Post Vacation Update #11

This second of the three “Post Vacation” updates concentrates on Glacier Bay National Park in southeast Alaska. One whole day is allocated to this most impressive of locations. The ship arrived at the entrance to Cross Sound at approximately 5:30 A.M. Here a pilot boards and the ship sails easterly along the North Passage of Icy Strait for a couple of hours then turns north into Glacier Bay. A short distance into the bay the National Park Service Rangers come on board and the “Scenic Cruising” cruising begins.

It takes several more hours of cruising to get to the first major “sight” here which is at the north end of Tarr Inlet. This “sight” has two major glaciers, the Grand Pacific Glacier and the Margerie Glacier. First we need to get there, so, the first group of pictures below starts from just after the park rangers were picked up and continues until we arrive at the first “sight”. As you will see there are many more things to see than just the two major “sights” This covers a period of about three and a half hours.

One of the first things we saw as we entered the bay was this:

This is a small cruise ship that we thought was called the Empress of the North.
It does round trip cruises to Glacier Bay from Juneau Alaska cruises through out the year.

This picture is the first taken just after the Park Rangers came on board. Taken at 6:27 A.M.

Similar view to previous picture, with slightly different composition.

It took an hour to go from where the two above were taken to get to this location. The three pictures up to here are taken looking back along the direction of travel.

As we went further north up the bay the scenery gets more mountainous and snow covered. Taken 55 minutes after the left picture. This picture is looking forward at things to come.

Snowy mountains. Taken approximately 25 minutes after the last one above.

More scenery not too much further along than the previous one.

I think the ship is approaching Russell Island.

Just past Russell Island and heading up Tarr Inlet towards the first major “sight”.

Here the ship is approaching the end of Tarr Inlet where the first of the two most interesting sights is located.

At the head of Tarr Inlet are two of the best known Glaciers in North America.

The first one, shown here, is called the Grand Pacific Glacier.

The second one, and the one that everyone wants to see, is to the left in this closer picture.
It is called the Margerie Glacier.

The blackish colored one to the right is the Grand Pacific Glacier
that is shown from farther away in the shot above.

The Grand Pacific Glacier is the bigger of the two but it does not move too much. Most of it is in British Columbia with only the small section of it seen here in Alaska.

The Margerie Glacier is smaller, is entirely in the USA, and is moving forward at something like seven feet or two meters a day. This is very fast as glacier movement goes.

As you may be aware, icebergs are created by large chunks of ice breaking off glaciers in a process called calving. The Grand Pacific never calves due to its lack of movement. This is the reason it is dirty and black on the leading edge. The Margerie calves often due to its forward speed and this is the reason it is much cleaner on the leading edge because the ice is constantly falling away. You will see several of these “calves” in the pictures below.

The first group of picture below shows some of the detail described above.

It does not look too impressive here but watch as the ship gets closer.

Here you can see up the valley the glacier is in. The mountains in the background are approximately 15 miles or 25 kilometers away

Here, along with some nifty reflections in the water, you can see the dark ice to the far right where it has not been calving.

The ship spent just over an hour here. It gradually turned around to go back the way it came it. (There was no where else to go.) This gives you some idea of the height of the ice. It is taller than the ship. The water depth here is over 600 feet or 200 meters.

The reason ships this size can get so close to these glaciers is the depth of the water. There are many places where glaciers exist that ships this size and bigger could not get close to.

The next three groups of pictures will show three of the seven or eight times the Margerie Glacier while the ship was there.

Here you can see a section right in the middle dropping into the water. Going….




This next calving was taken as a high speed series of pictures with the camera shutter snapping pictures as fast as it could. I probably would have had it go longer but the memory card in the camera ran out of space. I got most of it. I will not caption this group, just follow it along. This took less than a minute to occur.

The last group involving calving shows what was the largest chunk of ice that I managed to get a picture of. There was one that was almost the entire height of the ice face (around 200 feet or 70 or so meters) that fell and surprised everyone. One or two people may have caught it but most (including me) did not. The original pictures of this one were fairly distant so I have cropped them a bit to make it easier to see. The piece of ice that falls is just above the hat of the man in the center. This group is only 4 pictures long.

The glaciers were the stars here but they did not impress everyone. Take this fellow for example…….

After staying here for just over an hour, the ship headed back out Tarr Inlet towards the next stop, the Johns Hopkins Inlet with the Johns Hopkins Glacier at the end. The ship left here at about 11:30 A.M.

Here are the two glaciers as the ship departed.

Some scenery, in different lighting, as we sailed out.

It took some time to get back to the entrance of Tarr Inlet. This is where Russell Island is located. Instead of going straight out the way it came in, the ship made a right turn into the Johns Hopkins Inlet.

The right turn mentioned above is between the Lamplugh Glacier straight ahead and the rocks on the right.

It is quite narrow.

The park ranger doing the narration seemed to think that this is the most scenic spot in Glacier Bay National Park. She may be right but the entire park is an incredibly scenic place.  There are a great many of these pictures. I have tried to choose a group that are good technically and convey the atmosphere of the spot. There is no way to convey the atmosphere without actually being there but I will do the best I can with what I have. There is not to much to say about them. Here they are……


The Johns Hopkins Glacier is in the valley in the center of the picture.

We could not get any closer to the glacier because of all the ice floating in the inlet. It was still a beautiful sight. The ship did not stop here as it did at the other two glaciers it just slowly sailed in, turned around slowly and sailed out. These pictures needed to be taken in a hurry. I think there were about 50 or so taken of just this area alone in the short time (approximately 30 minutes) the ship was there.

On the way out of the Johns Hopkins Inlet I took a couple more pictures of various things. Here these are.

The Lamplugh Glacier (same one as the single picture above) as the ship sailed out of Johns Hopkins Inlet.

A floating chunk of ice. You can see there is more below the water than above.

Some of the local wildlife. We thought we saw some whales but were unable to get a picture.

One of the last pictures of the scenery as the ship sailed out of Glacier Bay.

This is the Reid Glacier. It is the first glacier that you see on the way in so that makes it the last one you see on the way out. This picture was actually taken on the way in but I forgot to use it there so it is here.

The way out retraces the exact way in so there are few pictures for the rest of the trip out. The lighting is a bit different but it is not significant enough to retake the pictures. When the ship reaches the entrance (between 4:30 and 5:00 P.M.) the rangers and pilot are picked up and the ship headed on towards Sitka.

Most Alaska cruises go to Skagway. If the cruise is southbound then Glacier Bay is usually done first and when leaving the bay the ship turns east (or left) and heads down Icy Strait and then turns north into the Lynn Canal and up quite a bit further north than Glacier Bay to Skagway. Going north there are a couple of options coming out of the Inside Passage but in the end these ships use the same bodies of water and do Skagway first and then Glacier Bay.

The cruise I was on was not a full Alaska cruise (since it started in Kobe, Japan) so these stops were not included. This cruise continued on to Sitka which is not on the Inside Passage. Sitka is on the Pacific Ocean/Gulf of Alaska or west side of Baranof Island. The Inside passage is on the east side, so this cruise turned to the west or right out of the bay, back to the Pacific Ocean/Gulf of Alaska and headed south to Sitka. Baranof Island is part of the Alexander Archipelago.

Post Vacation Update #12 (the last one!!!!) will cover the half day stop in Sitka, and the day and a half long sail to Vancouver and the trip home from there.

On to #12…….