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Cruising Alaska:
Coral Princess (Northbound, Vancouver - Whittier)

by Murray Lundberg

    Days 1 & 2: Vancouver & at Sea
    Day 3: Ketchikan
    Day 4: Juneau
    Day 5 : Skagway
    Day 6: Glacier Bay
    Day 7: Prince William Sound & College Fjord
    Day 8: Whittier

Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it.

Thursday, June 17: We had an extremely good day in Glacier Bay National Park today. When I got on deck a few minutes after 4:00am (sunrise was at 3:51am) it was looking like a decent day, with a cloud ceiling at about 3,000 feet but no rain. At 5:25 the National Park Service boat pulled alongside and we boarded 2 rangers for our day in the park.

When this first photo was shot at 06:08, it still wasn't clear what the weather was going to do. While there was some blue sky, the Norwegian Pearl was sailing into a fog bank. The National Park Service only allows 2 large ships into the park each day.

Despite the iffy weather, the crew prepared the viewing areas of the Coral Princess for sunshine, setting up chairs at the section of railing without wind-shields, and loungers on the opposite side.

Clearing skies and lifting fog at 7:15 - way to go, Mother Nature! With some form of precipitation falling on 228 days in an average year, don't be surprised if you get some rain, or even a lot of rain.

Just before 8:00am we sailed through a brief but heavy rain shower. There was plenty of rain all around us, but except for that one shower a patch of blue sky was staying fairly close to us.

Ragged clouds certainly added to the drama of many scenes.

The bow viewing area on Deck 15 on the Coral Princess. At each side of the blue wind-shield is a 4-inch gap, just large enough to take a picture through if you have a fairly small lens.

The NPS and the non-profit Alaska Geographic Society set up a table in Horizon Court with a natural history display, and Glacier Bay related books and other material for sale.

The viewing areas were still almost empty when we sailed past the Reid Glacier at 8:45. Seeing Glacier Bay now, it's hard to believe that some 250 years ago a single tidewater glacier covered all of Glacier Bay. By 1750 the glacier began to retreat and has now retreated 60 miles to the head of the bay.

A closer look at the Reid Glacier. In this photo there are 2 boats just above the sand bar.

Glaciers currently cover 1,375 square miles or 27% of the park. There are over 50 named glaciers, 7 of which are active tidewater glaciers that calve icebergs into the sea. Most of those glaciers originate at between 8,000 and 15,000 feet elevation.

Patterns in the Lamplugh Glacier. The face of the Lamplugh Glacier is 180 feet high above the sea and another 10-40 feet below water. It is .75 miles wide and 16 miles long, flowing downhill at a rate of 2-3 feet per day. It is considered to be stable (not receding), but thinning.

A river flowing from the Lamplugh Glacier.

Mount Bertha, immediately west of the Lamplugh Glacier, is 10,204 feet high.

John Hopkins Inlet, with the glacier of the same name at the head. There really are no words to describe a scene like this, but "stunning" is a start. Mount Orville is 10,496 feet high. Unlike my previous visits, there was very little ice in the water here.

The John Hopkins Glacier is advancing - the face is currently 250 feet high above the water and has a depth of another 200 feet below the water. It is 1 mile wide, 12½ miles wide, and flows downhill at a rate of 10-15 feet per day.

As we got closer to this beach near the head of Tarr Inlet, the ranger who was doing bridge commentary spotted 2 brown bears at the water's edge. Her description of how to look for a distant bear was funny - "don't look for a large bear, look for a hamster."

Mount Crillon, just to the left (south) of the John Hopkins Glacier, is 12,726 feet high.

A broad view of the John Hopkins scene.

The Norwegian Pearl at 10:25.

The center of the Grand Pacific Glacier. This glacier is receding, and from the ship you see mostly gravel, not ice. The face is currently about 60 feet high, it is 2 miles wide, 35 miles long and flows downhill at a rate of 1-4 feet per day.

At 11:30 an outdoor buffet, "A Taste of Alaska", was opened by the Neptune Pool as we sat in front of the Margerie Glacier. It was a quiet day at Margerie, with only a couple of very small ice falls (too small to call "calving") during the hour we spent there.

A bald eagle on one of Margerie Glacier's icebergs.

A closer look at the Margerie Glacier.

This was an excellent day - I spent much of it walking around the open decks listening for people wondering about things or making incorrect assumptions that I could clarify. The response was great, and I got into lots of good conversations.

At 1:30, one of the rangers did an excellent presentation in the theatre, a slide show about a 24-day solo kayak trip he took up Glacier Bay's East Arm (Muir Inlet) in March-April.

A wide-angle view from my cabin on Deck 5.

The view of the rangers leaving, from my position on the bridge. I spent just over an hour there doing commentary. We had an event that I didn't broadcast the details of - 2 humpback whales surfaced less than 100 feet directly in front of us! I think, but don't know for sure, that the pressure wave from the bow would almost always shove them aside.

Tonight was our second formal night, and I went to this one. I lucked into another excellent table, a family of 4 from Texas and a couple of women from Manitoba.

To Day 7: Prince William Sound & College Fjord