July 29, 2010

Margerie Glacier

This was the farthest North the Alize' will be sailing. We reached the top of Glacier Bay at the junction between Margerie Glacier - the brilliant blue one and Grand Pacific - the dirty black one. The face of Margerie is 250 feet high and 2 miles wide. The glacier stretches 21 miles down a valley - fed by a massive ice field - the glacier is slowly marching into the saltwater at an equal rate to the formation of ice at the top of the valley. So, this glacier is deemed stable.

This is the spot where we dropped the anchor and spent the night. We fell asleep listening to chunks of ice calving off the glacier - the Tlinget call the sound, 'white thunder'.

Some of the front fingers of the glacier calved off while I was kayaking near the cliffs. You can see the wave generated in the bottom of this picture.

Black-tailed Kittiwakes colonize the cliffs adjacent to the glacier.

Down time on the Alize'

It's not all bears and breaching whales, there are also lots of power naps and quiet introspective moments on the Alize'.

Micah briefs himself on local birds while Kitson tries to ignore the soaking wet auto-tiller line pressing on his thigh.

Micah takes his turn in the quarter berth.

Micah holds court in the cockpit.

This concoction is named the 'Harry Fielding' - named after the geologist who analyzed the glacier which is now chilling the gin cocktail.

The engine overheated when a long section of bull kelp sucked into the water intake - so this meant a chilly dip below for the captain.

Hoonah is a native town that was formed as a result of the recent glacial maximum in the 1700's when advancing glaciers chased the Tlinget from their idyllic life foraging and hunting in Glacier Bay - across Icy Strait and into a new bay that was not choked with ice.

At some point in the process they built a nice bar there called 'The Office'.

Grizzly bears feed on Humpback whale carcass

    We received a hot tip from Kevin 'Linblad' Freeny that a dead humpback whale had beached itself on a rocky shore halfway up the main channel of Glacier Bay National Park. Rumor had it that the whale had become a feeding ground for Grizzly bears and wolves.

     We sailed into this shore, deployed the kayaks and found a rotating pack of 4 or 5 grizzlies vying for hearty portions of rancid whale blubber.

The alpha of the pack stands on hind legs to peer over the carcass and check whether other bears were daring to approach the feast.

After determining the others were cowering subserviently at a distance, the alpha returns to the feast.

Stopping occasionally to stare blankly at us.

and then back to the whale meat.

if the smaller bears could just get near the whale meat then maybe they would also get distended stomachs ... then perhaps they would get a chance to throw their weight around....
but it is not in the cards today - when alpha is not eating he is patrolling.

Alpha continues scraping meat off of the massive whale ribs.

Micah surveys the scene from the Aliz'e

 Ryan points out another approaching bear while trying to maintain composure.

Ryan bought this really nice digital camera that can fit a giant telephoto lens - but Nikon hasn't released the lens yet or something like that - so, with no ability to zoom, Ryan resorted to holding up one end of my binoculars against his camera to get this shot of me getting way too close to the Grizz.

Grizzlies will double their size in the summer time (from 300-400 pounds to 600-900 pounds) as they gorge on salmon, shellfish and the occasional whale carcass - before heading back up the hill to hibernate through the winter.

July 28, 2010

Glacier Bay - Reid Glacier

Glacier Bay did not exist when Captain Vancouver and Captain Cook passed by in the late 1700's because the glaciers extended right up to the mouth of Icy Strait.

About half of the current park had melted into deep fjords when John Muir paddled up with native Tlingets in 1879.

When we entered in mid-summer 2010 it was pretty damn thawed out - but there is still lots of ice to explore.

Joe and Muz Ibach built a cabin in Reid Valley before it became a National Park. We tried to find the cabin using Kim Heacox's book, The Only Kayak, as a guide. We never found it - but that is not to slander Kim. We all like Kim's book - we just never found the cabin. But we did find some of Joe's mining claims.

This is the only timer picture from our journey with the three of us in the frame. We just walked up the shoulder of Reid glacier. Reid is not a shiny blue glacier - its a dirty glacier, but that shouldn't take away from the shot.

Three old friends resting on their haunches on a dirty, receding glacier.

Kitson knew the glacier would be grayish, so he planned his wardrobe accordingly.

Reid Glacier was a tidewater glacier but in the past few years it has receded to the point where only a high tide will slap salt water at its ankles. It is enjoying its last few months of enjoying tidewater status.

Harvesting the fruits of the Sea

We were treated to a generous halibut harvest this past week.

We were real proud of these - until we got to the docks and saw the locals carving up fish five times the size. The locals said the term for these little guys is 'chickens'.

Salmon and halibut steaks on the stern rail BBQ.

The cockpit has never been so slimy.