The RSSC Mariner ship sailed through the night, heading south from Seward on its final Alaskan 2019 voyage of the summer. The morning brought rain which did not bode well for out scheduled visit to the Hubbard Glacier.
The wind pierced through my coat as I walked across the ship deck to lunch as the ship entered Yakutat bay and wondered if we would be able to get a prized glimpse of the monster lurking ahead. I was excited to get as close to the water as possible, so I walked out on to Deck 6 where life boats were stored as we entered Disenchantment Bay. (did I mention how COLD it was?)
The first signs of glacial activity were lines of milky water, with suspended glacier silt and lower salinity. Lines of seafoam milk flowed in counter currents of clear salty sea water showing how the varying densities could not mix for miles. Is was as if these currents were two different creatures swimming past one another, creating a highway in the water.
Next came the ICY waters filled with slushy ice ‘growlers,’ termed for the crunching sounds made as ship inches through the slush. Closer still were the ‘bergie bits’ (larger chunks) and calling further in the distance were the occasional thunderous crashes echoing through the fjord. Then the rain gave way to a spectacularvista!
Hubbard Glacier is a tidal glacier, which means if terminates at the ocean. Encountering its magnitude was like that of the grand canyon, where the human psyche cannot grasp the immensity of its length, width or depth; six miles wide, with icebergs reaching 4 stories high in Disenchantment Bay. Distance becomes irrelevant – yet as ship inched closer, we began to sense the tentative nature of the vessel navigating these icy waters.
The origins of Hubbard glacier remarkably come from 76 miles up from Mount Logan at over 15,000 ft altitude! SO that means this river of ice not only advances 70 miles but also descends more than 15,000 feet to sea level. Now THAT’S power for ya!
Once the ship reached its safety boundary, passengers were treated to 360 degree views , intriguing vistas. Even when the cold got the better of us, we enjoyed the view from our cabin balcony. It was an experience of a lifetime.