Do you see the dirty areas in the photo above, as if someone drove giant trucks across the ice? That’s silt from the rocks. Rocks ground as fine as talcum powder by the glacier, then carried along as the glacier moved. The aqua-blue color in the depth of the ice is caused by years of compression. These same characteristics are displayed in the Mendenhall Glacier.
The Tlinkit (pronounced “TLIN-git” or “KLIN-kit”) translated People of the Tide occupied Glacier Bay long before the last great glacial advance. Their oral tradition tells that the ice advanced as fast as a dog could run. It forced them from their homeland.
Another oral tradition tells of the people following a polar bear across the ice flows to their fishing grounds. The bear figures prominently in their native art as a recognition of their connection. They returned to land scraped clean by the glacier with the bay in its place.
The glacier’s size is deceptive. All ships must keep a safe distance. The glacier our ship parked beside was at least two hundred fifty feet tall. The photo above is of a different cruise ship, several miles away from another glacier in the bay, but it gives you some size comparison.
The glacier made cracking sounds before it calved, followed by a large boom and giant waves when it crashed into the water.
When you pack for an Alaskan vacation think in terms of layers. My lightweight rain jacket with a zip-out flannel liner was perfect. Depending on the time of year, consider short-sleeved t-shirts you can layer with a sweater or sweatshirt. Temperatures can fluctuate between the high 80s to the low 40s. You won’t want to sweat or freeze. Again, layering is the key.
The first year we cruised Glacier Bay it was bright and sunny, but not this year. In Alaska, rain is often part of the experience. Always be prepared for it.
Travel Light Humor
The old joke states, If you don’t like the weather, wait awhile, it’ll change. I think it should be edited for Alaska. If you don’t like the weather, don’t worry, it’ll get worse. (Actually we did have a few gloriously gorgeous days—see future posts.)
The rain and ethereal mists played havoc with our amateur photography skills. I miss my old SLR film camera and the good eyesight I once had. It came in handy for focusing.
Until next time—Travel Light,
©2015 SuZan Klassen