Gorgeous Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve: Birthplace of Icebergs & Wildlife

January 6th, 2013 Permalink

Many of these photos were taken during a cruise to Glacier Bay, others from the air, but Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve offers all kinds of adventures. What starts as a loud crack like a rifle shot is also a sign of icebergs being born at Glacier Bay as glaciers break off or calve. The National Park Service asks, what do you want to do and how much time do you have to do it in? “Covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines, and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site—one of the world’s largest international protected areas. From summit to sea, Glacier Bay offers limitless opportunities for adventure and inspiration.” Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve also has the 3rd highest elevation of all U.S. National Parks. Here are some of the gorgeous ancient glaciers, photos capturing the glaciers calving and the birth of icebergs, wonderful wildlife, and spectacular scenery of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska. [44 Photos, 5 Videos]

Waterfall beneath Lamplugh Glacier

Waterfall beneath Lamplugh Glacier, one of the glaciers at Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. While there are many reasons that this park is special, one of them is that there are no roads that lead directly to Glacier Bay. The park is mostly water, so most visitors see it from a cruise ship with thousands of other people. But boats come in all sizes and some adventurers see Glacier Bay from a kayak. Photo #1 by Larry Wilson / NPS

Glacier Bay's Margerie calving

Glacier Bay’s Margerie calving and the spectacular birth of icebergs. There are seven tidewater glaciers that break off, also called calve, into saltwater at sea level and a few others that reach the sea at high tide only. Photo #2 by NPS / T. Rains


Ice cave at Glacier Bay National Park

“Ice cave” at Glacier Bay National Park. After a glacier calves into icebergs, melting water drips and the ice deteriorates. Some brave adventurers who pass close by via kayak may experience a phenomenon called “bergie seltzer” as the water splashes and the ice crackles, “pops and sizzles as it releases ancient air first trapped between the delicate snowflakes and then frozen in under pressure.” This iceberg appears blue means it is dense and calved recently. Photo #3 by J. Driscoll / NPS

Johns Hopkins Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Johns Hopkins Glacier: “As water undermines some ice fronts, great blocks of ice up to 200 feet high break loose and crash into the water. Johns Hopkins Glacier calves such volumes of ice that it is seldom possible for larger boats to approach its ice cliffs closer than about two miles.” Did you know? asked NPS, “When Captain George Vancouver surveyed Southeast Alaska in 1794, the wall of ice that filled the bay was (at its greatest extent) 100 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 4,000 feet thick. Just 250 years later, this same ice has retreated 65 miles, the fastest glacial retreat on record.” Photo #4 by Photo by Preston Filbert / NPS

Lamplugh Glacier, Glacier Bay's Glaciers

8-mile-long (13 km) Lamplugh Glacier. Glaciers will always try to reach a balance between the amount of ice they gain to the amount of ice they lose (equilibrium). Simply, when the glacier gains more ice than it loses, it will advance. Conversely, when a glacier loses more ice than it gains, it retreats. Glaciers gain ice by accumulating snow and burying it to transform into glacial ice. This is a four-part transformation; first snow, then to an ice called neve, then to a denser ice called firn, and finally to glacial ice. This transformation is due to burial pressure applied from the snow accumulating above.” Photo #5 by J. Mallis / NPS

Fairweather Mountains and Margerie Glacier

Fairweather Mountains and Margerie Glacier. Mount Fairweather is one of the world’s highest coastal mountains at 15,325 feet (4,671 meters). The Margerie Glacier is a 21-mile-long (34 km) tide water glacier. Photo #6 by Emily Mount / NPS

The Marble Islands, Alaska Glacier Bay National Park

The Marble Islands and sea lions. Most of these Steller Sea Lions that haul-out on South Marble Island are males that unsuccessfully competed for females during the breeding season. Photo #7 by T. Rains / NPS

Bear Track Mountain, Glacier Bay National Park

Part of the diverse scenery of Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve: Bear Track Mountain. Photo #8 by T. Rains / NPS

Brown bear in waterfall at Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Brown bear in waterfall. One of the things that makes Alaska so special is that all three species of North American bears flourish here. Bears are good long-distance swimmers that are frequently seen “dog paddling” their way across the bay. Most of the islands in Glacier Bay are visited routinely by bears, and one can expect to find them almost anywhere. Photo #9 by Emily Mount / NPS

Johns Hopkins glacier at Glacier Bay's Glaciers

12-mile (19 km) long Johns Hopkins glacier. Glacier Bay was declared a National Monument in February 1925, a National Park and Wild Life Preserve in December 1980, a UNESCO declared World Biosphere Reserve in 1986 and a World Heritage Site in 1992. Photo #10 by NPS

