May 25th, 2013

piranha - feather nest.

Alaska Cruise: Day Six

Welcome to Glacier Bay National Park.

Today we didn’t get a chance to leave the boat (too bad, so sad) but instead we enjoyed a scenic cruise through the inlets of Glacier Bay. According to the National Park Ranger who joined us onboard (more on that in a moment), only two ships are allowed into the park each day, so it’s a special treat. The park was initially brought to national attention by our old friend John Muir; as he wrote dispatches back to a San Francisco newspaper, he struggled to find the words to describe the stunning white beauty that surrounded him. His readers figured that if a man as eloquent as Muir was struck speechless, Glacier Bay must be something worth seeing – and tourism flourished, and has ever since.

At the crack of dawn – well, a few hours after, since we’re in Alaska and daylight is dreadfully long – several NPS employees came out in a little boat and pulled up alongside the cruise. A rope was lowered, and the park rangers shimmied up to spend the day giving lectures and handing out flyers about the park. Their presence brought out the crowds.

I’ve never seen this many people on deck.

As we approached the glaciers, little floating bits of ice appeared on the water.

First glimpse of the Margerie Glacier.

Ice calving (fall) off Margerie Glacier.

Hanging out at the glacier.

It was quite chilly, but I didn’t want to miss anything so I stayed out on the deck for hours as the ship slowly circled around and around so that everyone could see the glaciers – especially the men and women nestled in their private balconies. In early afternoon, I went downstairs to the theatre to listen one of the rangers give a talk about the “hidden beauty” of the park. She talked about growing up in Alaska, the wildlife that lives in the park, and some of her favorite things about Glacier Bay. Basically, she tried to bring to life everything that we couldn’t see from the middle of the Bay. It was a fun talk, and it made me want to come back – but then, everything makes me wish I could come back without a cruise ship and experience more of Alaska in a personal way!

In the mid-afternoon, the ship turned around and left the park. As we pushed down the inlet, I saw whales and seals swimming around the boat – the whales stayed pretty far away, but the seals got pretty close. It was pretty fun! There are still no bears, though.