Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Hubbard Glacier in Yakutat Bay, Alaska


When my husband and I boarded the Coral Princess Cruise ship in Whittier, Alaska, we were excited to begin this part of our land/cruise journey in Alaska in mid-June.


The boarding process for the cruise ship was very organized. We had time to unpack, walk around the ship to get familiar with it and take some photos of the port of Whittier from the deck--all before dinner. 

Whittier is located within the Chugach National Forest, the second-largest national forest in the U.S.  Until the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel opened to public access in 2000 --see my prior post-- connecting Anchorage to Whittier, the only way to reach Whittier was by rail, boat or plane.  Our tour bus driver told us that Whittier is the wettest city in Alaska and the United States and the winds in its bay are so strong in winter that most of its residents live within the 14-story Begich Tower apartment building and schoolchildren travel to school through a tunnel that connects to their school.



We set sail along the coastline of Alaska and sailed through the night...



 ...into Yakutat Bay

There, in the distance, you can see part of the Hubbard Glacier that is located in Yakutat and Disenchantment Bay



We had paid for an optional excursion that would take us to the face of Hubbard Glacier by a smaller ship.  Hubbard Glacier is a natural wonder and quite a breathtaking sight!  It is the largest tidewater glacier in North America.  At 76 miles long and 1,200 feet deep, it is 25% larger than the state of Rhode Island. The line where the glacier meets the sea is 6 to 9 miles wide.  The glacier was named after Gardiner G. Hubbard in 1890. He was the first president of the National Geographic Society and regent of the Smithsonian Institution.




After hundreds of years of snow falling and gathering in the same place, glaciers form from the mass compression of snow on snow, crystalizing into ice from the pressure. When the glacier’s weight eventually becomes too much on itself, the bottom layers of the thick crystallized snow pile deform, and the newly-formed glaciers advance downward from their typical high-altitude birthplaces and swallow everything in their way, grinding it all into silt moraines as they move. Their movement can change the topography by carving valleys and lakes out of the earth.



Although many glaciers in the world are retreating from the warmer temperatures of climate change, Hubbard Glacier is an exception. Despite the worldwide trend of shrinking glaciers since the 1940s, Hubbard Glacier has actually been thickening as it continues its advancement into Disenchantment Bay and beyond.  It has been nicknamed the "galloping glacier."


Sometimes, when the weather is cold, or lots of ice has calved from the glacier into the water, it can be difficult to navigate the ship through the ice chunks to get as close to Hubbard Glacier as most ships would like.  Happily, our excursion ship was able to navigate around the ice.



The advancement or retreat of a glacier’s terminus depends on the snowfall that melts down or flows from its catchment basin. Hubbard Glacier’s catchment basin is in the Saint Elias Mountains which has a big accumulation area. The snow that falls in the basin either melts or flows down to the terminus, causing Hubbard to steadily grow. 
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In addition, Hubbard is building up a large moraine, which pushes sediment, rock, and other debris from Earth’s surface onto the glacier’s leading edge. The moraine at the front gives the glacier stability and allows it to advance more easily.



Blue ice occurs when snow falls on a glacier, is compressed, and becomes part of the glacier. Air bubbles are squeezed out and ice crystals enlarge, making the ice appear blue. The ice at the glacier’s terminus will calve, or lose ice chunks of itself that dramatically split off the main glacier mass and fall into the water. They leave everyone who sees the drop filled with awe!




As you can see in the photos above some ice just fell into the bay with a large splash! The glacier face is 400 feet tall, so some icebergs that calve off into the water can be the equivalent size of 3 to 4 story buildings!




If you click on the video above which is on my Mille Fiori Favoriti facebook page--make sure your sound is on and there is no x by the speaker icon--the direct link is here--you will hear the loud crack the ice makes as it calves and then you will see the ice fall into the water. It is an exciting sight to see!



Our excursion ship stayed quite a while in the bay as we all observed the action of the glacier.





What a beautiful and amazing sight it was!




The ship also sailed close to the fjords which were green with growth and filled with many seabirds!



There were so many interesting land formations and many, many bird nests on the hills and birds flying over the water and sitting on chunks of ice floating in the water.




We eventually sailed back to our cruise ship as the excursion tour narrator told us interesting facts about the Hubbard Glacier and the surrounding area.



