Since we were back in Petersburg we decided to visit the Le Conte Glacier – the southernmost tidewater glacier in North America – the glacier that was the reason Petersburg was founded. It’s all about the ice! Only 17 miles from Petersburg, the glacier provided a ready supply of ice to keep fish fresh for transporting to markets in Seattle around the turn of the 20th century. The Le Conte inlet is usually so choked with brash ice that we can’t hope to get ADVENTURES anywhere close so we booked a trip with a local guide on a tough aluminum boat, and enjoyed the chance to focus on photographs and video instead of driving the boat for a change.
As we picked our way into the inlet we spotted some herring gulls and their chicks nesting on the rock faces. Can you spot the two chicks in this photo?They’re just to the left of the parent – fluffy bits that look just like the rock.
The Le Conte Glacier is one of the best studied in the region, surveyed every year by a select group of high school students for the past 33 years. The Le Conte is a stable glacier with ice 4400′ thick at its maximum, and a face that stands 200′ above the water. As a tidewater glacier, this river of ice meets the sea, and 800′ of it hides under the water. You may be familiar with glacier calving – where chunks of ice break off and crash into the water? A tidewater glacier can also calve from underwater, and that’s known as a “shooter”. I’ve always wanted to see one, and mentioned it to our guide… and we both laughed at the unlikelihood of that happening…
The boat in the foreground was about 1/4 mile from the glacier face, and they’re lucky the wave wasn’t bigger. Our guide said that he witnessed a massive shooter there once – about 1200 feet wide that generated a 20′ wave. He wasn’t sure they would survive it, but they were lucky that time. Just imagine a 20′ wave loaded with all that brash ice coming towards you…
…but it’s so beautiful to look at – hard to resist.As we finally started cruising out of the inlet we spotted lots of harbor seals hauled out on the ice.Mothers and pups were plentiful – the pups were probably born in June.This little pup was on his own while his mother was off feeding, though he had the company of some other adult seals to watch over him. They’re very shy but also very curious, often following behind me in the kayak where they think I don’t see them.At the entrance to the inlet is a bar – a shallow area that is the terminal moraine of the glacier – the farthest point that the glacier reached, plowing rocks and gravel ahead of it like a gigantic bulldozer. Plenty of bergs were aground on the bar, though some make it across and we’ll find them drifting by in Frederick Sound or even sometimes right past the docks in the Narrows.On the way back to Petersburg we spotted a humpback sleeping on the surface……and a lone male orca cruising along.As we approached the buoys marking the entrance to Wrangell Narrows and the town of Petersburg, we were greeted with the usual groans and barks from the Steller’s sea lions that like to haul out there.The action around the buoys usually involves a fair bit of napping punctuated by a sea lion in the water who wants some space on the buoy, waking everyone up and causing a kerfuffle. Usually no one wants to make space and the offenders are left to swim around and remain hopeful.As we headed into the Narrows we turned around to see a nice clear view of the Devil’s Thumb – a 9000′ tall mountain that sits on the US-Canada border, not too far away. We only get to see it on clear days, so it’s appreciated more.
Wow, you have been having such great experiences & to be able to see that & video tape it, thanks for sharing!
You might have read in DF newsletter that owner of PT Fudge Co. bought a 1985 49′ DF. They looked at ours while we were still aboard on Bainbridge but wife didn’t like master stateroom! We’ve gotten quite a few looking, guys like it but not women. Lowered price, might put in Sept. show but hope it sells before then!