Thursday, October 6, 2016

Face of the Hubbard Glacier ...

This, my friends, is another day I will long remember, but the truth is every day on our journey to Alaska has been filled with memories we will long remember! On this second day of our cruise, the ship cruised right up to the face of a glacier, the Hubbard Glacier. Oh my, what a beautiful site!

When much younger, fifty plus years ago, my sister and I experienced another glacier. We had the good fortune to travel with our mom and dad on a road trip where one of the beautiful things we saw was the Columbia Icefields in Canada. On that trip, we actually rode in a vehicle that took us across the glacier. A tour guide pointed out crevasses that went deep down through the ice, and told us many interesting things about the glacier. At one place, we were able to get out of the vehicle and walk on the glacier. We were wearing jackets, but it was still cool. One thing I remember is feeling the cold from the glacier coming through the soles of my tennis shoes. That was the very first time we ever saw a glacier.

Located in eastern Alaska and part of Yukon Canada, Hubbard Glacier was named after Gardiner Hubbard in 1890.  According to "Alaska's Place Names" Hubbard Glacier was named by Russell of the US Coast & Geological Survey for Gardiner G. Hubbard, 1822-97, Massachusetts lawyer and educator, regent of the Smithsonian Institution, and founder and first president of the National Geographic Society.

Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in North America. Being a tidewater glacier means that it flows into the ocean. It is approximately 76 miles long. At its foot, it is approximately seven miles wide. As it continues to grow and move forward, these measurements are constantly changing.

Hubbard Glacier is nicknamed the “Galloping Glacier”

…because it is rapidly advancing. It’s current rate of advance is approximately 80 feet per year.  The ice we saw at the face was approximately 450 years old and at some locations, over 2000 feet thick.

This actively calving glacier creaks and groans as it moves. You can definitely hear the creaks and groans coming from the glacier. When huge chunks of ice crash into the bay, it makes for some exciting moments. It is a wonderful, sort of eerie sound, like thunder.  The Tlingit people call the sound ‘white thunder’.

We arrived at the entrance of Yakutat Bay at approximately 2:00 p.m. But it was not until 3:00 p.m. that we actually arrived at the face of the Hubbard Glacier. While at the face of the glacier, the ship turned around and at approximately 4:00 p.m. we departed from the face of the glacier.

In Yakutat Bay as we are heading for the face of the glacier

Heading for the glacier
View to our left as we continue our approach

Mountains to our left 
Hubbard Glacier from a distance

Glimpse of the glacier 
Getting closer to the glacier

Glacier is getting closer
…and closer

Glacier with mountains and clouds
…and closer
...and closer
…and closer

...and closer -- what a site!
Ship is starting to turn 180 degrees

…About two-thirds across in front of the glacier you can see the water shooting up in the air. Just prior to this, the glacier moaned and cracked and sounded like white thunder. Then a portion of the ice from the glacier broke away from the glacier and fell into the water. The evidence is the water splashing into the air where it hit the water. It all happened faster than it took me to push the shutter on the camera.

Glacier ice splashing into the water
Here is more evidence of part of the glacier breaking away and falling into water. The most difficult part of capturing this on camera requires finding the exact location where the ice is breaking away after hearing the cracking and white thunder sound. Until I could actually see the ice slipping down and away from the glacier, I could not tell where it cracked. First you hear the cracking of the ice, then you look for the action of the ice falling so you know where to focus the camera, and by the time you push the shutter, it is splashing into the water below.

Another chunk of ice splashing into the water

Ice chunks…

Ice chunks that have fallen from glacier

Chunks of ice in front of the glacier
Leaving the glacier and heading out of the bay

View from our balcony as we head away from the glacier   
Beautiful view of waterfall

Waterfall as seen from our balcony

Leaving the bay
Photo taken while cruising at 12:07 a.m. – a little after midnight…

Even at midnight it is light enough to see the mountains.
It is time to get some sleep. By 9 a.m., we will be docking at Icy Strait Point, where we will visit the Tlingit people and have another very interesting day.

Thank you everyone for visiting and following my adventure. Feel free to make comments. In my next post, I have the good fortune to photograph a bald eagle on her nest.

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