Inside Passage — Glacier Bay

After departing Skagway, we cruised to Glacier Bay National Park. The park encompasses 3,223,384 acres, is only reachable by plane or boat, and was established in 1980. Within the park are over 1,000 tidewater (terminus in the ocean) and terrestrial glaciers (terminus on land), the Brady Icefield, the Saint Elias Mountains (capped by Mount Fairweather, at 15,300 feet, the tallest mountain in the park), and the Takhinsha Mountains. Peaks rise to more than 5,000 feet from Glacier Bay and its many smaller, adjoining bays and inlets. Only two cruise ships are allowed in Glacier Bay National Park per day (the other ship was visible in our wake!).

On our way northward in Glacier Bay towards Margerie Glacier, three Sea Otters played off the ship’s bow in a pretty decent imitation of dolphins:

The main attraction of Glacier Bay is Margerie Glacier whose terminus is in Glacier Bay itself (making it a “tidewater glacier”). Margerie Glacier extends 21 miles into the Saint Elias Mountains to its source on the southern slopes of Mount Root (elevation 12,860 feet). Unlike most other glaciers in Glacier Bay NP, Margerie Glacier is stable, neither growing nor receding. Margerie Glacier is about 1 mile in width and 350 feet in height at its terminus (100 feet of the terminus is underwater). In 1750, Glacier Bay was a single massive glacier that has since transformed into a 65 mile fjord with many smaller glaciers.

Immediately to the north-east of Margerie Glacier is the much larger Grand Pacific Glacier. This glacier is about 2 miles wide at its terminus into Tarr Inlet, right next door to Margerie Glacier. Grand Pacific Glacier’s surface is covered with rubble, making it much less picturesque than Margerie Glacier.

The ship spent about 1 hour in Tarr Inlet. During that time, we were fortunate to see and hear several small chunks of the glacier calve off and fall into Tarr Inlet. Amazingly, I happened to have my camera pointed at the exact spot where one piece calved away:

The chunks of ice calved from the glacier (“growlers”) also made for interesting photographic studies when isolated against a monochromatic background of water:

We then continued back south past the John Hopkins, Lamplugh, and Reid Glaciers.

Quite a bit of wildlife made its appearance along the way (including some folks in a sea kayak!):

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