We reboarded our Princess ship for more exciting adventures ahead!  Our next stop would be Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve--my next post.


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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Anchorage, Alaska


Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, is in the south-central part of the state on the Cook Inlet. It is Alaska's most populous city and contains more than 40% of the state's population; among the 50 states, only New York has a higher percentage of residents who live in its most populous city. It has more than 60 glaciers within 50 miles of downtown, a salmon stream in the heart of the city, 300 miles of wilderness trails and Chugach State Park and National Forest one of the largest state parksAnchorage is known for its cultural sites, including the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which displays traditional crafts, stages dances, and presents replicas of dwellings from the area’s indigenous groups. The city is also a gateway to nearby wilderness areas and six surrounding mountains including the Chugach, Kenai, and Talkeetna.   When we departed the Alaska Railroad on the land portion of our Alaskan Cruise--click here to read that post--we were checked into the Captain Cook Hotel.  Although it was the evening, the almost 24-hour daylight of the Alaskan summer made it look like mid-day.  This was our view of Anchorage from our hotel window! (All photos will enlarge if clicked on)


Our stomachs told us we were hungry after our day of travel and we ate dinner in the hotel, enjoying fried calamari and a steak. Both were delicious!



We were only spending one night in the hotel with our tour and so even though it was late we took a walk around the downtown, where my husband posed with a local "bear." We saw Cook's inlet in the distance and numerous extra-large lilac bushes. Our visit to Anchorage took place in June and lilacs were everywhere! Their beautiful scent is one of my fond memories of Alaska.  The long daylight hours of summer helps flowers grow, even if the spring and summer seasons are short.  We were told by a tour guide that Alaska also often wins prizes for growing the largest vegetables due to the extra-long sunlight hours.



The next morning, we took a highly recommended one hour Anchorage Trolley Tour which we picked up at this unique location.  Our tour guide was very entertaining! She sang, told jokes and local sayings as well as pointed out the interesting sights.  One of the sayings we heard often in Alaska was: "The odds are good, but the goods are odd." That means that there are more men than women living in Alaska, but often the men that are there are also "unusual or unique," putting it kindly. 



Our trolley window view of the bronze  Captian Cook Monument in Resolution Park. The bronze Captain Cook Monument has the famed explorer standing on a large wooden deck, looking out to sea -- toward the route he used when he explored Cook Inlet in 1778 aboard HMS Resolution. Captain Cook was searching for a Northwest Passage and never actually reached Anchorage.  He sent his ship's master, William Bligh instead.  After two weeks of exploration of the channel, he was happy to leave the area



On another trolley stop, we looked at this driveway, glass canopy and skylight set into the ground.  What is this?  Underneath the ground is a 2,800 square feet house!  Jon and Marnie Isaacs have lived in this house, and raised their family there, for almost 40 years.  To read why and how this house was built, click on this link from the Anchorage Daily News.




Next stop on the trolley we saw Earthquake Park in the Turnagain neighborhood. This 134-acre park is set in the woods where, in 1964, on March 27, during Good Friday, last century's most powerful earthquake occurred in Anchorage, Alaska. The earthquake was measured at a 9.2 on the Richter scale and lasted 4 minutes, killing 115 people and causing $116 million in damages ($0.73 billion in 2018 dollars.  This tragic event is commemorated in Anchorage’s Earthquake Park, where there are signs explaining the circumstances of the quake and its effect on the area.  If you examine my photo you can see wave-like ripples on the ground that was a result of the earthquake.



A view of downtown Anchorage from the park.


Next, we stopped at Lake Hood, where we saw the favorite mode of transportation for Alaskans--the seaplane! The sound of seaplanes is another Alaskan memory I will cherish, even if they can be quite noisy!  To hear a seaplane taking off click on this link which will take you to my Mille Fiori Favoriti facebook page where you will see my short video link--click on the photo in that link and it will enlarge and begin to play--make sure the sound is turned on!  You will hear the plane take off from the water and the tour guide's voice. She was telling us about a local lady who just posted a photo on facebook of a moose that was in her back yard!  There are estimated 1,000 moose that roam freely in the Anchorage area!  Unfortunately, we didn't see any on our hour-long tour.



