On Thursday morning, September, 19 the Diamond Princess steamed into Glacier Bay to begin two days of “scenic cruising”. Glacier Bay is directly west of Skagway, I’d estimate about 50 nautical miles as the eagle flies (based on eyeballing the nautical chart I picked up in Vancouver). To get from Skagway to Glacier Bay, the ship travels 168 nautical miles. The Diamond Princess departed Skagway returning south out the Lynn Canal, rounded Rocky Island and set a Northwesterly course through Icy Strait and then entered Glacier Bay. Glacier Bay is a National Park and Park Rangers embarked our ship to provide commentary and answer questions.
The ranger below provided a running commentary and she was very good. She spoke clearly and slowly and had interesting information to share. The ship also has a naturalist who provides commentary on wildlife, but something about his voice and the way he speaks, makes him much harder to understand.
Holly and Mark Melton at the Lamplugh Glacier – Glacier Bay, Alaska
As the ship steamed up Glacier Bay, we passed many inlets and glaciers, arriving first at Lamplugh Glacier at the entrance to Johns Hopkins Inlet. The ship’s captain, Roger Bilton, brought the ship right up alongside the glacier. It felt very close, I’d estimate less than 100 yards. This allowed us to take pictures of the face of the glacier and view the glacier ice breaking away (calving) and falling into the waters of the bay. It also allowed us to hear the glacier. Glaciers are rivers of ice and as they move, they snap, crackle and pop, and you can really hear it move! (It reminded Holly of listening to a bowl of Rice Krispies after you pour on the milk). You can also hear the sound of streams of water running within the glacier and see the ice caves formed by the streams.
When it comes to calving, the booming sound is really loud – even on what appear to be small amounts of ice breaking away seemed to make a very big sound. According to the Park Ranger, more calving occurs at low tide – the ocean isn’t supporting the end of the glacier as much when the tide is out. We were there at high tide, so although we saw some calving, no really huge pieces broke away.
After spending time at the Lampaugh Glacier, the Diamond Princess moved on to Margerie Glacier at about 11:30 a.m. After again manuevering very close to the glacier and allowing passengers on both sides of the ship to view the face of the glacier, the ship resumed her passage shortly after midday, retracing her tracks out of the Tarr Inlet south through Glacier Bay to Bartlett Cove where the park rangers disembarked about 3:30 p.m.
Holly took this picture of me taking pictures. I took literally thousands of pictures. Holly is my ruthless photo editor, and readers of this blog can thank Holly that the number of pictures aren’t triple what you see.
See part 2 for the rest of the post.