Hiker and glacier

For scale: Hiker and glacier. NPS wrote, “Glacier ice is different from the ice in your refrigerator. The ice crystals form slowly under pressure and individual crystals can grow to be the size of a football. Air trapped between the snowflakes is also frozen into the ice at pressure. Ice near the bottom of the glacier is under tremendous pressure, which allows it to flow almost like a plastic over the bedrock beneath. Friction between the glacier and the bedrock produces meltwater which further lubricates the bedrock allowing the ice to slide.” Photo #11 by Bill Eichenlaub / NPS

Reflections Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

“Reflections.” The main visitor season is from late-May through early-September with the peak being the month of July. The park is open the rest of the year, but visitor services are very limited. Summer temperatures average 50° to 60° F (10° to 15° C). Rain is the norm in southeast Alaska. Photo #12 by Emily Mount / NPS

Orca whale jumping in waters of Glacier Bay

Orca whale jumping in waters of Glacier Bay. Photo #13 by *christopher*

Alaska fly by  A seagull zips around the inland passage in Alaska

Alaska fly by. A seagull zips around the inland passage in Alaska. Photo #14 by Steve Wall

Brown bear at water

Brown bear at water. It will gnaw the mussels off the rocks. Photo #15 by NPS

Brown Bear and Ice

Brown Bear and ice. “Brown bears tend to dwell in open terrain, but can be found in the dense forest as well,” explained NPS. “Brown bear is another name for grizzly bear and is used to differentiate the coastal residents from the interior-dwelling grizzly. Brown bears can be any shade from honey blonde to black. Brown bears normally weigh up to 900 pounds, occasionally up to as much as 1,400 pounds.” Photo #16 by T. Lewis / NPS

Black bear in Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park

Black bear in Bartlett Cove where the park’s headquarters, Visitor Information Station, Visitor Center and the Glacier Bay Lodge are located. It’s 10 miles by road from the small town of Gustavus. Photo #17 by T. Rains / NPS

Black bear feasting on dandelions at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Black bear feasting on dandelions. “Three trails of varying lengths are located at Bartlett Cove,” wrote NPS. “These trails tend to be somewhat muddy and wet, so bring rubber boots (Southeast Alaskan Sneakers).” Photo #18 by Melinda Webster / NPS

Bartlett Cove forest, Alaska Glacier National Park & Preserve

Sensation wilderness and gorgeous greens of Bartlett Cove forest. Photo #19 by T. Rains / NPS

Blackwater Pond Reflection, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Blackwater Pond Reflection. NPS advised, “Glacier Bay is above all a wilderness park and saves its greatest rewards for those who are willing to sweat a bit and sleep on the ground.” Photo #20 by NPS

Bald eagle in a tree at Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Bald eagle in a tree. Bring your camera because it is a photographer’s paradise. There are 160 marine and estuarine (fish) species, 242 species of birds, 41 species of mammals and 3 species of amphibians. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve has no reptiles. Photo #21 by NPS

First year black bear cubs at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

First year black bear cubs. Black bears are found primarily in the forested regions of the lower bay, including Bartlett Cove, although they can be found anywhere from the beach to the alpine. NPS said, “Black bears can be black, brown, blonde, even blue/gray — as is the case of the rare color phase found in Southeast Alaska called the glacier bear. Black bears normally weigh up to 300 pounds, occasionally up to as much as 600 pounds.” Photo #22 by Melinda Webster / NPS

Moose at Glacier National Park & Preserve

Moose at Glacier National Park & Preserve. Like the bears, moose are strong swimmers and can “dog paddle” from island to island. Photo #23 by Rosemarie Salazar / NPS

Glacier Bay National Park- La Perouse Glacier

Glacier Bay National Park: La Perouse Glacier. The photographer wrote, “When Capt. George Vancouver explored the area in 1794, Glacier Bay didn’t exist: the Grand Pacific Glacier filled it almost all the way out to its mouth at Icy Strait. But when John Muir visited in 1879, the ice had retreated 30 miles, leaving behind the steep-sided fjord known as Glacier Bay. By 1916 the ice had retreated the full 60-mile length of the bay, & the massive Grand Pacific ended at the head of Tarr Inlet. This is the smaller(!) LaPerouse Glacier on the ocean side of Glacier Bay National Park. The bay itself runs inland on the far side of that mountain range. It’s hard to get a true sense of the scale here, but those little textury green things are mature spruce trees, & the visible peak is 7588 ft; Mt. La Perouse beyond rises to 10,728 ft (3270 meters).” Photo #24 by Anita363

