Sunday, April 8, 2012

Alaska Cruise: Day 2 – Glacier Bay

As the World Bird Sanctuary prepares to lead a group of travelers on another Alaska Cruise this September I propose to give you a peek into the highlights you might expect to find when you travel along with us.  This is what we experienced on our 2009 cruise.

We awoke the morning of Day 2 to find that we were about to enter beautiful Glacier Bay.
Entering Glacier Bay 
My husband, who is a real early bird, was already out of the cabin and up on deck.  My first challenge of the day was to find him so that we could enjoy breakfast together while watching the magnificent scenery slide by.  (A note to the wise—you’ll do plenty of walking on one of these huge ships, so bring comfortable walking shoes.)

As we were eating breakfast an announcement over the public address system let us know that the Park Ranger would soon be boarding the ship for our all day excursion through Glacier Bay.
The park service launch preparing to board the Ranger for the day
The ranger would be available to give talks and answer questions about the huge glaciers that composed the shoreline, such as “Why is glacier ice blue?”  ….and the answer is: Glacial ice is a different color than regular ice. It is so blue because the dense ice of the glacier absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue--so blue is what we see!
  Why is glacier ice so incredibly blue?
We finished breakfast and hurried to the top deck to watch as the Park Ranger’s boat docked alongside our huge cruise liner and transferred him to our keeping
for the day.
Cruising the glaciers gave us the opportunity for some incredible scenic photos
Throughout the day we cruised the edges of the glaciers, watching as the glacier calved its icebergs into the sea.  The first indication of a calving iceberg was a deafening CRACK!—at which every person on the upper deck would race to whichever side of the ship was nearest to the cracking sound (it’s a miracle that the ship didn’t list to that side). 
  Waiting for the glacier to release an iceberg from its grip
Then it was a waiting game until the next CRACK and you could begin to see plumes of ice flying from the area which was releasing the berg.  After a few more CRACKS a huge chunk of ice would suddenly begin sliding into the sea.  I’ve never heard so many camera shutters clicking in my life! 
Photos don't do justice to a calving iceberg
Occasionally there would be a whale sighted by the crew and an announcement would be made over the PA system (another mad dash to that side of the ship).  In addition to the icebergs and whales, we also spotted occasional sea otters and Puffins on this day.  However, I would caution anyone who wants to take photos of the wildlife from the ship, that a long lens is a “must have”—at the very least--a 300mm lens for a DSLR (preferably longer).
 This photo of a Sea Otter was taken with a 400 mm lens (an effective 600 mm) and then cropped severely to bring it in close
A word about cameras here--remember, most digital SLRs have approximately a 1.5 lens conversion factor—in other words a 300 mm lens on a digital DSLR would be equivalent to a 450 mm lens on a film camera.  If shooting with a small digicam Click Here for a formula to figure how much optical zoom is needed to equal the mm lens measurements used with a DSLR camera.

Have you ever been afraid to nap?  After spending a full morning in the brisk glacier-chilled air watching icebergs calve, rushing from one side of the top deck to the other, and watching for the occasional whale sighting, I was more than ready for an afternoon nap.  But I had a dilemma—if I went downstairs to my cabin to nap I might miss something!  I finally resolved my dilemma by grabbing a deck chair and camping out on the top deck—in the hope that any huge rush to one side of the deck or the other would wake me if anything exciting was sighted.
 After a full day on deck I was ready for a nap
By the time we sailed out of Glacier Bay I was almost thankful, since that meant that I could retire to our cabin and get ready for dinner and a show without missing something.

This year’s cruise visits Sawyer Arm and Mendenhall Glacier which I’m told are just as impressive as Glacier Bay. 

To find out how to sign up for the World Bird Sanctuary’s September 9-16 Alaska Cruise Click Here

Our next blog visits our first port of call—Juneau.

Submitted by Gay Schroer World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

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