Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Alaska Trip: Day 6

Today was quite a day! We got underway early to pick up Janene, a park ranger, before entering Glacier Bay National Park. Shortly after joining us, she gave us a pre-breakfast information session on birds and sea mammals we'd see around Glacier Bay. She briefly interrupted herself when she spotted a sea otter (our first one!) right near the boat.

It was another drizzly morning, but after breakfast, we headed out to the bow to look for wildlife as we approached South Marble Island. It was amazing to see, hear, and smell the Steller Sea Lions as we approached. I learned that the sea lions found here are different than the California sea lions; these growl and the California sea lions bark. Janene also told us that the sea lions here at South Marble Island were the non-breeding sea lions and therefore primarily male. When we noticed the sea lions all lying practically on top of each other, she also shared that their propensity to do that is called thigmotaxis.

We also saw quite a few different kinds of birds around South Marble Island. My favorites were the tufted puffins! Ever since I did a report on puffins in elementary school, I've been intrigued by them. My pictures of them didn't turn out so well, but it was very interesting to see them fly. They have such an interesting shape when they fly (and different than they look in the water); Janene says they fly like a lit cigar. I wasn't quite sure what that meant (maybe because I have no experience with lit cigars!) We also saw some eagles being harassed by a large group of gulls (protecting their young and nests).

After passing by South Marble Island, we came inside to get a better intro to Glacier Bay. After that I spent some time on the bridge with Denee, Janene, and my mom. We ended up back outside when Janene spotted some mountain goats on the rocky cliffs near by.

After lunch, I was back on the bridge with quite a few others watching our approach to the Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers. It was so interesting to see the Grand Pacific Glacier since it really didn't look like a glacier at all! It has a layer of rock and sediment in front of the ice, so that's all we saw. It was sprinkling, but I ducked outside to get some shots of our approach every so often. Once Sean got us as close as we could get, I went out in the skiff with Mom, Janene, Karl, Susan, and Geraldine. The others went out in the kayaks with Dirk. We saw some great calving action from the glacier and I shot some video of it (though with the small screen it didn't come out too great). We also saw a bald eagle swoop down, catch something in the water, and carry it over to an iceberg to eat it.

While we were out on the skiff, Sean maneuvered the Quest through the ice closer to the Grand Pacific glacier so he could drop anchor. As we were headed back from our skiff outing, the sun started peaking out. After a brief rest, we took the skiff to shore and got to walk in between the two glaciers. It was so amazing to be that close to them!

After our hike, we started back the way we came towards Tidal Inlet where we would drop anchor for the night. We were barely underway when a bear was spotted on the beach! As we headed back to Tidal Inlet, we passed by the Lamplugh Glacier in the distance and I took a few photos. At dinner, Alexandra created our surprise dessert in front of us: her interpretation of how glaciers formed in the form of a glacier cake with a story narrated by Karl. It was fantastic! I only wish I had my video camera to record the whole thing :-)

Pictures for today are below. I warn you there are many! As always, click to make them bigger...

Steller Sea Lions

Tufted Puffins

Other boat (Catalyst) near South Marble Island

Towing both skiffs

Skiff behind the boat

Sean preparing for our skiff & kayak outing

Mountains & ice in the water

Looking back at Quest from skiff

Iceberg in the water

Gull on big iceberg

Arctic Tern on Iceberg

Various shots of the Margerie Glacier

Mom with Margerie Glacier in background

Sean in skiff...getting ready for trip to shore

View of Margerie Glacier from Cabin

View of Quest from shore (between Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers)

Margerie Glacier from shore

Grand Pacific Glacier from shore

"Dark side" of the Margerie Glacier (as Susan put it)...We opted for that rather than the "dirty side"

Ice cave on Margerie Glacier

Lamplugh Glacier in the distance

Sunset over hills reflecting on water

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