. History: 1784 Grigory Shelikhov established the first permanent (non-native) settlement at Kodiak Island; 1800 Juneau is founded is founded when Joe Juneau and Richard Harris discover gold at Snow Side Gulch; 1897-1900 Klondike Gold Rush; 1902 Theodore Roosevelt established the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve (My grandparents marched in the demonstrations around Philadelphia for national parks; aren’t you glad?); 1989 Exxon Valdez, a tanker carrying 53 million gallons of crude oil, grounded on Bligh Reef spilling 11,000,000 gallons in P. William Sound; 1991 Congress closes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil development; in 2000 Alaska stood at the 47th most populated state, out of 50, of course.
Mariana and I had signed up for a photo safari while in Juneau. We went by shuttle bus to a dock and boarded a small, low boat with a blue inflatable tube around it. There were about
Check out the reflection
Beauty and mirrored beauty.
12 in our group. We went out in the bay and sighted the humpback whales. I was trying to use my camera with different settings for quick shots on an overcast day. (Throughout the whole safari I had messed up photos, either too slow or too overcast on my settings.) Since I missed getting the whale diving, I had to make my own shot with a toy whale. We also saw sea lions again; besides the ones in the water, look at the photo of the family sleeping on the buoy. We came back on land and shuttled to the Mendenhall Glacier. As we got off the bus a group of people were edging along the road, obviously following something. Turned out to be a black bear. I saw it several times but didn’t get a clear shot. I overheard one of the folks in that group mention that the glacier was “Windex blue.” Funny! Any American knows what color that is! (He was right; it was Windex blue.)
We walked over to the viewing area to see the glacier. Mariana went to the big lodge/information center to rest. The crutches were tiring, plus she had been here at
The glacier is calfing
Is the verb calfing or calving? Hunks of ice falling off the glacier
least twice before when her daughter worked in Juneau. One of our group was obviously distracted off to the side. He found a big brown bear. Our guide took us at a fast pace through the bushes to a bridge over a stream. (The bridge has gates on either end to keep the animals out.) He said, “Check your cameras and get ready. The bear will come up this stream.” Sure enough, here came that big mama bear. I took a lot of pictures—on the wrong setting. Alas! Then we ran off again further up stream. We didn’t see that bear again, but we did find a black cub sleeping in a tree.
Juneau was fun. We were there all day. On to Sitka.
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