June 15, 2012
We took our first 2012 guests to Icy Bay this week, approaching along the last leg of the Yahtse Glacier where it pours thousands of feet down its final course like a two mile wide frozen waterfall. It IS, in fact, a frozen waterfall, merging with the sea at Icy Bay. Just past its terminus, thousands of seals float like huge naked snails without shells, black against white, on the lattice of bobbing icebergs that fill Icy Bay.
From the beach, the terminus looks like a surreal skyline from another world – a mass of three hundred foot high, bizarrely sculpted, blue-green crystalline skyscrapers. The strange ‘glacier blue’, seen in glacier ice throughout the Park, is due to the same phenomena of light refraction that makes oceans appear blue.
Icy Bay constantly rumbles and roars with what sounds like the thunderous boom and reverb of canon and artillery – or perhaps an unseen train barreling down a nearby track. It is eerie and foreboding, like the approach of a massive summer storm or the soundtrack of a World War II movie. These are the sounds of ‘calving’, where enormous chunks of glacier succumb to gravity and crash into the sea with enough force to toss a thousand ton iceberg about like a hapless oil tanker in a tsunami. Each time the glacier calves, the thunder booms, the canons roar and the waters of Icy bay come alive with the sound of surging water and clinking icebergs.
Another first for 2012 was a day trip to Kayak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. Lush, vibrant green, lots of driftwood – great for beachcombing and bird watching -- bald eagles and harlequin ducks along with an assortment of gulls and oystercatchers. We made a brief stop on a nearby second island, during which our group and large grizzly bear, about sixty five feet away, kept watchful eyes on each other.
Everywhere we went on the ground this week we saw an abundance of tracks from animals large and small, full grown and newborn. From the air we spotted grizzlies, trumpet swans, Bison, Dall sheep and moose. Summer at 60 degrees latitude -- as the ice melts and the glaciers shift, all of Alaska is awake and on the move.