To get started with my blog, what better way to kick things off than with our trip to Alaska. After only a few days we have seen some incredible sights. The wildlife has been pretty spectacular, and that includes our first whale sighting (!!!) and my first glimpse of a moose (at 65 mph on the highway, but it still counts). The main attraction of this trip, though, has been the glaciers.
Our first close up was at Aialik Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park. The glacier is about a mile wide and over 20 miles long, stretching up into the Harding Ice Sheet. For reference, the speck at the bottom right of the glacier is a 95 foot cruise boat (you’ll probably need to click on the image to enlarge in order to see the boat)!
This glacier is a tidewater glacier, which means the glacier terminates at the ocean. These glaciers are overall relatively stable and less sensitive to climate change than others. These glaciers are really interesting to see because they primarily lose ice mass by calving, which is the technical term for a big hunk of ice breaking off and falling into the ocean. Hearing the ice calve sounds like thunder rolling and requires you keep a good distance from the edge.
Next up was Portage Glacier, east of Anchorage. This is a terrestrial glacier that comes down out of the mountains but doesn’t terminate at the ocean. This is very accessible by boat or by hiking. This glacier has been studied by scientists for well over 100 years.
This glacier has been retreating back up into the mountains for over 100 years, leaving Portage Lake in its wake. Even just 50 years ago the lake was little more than just a puddle. Now the lake is 600 feet deep at the center! Today, a photo from a similar vantage point looks like this.
The current edge of the glacier today has receded back behind the dark mountain on the right, not even in sight from the 2014 photo of Portage Lake above. The ice you seen in the mountains of the Portage Lake photo is actually Burns Glacier, and Portage Glacier is around behind the large mountain on the right of the photo. An up close photo of Portage Glacier looks almost like a tidewater glacier.
As you can see, the glacier is right up next to the water, so some calving occurs like it does in tidewater glaciers. The dark spot in the middle of the glacier is the shore of the lake, though, which means the glacier has almost receded out of the lake. At the terminus the glacier is about a half mile wide and towers a couple hundred feet over the water.