Reflections of Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park

The sheltered waters of Glacier Bay ebb and flow with the region’s huge tides, which can change as much as 25 feet during a six-hour period. When the water is ‘calm,’ such in this photo, you can see the reflections of the Margerie glacier. Photo #25 by Donna62

Glacier near Halo Bay

Glacier near Halo Bay. The photographer wrote, “A glacier is a slowly moving mass of compacted ice. The snow that collects on the mountain is compressed and turns to ice. The weight of the ice slowly drives the ice down the mountian, in this case ending in the the ocean. For that reason it is called a tide water glacier. The bands of earth seen it the glacier are known as lateral and medial moraines. Recently, global warming has caused as significant retreat of most glaciers.” Photo #26 by drurydrama (Len Radin)

Marjorie Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

The history of the “Margerie Glacier is integral to the history of Glacier Bay. In 1794, Glacier Bay was a wall of ice when Captain Vancouver was blocked in his explorations by a wall of 2 miles (3.2 km) width and 4,000 feet (1,200 m) thick. 85 years later, when in 1879 John Muir had first visited the bay, this wall was 48 miles and had retreated by 44 miles (71 km). Now, it has retreated to 65 miles as a remnant of the old wall of the glacier system and has 16 major tidewater glaciers (10 and 12 were also mentioned in some references). Margerie Glacier is at Mile 63 of this system and named after French Geologist Emmanuel de Margerie who visited the area in 1913.” Photo #27 by Alaska National Park Service

Glacier Bay, Alaska

“That’s a huge cruise liner for scale, with several thousand people on board. It was on the same itinerary as ours, so we were playing tag all the way down the Inside Passage. Mt. Fairweather is the high white peak in the background: a 15,320′ mountain, ~50 mi. distant, & almost hidden by the “foothills” in the foreground. Aptly named; not many visitors get to see it! We had highly uncharacteristic, absolutely spectacular sparkling clear weather all the way down the Inside Passage.” The photographer added, “Cruise ships are having a significant negative impact on the ecosystem of Glacier Bay, and the National Park Service has set a quota on the number allowed per year. But there is always a tension between preserving wilderness and preserving the public’s access to it. People need wilderness — and in purely practical conservationist terms, they’re more likely to want to preserve it once they see it for themselves. I was doing Glacier Bay by cruise rather than by kayak because the cruise was a 91st birthday present for my grandmother — who tore up the dance floor on board ship, but wasn’t going to be doing any kayaking. But I still feel a little guilty over it.” Photo #28 by Anita363

Mount Fairweather

The weather on Mount Fairweather is usually harsh. It receives over 100 inches (254 cm) of precipitation each year (mostly snow) and sees temperatures of around -50°F (-46°C). Photo #29 by Linda Lieberman / NPS

Meltwater Stream Cave at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Meltwater Stream Cave. Some times, ice caves get formed in a glacier such as Margerie. Ice cave in a glacier is considered highly unstable since blocks of ice collapse into the water from the sides of the cave formation and create a resounding noise as it splashes. Photo #30 by Janene Driscoll / NPS

Surface of glacier at Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Patterns on the glacier’s surface. Photo #31 by Richard Droker

Fresh snow on lodgepole pine trees, Glacier National Park & Preserve

Fresh snow on lodgepole pine trees. The fact sheet states, “Glacier Bay has been the homeland of the Huna Tlingit people for countless generations. Southeast Alaska is within a cool, wet coastal temperate rainforest. Summer: 50° to 60°; Winter 20° to 30°, with extremes of -10° F. Some form of precipitation occurs on average of 228 days per year. Annual precipitation is 70 to 80 inches, including an annual snowfall of 14 feet. High in the Fairweather Mountains, over 100 feet of snow may fall year-round…making it one of the world’s snowiest places.” Photo #32 by Rosemarie Salazar / NPS

Aerial view of cruise ship at Margerie Glacier

Aerial view of cruise ship at Margerie Glacier. Regarding tidewater glaciers, NPS wrote, “As water undermines some ice fronts, great blocks of ice up to 200 feet high break loose and crash into the water. Johns Hopkins Glacier calves such volumes of ice that it is seldom possible for larger boats to approach its ice cliffs closer than about two miles.” Photo #33 by NPS

Margerie Glacier and gull

Margerie Glacier and gull. NPS warned about icebergs that have broken off from glaciers. “Bergs may be weighed down or even submerged by rock and rubble. A modest-looking berg may suddenly loom enormous – and endanger small craft – when it rolls over. Boaters and especially kayakers should keep in mind that what one sees is ‘just the tip of the iceberg’.” Photo #34 by jjjj56cp

