September 11, 2003--Glacier Bay
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We spent this day in Glacier Bay, a dramatic set of glaciers and inlets and 3.3 million surrounding acres, all designated a National Park. Only one hundred and thirty years ago, the bay was solid ice but has since receded to permit cruise ships to enter the bay. Only a couple of cruise ships (and a slightly larger number of small boats) are permitted in per day so that the area remains unspoiled. The Island Princess entered the bay and slowly floated towards the large glacier in the rear. As we did so, a great deal of ice was seen floating in the water
Once at the rear, the ship stopped and turned so that one side of the ship was close and parallel to the large glacier shown in 538 and 539. Then for about half an hour everyone waited. What visitors are hoping for is a process called calving where a chunk of the glacier breaks off into thousands of pieces into the water. If it is a large chunk of ice, it creates a huge, explosive sound and causes great gasps from the crowd, assembled on deck. However, like photographing whales, it is difficult to photograph since the glacier might be a mile wide and one doesn't know where or when the calving will occur (the explosive sound and plunge of ice into the water lasts only two or three seconds). We saw some calving, caught in photos 538-539 and 545-546.
After half an hour, the captain rotated the ship so that the other side was parallel to the glacier. Because of this, it is possible to stay on the cabin balcony (544) and see the show.
Photo 547 gives a sense of how much of an iceberg is below the surface.
Photos 549-550 show a small boat in the Bay that day. Such a boat permits a closer look at the glacier but can have problems if a huge piece of ice calves from the glacier in its vicinity.
Park rangers came on the ship as we entered the bay and were aboard to give commentary and answer questions during the day.
As we left the Bay and the Inside Passage in the late afternoon and sailed into the Gulf of Alaska, the huge mountains of Alaska, topping 15,000 feet at this point, began to make their appearance on the shore (555-556).
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