Day 28 – July 3, 2001 – We understand that it rains a lot in Alaska, although we haven’t seen anything but sunny days. We took a cruise today to a place called Tracy Arm Fjord, a beautiful passage through islands and mountain cliffs to the twin Harris Glaciers, approximately 30 miles out from Juneau. It is hard to imagine, coming from Texas, the massive size and sound of a glacier. The pictures below don’t do it justice. The radiating cold, the floating icebergs, the deep impossible blue of the ice; it was a wonderful day. We haven’t seen anything in Alaska that isn’t pretty and today was better than that.
Jul 3, 2001
703d – This was not the ship we were on to Tracy Arm. This was a cruise ship that passed us on the way out of Juneau. One man on our ship commented that you didn’t want to take those cruise ships unless you just wanted to be pampered, or luxurious accommodations, or gourmet food. There were a number of us who thought that sounded pretty good. These ships are like floating hotels. We’ve stayed in towns on this trip that aren’t as big as these ships.
703c – The icebergs ranged in size from tiny chunks of ice to big floating mini-islands. The color shows the density of the ice. The lighter blue meant that air had penetrated into the iceberg while the deeper blue is still the dense ice, virtually without air, caused by the compression of thousands of pounds of snow pressing down over years and years before the chunk broke off from the glacier.
703b – Harris Glacier is 1/2 miles across the face and 300 feet tall. Over 150 years ago, the two parts of the glacier were connected but over time, the ice has melted or broken away. The water for miles in front of the glacier is filled with ice and many of the icebergs were the temporary resting places for harbor seals. These two enjoy a cool but comfortable ride. There were hundreds of seals, brown, white and gray, on the ice as we traveled the 30 miles to Tracy Arm. We also saw a whale who slapped his tail at us and numerous eagles. The eagles are everywhere here – only the tourists stop to look.
703e – I’ve always heard something described as “icy blue” but never really understood the term until I saw the glaciers. The color ranged from pale blue near the top, where the ice is newer, to a deep royal blue on the lower left where the pressure from the tons of snow on top had forced all the air out and compressed the ice. When we reached Harris Glacier, a couple (in their late 60’s, I’d guess) were married in a brief ceremony on deck. They had brought their children and grandchildren, a parent and the preacher and, at the moment they kissed, there was a loud crack of applause from the glacier. We all considered that to be a sign of good luck for them.
703a – As we watchedthe glacier, loud cracks would signal chunks falling off (called calving). Most of them were small like a snowball but some were large and created huge spashes. If you look closely near the center of the photo, you can see the splash created when a boulder-like chunk fell. The cracking and creaking of the ice was almost constant as the glacier went back for several miles behind this front wall.