Glacier Bay tail of Humpback whale

Tail of Humpback whale. Humpback whales spend the summer in Glacier Bay and then wisely swim to Hawaii for the winter. Glacier Bay is a place that offers human solitude and a remote wildness that is rapidly disappearing in today’s world. A place of hope for the continued wisdom, restraint, and humility to preserve a sample of wild America, the world as it was. It’s also a land of dynamic change and a place of inspiration. Photo #35 by *christopher*

Glacier Bay HDR

The deepest point in Glacier Bay is 1,410 feet below sea level. The tides change every six hours, there are two high and two low tides every 24 hours. The tidal fluctuation averages from -5 feet to 18 feet. However an extreme tide can change 23 feet in 6 hours. Photo #36 by morganglines

West of Hubbard Glacier, Turner Glacier

The photographer wrote, “Turner Glacier is located just to the West of the mighty Hubbard Glacier, both being tidewater glaciers emptying in to Yakutat bay, Alaska. The lines of black debris are Moraines of Rock ground from the mountain sides.” Photo #37 by Alan Vernon

Close-up of a distinctive ice formation on the face of the Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

“God’s Creation,” wrote the photographer. “Close-up of a distinctive ice formation on the face of the Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska” Photo #38 by Jill Clardy

Hubbard Glacier calving

Hubbard Glacier. The dark-stripes “carry morainal rubble – rocks that the glacier acquired on its journey down the mountain.” Photo #39 by Rich Engelbrecht

Hubbard Glacier Alaska

“The ice you see at the terminal face is approximately 450 years old and is over 2000 feet thick at some locations. Once the ice becomes more than 150 feet thick the ice can behave plastically, and start to flow under the influence of gravity.” The Hubbard Glacier “is North America’s largest tidewater glacier. It is 76 miles long, 7 miles wide, and 600 feet tall at its terminal face (350 feet exposed above the waterline and 250 feet below the waterline). It is currently advancing while most glaciers are retreating worldwide. The Hubbard Glacier will and does react in an opposite fashion to most glaciers in a warming climate.” Photo #40 by Jill Schad

Crack and calving of Hubbard Glacier

The photographer explained, “Hubbard Glacier is the longest tidewater glacier on the North American Continent, at 76 miles from its source on Mount Logan in the Yukon Province of Canada to its face in Yakutat and Disenchantment bays in Alaska. The face of Hubbard is almost six miles in length, and has been advancing for about a century. Every day massive blocks of ice ‘calve’ off the glacier and fall into the sea, forming icebergs that eventually flow out into Yakutat bay and thence to the open sea. This is an amazing sight to see, accompanied by a thunderous roar known locally as ‘White Thunder’. First, a sharp ‘crack’ is heard, followed by a low rumble as tons of ice and rock can be seen tumbling down the ice face into the sea, creating a small tidal wave and throwing up a cloud of debris and ice particles into the air, like a small explosion. The low rubble continues to echo around the bay, bouncing off the mountains. Then total silence, until the procedure starts over again.” Photo #41 by Rich Engelbrecht

Cylindrical pinnacles of ice at glacier face, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Cylindrical pinnacles of ice at glacier face. Photo #42 by Melinda Webster / NPS

Glacier calving at Glacier National Park & Preserve

Glacier calving. “Glimpse of the Ice Ages,” wrote NPS. “If you’ve ever dreamed of the ice age and wondered how our planet might have looked as it emerged from the grip of massive glaciers, pondered how a river of ice could carve mountains into flour or wanted to watch the birth of an iceberg, then Glacier Bay National Park is the place for you.” Photo #43 by NPS

We have splash down, Glacier Bay glacier calving

Glacier Bay Alaska: “We have splash down!” Photo #44 by Jeff Huffman

Glacier Bay is far from the only place where glaciers calve and icebergs are born. Chasing Ice is a documentary movie that reveals the largest iceberg break-up ever filmed. Acclaimed National Geographic photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In Chasing Ice, Balog deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Traveling with a team of young adventurers across the brutal Arctic, Balog risks his career and his well-being in pursuit of the biggest story facing humanity. As the debate polarizes America, and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Chasing Ice depicts a heroic photojournalist on a mission to deliver fragile hope to our carbon-powered planet. Video #1 by Jeff Orlowski / Dudeabidez3

“Glacier Calving & Tsunami, Perito Moreno, El Calafate, Argentina.” Video #2 by theyogogirl

“Video of iceberg tsunami captured on boat in Alaska in June 2007.” Photo #3 by GMoskov763

Hubbard Glacier Timelapse. Photo #4 by radiofreebc

Glacier falls and people almost die. Video #5 by alexp3g

Part 2: Extraordinary Icebergs: 55 Reasons Why Majestic Ice Mountains are So Cool


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