Ice, wildlife, native culture and history – that’s what Glacier Bay is all about. If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time you’ve read a number of my explanations about the history of the Huna Tlingit people in the bay. This post will focus more on the glaciers and some wildlife, but the Tlingit presence in the bay is just as significant as the other elements.
We explored up the less-visited East Arm of the bay (Muir Inlet), named for John Muir even though it was covered by ice when he visited. It’s more subtle than the splashy-flashy West Arm, but the views are sublime. Sadly the glaciers in this arm are no longer tidewater glaciers – that is, they no longer reach salt water. The McBride, the Riggs, and the Muir are still visible but they are shrinking, as are all the other glaciers in the park.
As we were nearing the McBride Glacier we spotted something odd in the water – it was a moose swimming across the arm! We slowed down to let the moose pass by, but it didn’t seem to like that idea so we picked up speed and it finished crossing behind our boat.
We poked around the inlets, admiring the huge alluvial fans and the steep mountain sides. We spotted a few mountain goats but they were very high up on the cliffs. As we headed back towards our anchorage we spotted some sea otters…
…singly, and in huge rafts of over 50 animals.
Once again we spotted some whales feeding along the shoreline so we watched and waited for them to move off.
The next day we headed to our usual spots to look for wildlife – for bears and mountain goats, primarily. The goats had young kids, but they were all very high on the cliff face making it difficult to get any decent photographs. When we arrived in our anchorage we spotted a brown bear looking for dinner while we were cooking ours. He worked along the shoreline for well over an hour digging for clams, eating barnacles and turning over rocks.
We were shocked to see how much the Reid Glacier changed, compounding last year’s surprise when we saw how much it had retreated. We see the impacts of climate change nearly every day in Alaska, easily seen as our beautiful glaciers shrink.
We cruised up to visit four other major glaciers in the West Arm – the Lamplugh with its gorgeous blue coloring…
…and the Johns Hopkins – from a distance since the seals are giving birth to their pups right now.
The mountains around it make it look very dramatic, and I think the glacier is even more striking in black and white. The dark lines are bits of rock ground up by the glacier as it moves down the mountains.
There are two more glaciers to visit, but there’s more to tell about them than I have time for this evening. Stay tuned.