Saturday, July 8

Margie (in center with blond hair peeking out from purple hat) answering questions We woke up at 6:00 and started getting ready for the day. (Room cleanups began at 7:00. Alaska in the summertime is no place for late sleepers!) Before I could even shower, there was an announcement about glaciers outside. I went up to the deck and watched Barry Glacier in the quiet of the early morning. Every few minutes there was a sharp cracking sound ("white thunder") as pieces of the glacier broke off and fell away. Most of the "calving" was too far away to see, but we did get to view a few minor landslides. At one point, we saw a harbor seal lying on a chunk of ice floating in the water.

College Fjord

After breakfast, we headed away from Barry Glacier and circled towards College Fjord. On our way out of the inlet, we happened upon a group of a dozen or more sea otters lying on ice and playing in the water.

Harvard GlacierCollege Fjord is so named because each of the glaciers was named after an ivy league college around the turn of the twentieth century. The most impressive is Harvard Glacier, fourteen miles long and one and a half miles wide. Portions of it have a blue tint that results from crystallization at high pressures. The glaciers carry with them the fine silt of ground-up rock. As ice breaks off from the glaciers and melts, the silt builds up in the water and gives it a deep gray hue. Some of the crew members fished a chunk of ice out of the water and the guests began a contest to see how long it would take to melt.

Silt melting off of ice Bryn Mawr Glacier

How long will it take to melt? Orca whale

After leaving College Fjord, we caught sight of a pair of female orca whales and followed them for a ways. They seemed pretty shy and stayed underwater for longer than is typical of killer whales.

We proceeded east through Esther Passage, spotting two bald eagles, numerous salmon leaping into the air, and a tiny seal head poking out of the water. After dinner, Jessica pointed out to me the orange and white jellyfish passing by just under the water's surface.

Sea lions on Glacier Island

Glacier Island was a big thrill. The boat eased up to a beach full of sea lions. There were some hundred or more Steller sea lions covering the rocks, most sleeping, some fighting with each other, and a few diving in and out of the water. Although we were several hundred feet out, we could hear their barks and growls quite clearly. The sea lions were accompanied by some cormorants and a few horned puffins sitting on the cliffs above. We enjoyed watching the puffins fly in circles and splash into the water to dive for fish.

Puffin making a big splash

Once we said goodbye to the sea lions, we headed back down to the lounge to listen to Margie talk about the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Then we watched the tail end of the movie The Princess Bride and went to bed.


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Julie Kerr, July 16, 2000