Thursday, June 19, 2008

Remembering The Titanic

On the advice of our good friends Harry and Carole Melander, today we are on a nine hour glacier and wildlife cruise.

The skipper is a young lady who has recently received her captains license and is being oriented to the ship by the senior captain.

Five percent of Alaska is covered by 30,000 square miles of glacier ice.
This trip will be to the Columbia and Mears glaciers, passing Bligh Reef, site of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Glacier ice is blue because the water molecule absorbs all of the colors in the spectrum except the blue, which is transmitted.

The Columbia Glacier, the last of Alaska's tidewater glaciers to go into a retreat, has retreated 71/2 miles since 1978, leaving an ice field so vast it prevents one from getting close enough to see the actual glacier.

We enjoy the freedom we have on the ship, being able to enter the bridge at any time to observe and ask questions about the modern instrumentation.

We know we are nearing the Mears Glacier when we hear the grating sound of iceburgs scraping against the hull and we recall the sinking of the Titanic.

The Mears Glacier is a calving glacier that we are able to float right up to and hear the loud crack of ice as large chunks fall into the sea.

After a hot lunch served by our wonderful crew, I decided to sample a piece of glacier ice for desert. Our deckhand, a native of Valdez, is a 4th grade teacher from Nome working on the ship for the summer.

She says I'd be a wonderful student. I think she would be a wonderful teacher but I'd make funny noises and heckle her in class.

On the return to port we take time for a little nature and wildlife viewing.

Sea otters, known as " Old men of the sea," weighing up to one hundred pounds are the largest member of the weasel family in North America. When they're not eating they float on their backs grooming and resting.

                                       This one seems to wave good bye.

Stellar Sea Lions, weighing up to 1200 pounds, eat at night and rest on rocks during the day.

Humpback whales eat nearly one ton of food a day. They migrate 6,000 miles between Alaska and Mexico where we have also seen them from our kayaks. They average 45 feet and weigh 35-40 tons.

                    We were close enough to these to see their blowholes and barnacles.

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