Here again we stare into the beauty known as the Hubbard Glacier, the six-mile wide, 300 foot high faced wonder of nature, one of hundreds that managed to survive the last mini ice-age. What you are looking at here, actually, is one of the many surrounding mountain ranges. Snowfall in the elevations eventually turns to hard ice and breaks loose in masses, beginning a very slow avalanche. Fjords and inlets are created as the massive chunks descend. At the bottom, the slides are halted by seawater and warmer air, resulting in some of the bergs we saw that June 5th day.
It began around noon, as we entered Yakutat Bay. Little flotating icebergs, many not larger than an adult hand, began to appear. Then, many more. We were on the chaise lounges, wrapped in our wool blankets as we felt the anticipation (to say nothing of frosty air). People were excitedly running to and fro, scoping out vantage points on every available outside level. We made our way to the top deck, near the basketball court. We eventually gazed down at the ship's helipad. Deciding that this was a better spot, we wound our path down, through the Celebrity Theater (where the nightly shows took place), and out a narrow backway. Dozens of shipgoers were already there, snapping pictures and sighing. There were also the requisite smart remarks from some of the younger set. More and more chunks appeared. Soon, much of the water's surface was covered. The mountains became more defined. We saw the mighty white shelf.
We stood out there for hours, forgetting about the buffets that awaited. This is saying something, as I usually start whining at 1 if my scheduled feeding is missed. We all stood as the ship got very close. You could hear the crackling as the hull pushed through the ice. You looked down and the water was just full of fragments, shards of intricate designs. It looked like a gigantic punchbowl. I took shot after shot. Then I just took it in. The air was so fresh. It was chilly, but not frigid. We did not see any baleen or orca whales, unfortunately. Nor did we see too many eagles or gulls, swooping in search of what is apparently a plentiful source of fish in these waters. Some of the Pacific Halibut, we're told, can grow up to nine feet long and weigh over 500 lbs.
As I said, we got close. We idled for a bit, then inched away. Like all of the spots we saw on this journey, leaving was difficult. We watched and watched until our hunger got the better of us. What an amazing vista, something everyone should see. Friends marveled at our photos, but they only scratch the surface of the real beauty of it. I felt some sort of cleansing, just being out there. Ten percent of the world's total area is covered with ice, though as you are likely aware, that stat is changing due to climate concerns. "Glaciers and polar ice store more water than all the world's lakes, rivers, and the atmosphere combined. If the world's ice caps melted completely, sea levels would rise enough to flood much of the Earth and more than half of the world's cities" saith our Celebrity Today! daily sheet. I'll leave it to experts such as Tim Flannery ("The Weather Makers") to do the math on that, but perhaps you should get out there in case it happens in our lifetimes.