More sights of Anchorage. A seaplane and the beautiful Chugach Mountains in the distance, more lilacs, the fencing surrounding some areas in an attempt to keep control of the moose, and the air full of commercial jets and seaplanes.



All too soon it was time to leave Anchorage and get on a bus that was to take us to Whittier, Alaska and our cruise ship. We loved Anchorage and would love to return for a much longer visit and see more of its sights. As Anchorage has a major airport and the Alaska Railroad, it is a wonderful location to begin a trip to see Alaska on one's own.  Just look at the scenery that surrounds the city! Now that's what you think of when you think of Alaska! Don't you agree?




I wasn't sitting in the right side of our tour bus to see the best views of the Chugach Mountains but even so, look at the views we saw!









Do you spy the grizzly bear in this photo?  It is not in the true wild, but it was located in our stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) in Portage, Alaska.  Info from their website: "The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, research, education and quality animal care. AWCC takes in injured and orphaned animals year-round and provides them with spacious enclosures and quality animal care. Most of the animals that arrive at the AWCC become permanent residents and will always have a home here. The Center maintains over 200 acres of spacious habitats for animals to feel at home and display their natural “wild” behavior. Visitors may see brown bears cooling off in the water, a bull moose strutting, wood bison roaming on pastures and more."



We watched the bears for quite a while!




I loved when he sat down among the wildflowers!

A Muskox

Muskox are members of the goat family. They’re an ancient species of arctic mammal with a thick outer coat consisting of long (up to 36 inches) guard hairs that cover a dense underfur known as qiviut. Qiviut is considered to be one of the warmest materials in the world.

Sitka Black-Tailed Deer and Elk

Elk in Alaska are limited to island habitats with temperate, maritime climates. They feed on a variety of plants at different times of the year. During the summer months, they favor grasses, forbs, willows, and other leafy greens while in the winter they munch on branches and twigs of trees and shrubs.


 Moose

Only males or bull moose have antlers. Most male moose calves develop bony knobs on their heads by the end of their first summer. After the first year, they grow antlers every summer and shed them during the winter.  This moose seemed to be resting due to the midday heat--on our visit to this Wildlife Center, the temperatures were close to 80 degrees!



There were other animals in the wildlife center, but many were hiding from the heat or inside their shelters. There are owls, wolves, bison, lynx, fox, reindeer, and wolverines.  We also enjoyed the beautiful scenery surrounding the wildlife center and gift shop and cafe.





If you watch this YouTube you will experience the Whittier Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel—The tunnel's portal is made of 14 inches of concrete and was designed to withstand a major avalanche. The tunnel goes through Maynard Mountain for 13,300 ft. (2.5 miles) and is the longest combined rail and highway tunnel in North America. The first tunnel designed for -40 Fahrenheit temperatures and 150 mph winds!

The one-lane tunnel must be shared by cars and trains traveling in both directions. This unique design enables a single lane of traffic to travel directly over the railroad track and saved tens of millions of dollars over the cost of constructing a larger tunnel.



We exited the tunnel and arrived in Whittier, Alaska to board our Princess Cruise ship!  The sea portion of our Alaskan trip was about to begin--more on my next post!


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I'm linking this post to the following blog events:

 Mosaic Monday, All SeasonsBlue Monday, Through My Lens MondayLittle Cottage Link Party, Blogging GrandmothersHearth, and Soul Link PartyYou Are the Star Blog HopGood Random FunNature NotesGrand SocialTravel Photos, Photo Tunes, Happiness Is HomemadeSomething Old Is NewOur World TuesdayRuby TuesdayTuesdays With A TwistWordless Wednesday on a TuesdaySay Cheese!,  Party in Your PJ'sWordless WednesdayNanahood WWOh My Heartsie Girl's Wonderful Wednesday, Your Whims WednesdayWorldless Wednesday at Sky GirlWednesday My Corner of the WorldWonderful Wednesday Little Things Thursday,Thankful ThursdayThursday Encouraging Hearts and HomeThursday Favorite ThingsFriendship FridaysFriday Features Linky PartyFriday Photo JournalSkywatch Friday, Pink SaturdaySaturday Critters
Over the Moon Grammys Grid-Month Long Linky Party



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