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  • Day20

    The Princess and the Icebergs

    September 11, 2018 ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    We have just been informed that the next five or six days could be even more uncertain regarding the internet. Alaska is a wild frontier country. We have been warned not to expect luxuries such as kettles in rooms or glasses, just paper cups. If this is so, then the internet is likely to be unobtainable. Today, when I went to the onboard Internet Cafe, they had no internet either. It was not until we had sailed out of the narrow passageways between islands, skirted some glaciers and dodged some icebergs that I tried again and was successful. I may get this message out, and maybe tomorrow's but after that, things get considerably worse. I will try, but don't be alarmed if your daily report is not ready for you at the usual time.

    This morning was clear and sunny. Our good luck with the weather continues. We sailed up the inlet with the sun rising and glowing a light pink on the snow capped mountains. There had been no Aurora, as far as I knew, even though I had checked several times. I will try again tonight. At about 10.30 as I watching the water, it occurred to me that by that time of day I would have expected the sun to be much higher in the sky, then I realised that our proximity to the Arctic Circle was revealing itself again and I keep being surprised by it. Before we left Vancouver the weather reporter stated that they are losing three minutes of daylight a day at the moment. This will, of course, slow down, but it is telling.

    We made our way through Glacier Bay and up the fjord which had once been 65 miles of the Grand Pacific Glacier, the same one I mentioned a few days ago, that was explored by George Vancouver and William Bligh. There were quite a few smaller glaciers that had been tributaries of the Grand Pacific and which now all feed into the fjord. The two that were the most remarkable were the Grand Pacific, which was over two miles wide but largely indistinguishable from a big mound of dirt and the Margerie which was startlingly white and very active and only one mile wide. They met, along with a minor third, at a major confluence in Glacier Bay, the head of the fjord. While almost all glaciers in the world today are shrinking, the Margerie is not. It also moves at two metres a day which makes it very fast moving.

    The Grand Pacific appears low (but is not) and very dirty. This comes from the heavy deposits of rock and soil being carried down. It looks like dirt, but is actually heavily laden ice. The icebergs coming from this glacier are less frequent but are black and make the water muddy as they begin to melt.

    The Margerie is very thick, (several hundred metres), and comes from some massive snow and icefields coming from around Mt Root standing at 15,000 feet in the background. The final edge wall of ice is sharp and crumbly and the glacier is very noisy. One noise comes from the cracking ice as it moves down the mountain. This sound is like the cracking of ice cubes in a drink but MUCH bigger. However, the noise that was most remarkable was the boom when a piece of ice broke off and fell into the water. This is called calving. At the distance we were, the delay between the break and the sound reaching us was a couple of seconds. That should clarify the distance between us and the edge, but honestly it felt like only about 20 metres away. The proportions were quite misleading. Our ship is enormous, with about 1300 people on board, and it was dwarfed by the glacier.

    While we sat there watching this mountain of ice, it calved about five or six times, booming away, sending up sprays of water 20 or 30 metres in the air, then sending ripples through the water. This was followed up by small parts of the ice forming an icy slush and the larger pieces forming small icebergs. We were surrounded by icebergs and slush. It felt like we were the piece of fruit on top of a slushie! Some of these icebergs found their way out of the fjord, 65 miles and more, away from their birthplace. This would have taken many hours drifting along before they eventually melted away. You could stand on them but it would have been extremely unwise.

    We managed to capture several calvings, but unless you see them in sequence, the impact is less dramatic. The image looks insignificant, but if you had been under the smallest collapse you would be dead from the impact. Quite majestic.

    The captain took us to the glacier and then he spun the ship round so no-one would miss out. I was standing at the bow of the ship taking photos and grabbing vantage points when I could. When he began the spin, I hightailed it two thirds down the length of the ship and down five floors to get to our cabin so I could take photos from that vantage point. No jostling for space on our balcony. I made it in time!

    Later in the day, we had to get dressed up for a Cocktail Party put on by the tour company. It was pleasant, but odd. We caught up with several people we had got to know and had drinks and canapes. After an hour we excused ourselves to try sort out seating on planes in a few days and to send off yesterday's blog.

    As I settle in for the evening and finish off this blog, I can say that I just saw an amazing sunset. Nothing was in the way, not even a cloud, as the sun set over the open ocean. It was very late in the evening. Getting ready for Aurora spotting now!
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