Glacier Bay National Park is a phenomenal place to explore. That’s why it is so unfortunate getting there can be a bit of a challenge. There are only two ways to get there – by boat or by plane. The most common mode of transportation are cruise ships to experience this beautiful park. Overcoming the challenges to get there are worth it once you’re surrounded by mountains, glaciers, and abundant wildlife. Serenity and excitement overtake you as the rest of the world fades into the back of your mind. As you listen to the sounds of nature and view this amazing landscape a calmness sets in. It’s almost impossible to think about someplace or anything else in this untouched wilderness. The spirit of Glacier Bay burrows inside of you to bring a calmness difficult to find.
What’s the main reason for exploring this area – the glaciers of course. There are a number of glaciers most of which are currently receding. Fortunately there is one that is maintaining and that is Margerie Glacier. This sheet of ice moves on average six to seven feet each day providing those lucky enough to be there at the right time a show of falling ice that can’t be imagined. Even though this photo below shows the interesting and spectacular mix of colors, it is still not the same as being there. These colors change as the clouds shift moving the suns rays onto different pieces of ice. As those rays are moving, the ice begins cracking making thunderous noises that tell of the power of a moving glacier. It is at that point you realize how a massive sheet of ice moving can carve the landscape.
Watching this glacier finally allowed me to understand how glaciers work. All that snow during the year piling up onto itself, compacting, melting, compacting further until that snow becomes such a dense sheet of ice that the earth below starts to crush under it. Underneath all this ice, streams and rivers form from the melting ice and snow above creating a sort of waterslide which enables this huge sheet of ice to slowly move toward the water. As you watch the glacier from the water you can see places under it all where water is is running and have created tunnels in the ice itself. Amazing force of nature. And to think, all it takes to destroy this is constant moving water.
To give a perspective on the size of this glacier, this ship is 15 stories tall floating next to the Margerie Glacier. All this ice stand 250 feet tall so you can imagine how impressive it can be when a piece of ice falls off crashing into the ocean below creating large waves. Unfortunately we did not get to witness this in the short time allotted to experience this glacier. The views and sounds gave lasting memories without the calving ice.
Less than 100 feet away is the Grand Pacific Glacier. This is an entirely different story and it is receding. Difficult to imagine. So close to the Magerie Glacier yet does not receive enough snow each year to maintain itself. At first glance it appears like a piece of the mountain. Further inspection shows the melting ice underneath all that debris captured as it carved its way through the mountains. An amazing view it’s leaving!