Thursday, June 2, 2011

Columbia Glacier and Wildlife Cruise

It was a wonderful day for a cruise, despite the morning fog and chilly temps. As the day progressed and we found sunshine further out in the water, our group agreed we had made the right decision to go on this trip today!

I took 199 shots, but will spare you most of them. Here are a chosen few.

Waiting to board.



Some of our group decided to sit outside.



We chose a table inside with Jim and Pat.


Sea otters playing with each other. We saw a hundred or more during the day. The brochure said, “Known as the ‘Old man of the sea,’ sea otters are the largest members of the weasel family in North America, males weighing up to 100 pounds.”


Oil tanker in port receiving oil from the pipeline.


Sea lions on a buoy.


Tiny islands.


Big islands. Notice the dark line on the rocks above the water. Below it is an algae like seaweed; the dark line marks high tide. Tides in Prince William Sound average 12 feet, but they can go to 17-20 feet.


Humpback whale. We saw four during the day, but my camera and I never quite got together for a good shot. The brochure said, “These whales are baleen feeders, consuming nearly a ton of food a day, mostly plankton and krill. They migrate 6000 miles to reach their summer feeding grounds in Alaska. Humpbacks average 45 feet and weigh 35-40 tons.”


Columbia Glacier.


As we got closer, the floating ice “calves” became larger and more numerous.





Notice the striking blue color in some of the ice calves. The brochure said “Glacier ice is blue because the physical properties of the water molecule absorbs all of the colors in the spectrum except the blue, which is transmitted.” The dark colors indicate dirt and rocks scraped off the mountains by the glacier ice and carried down to the water.


One of the crew members brought a piece of ice on board so we could see how clear and pure it is. Later we had chips from it in our lemonade.


Our captain Randy got as close to the glacier as he thought safe. Some days the ice calves have melted so the boat can get closer.


The brochure said, “The Columbia Glacier was the last of Alaska’s tidewater glaciers to go into a retreat. The retreat began in 1978, and by 1983 it had moved off its terminal moraine, losing an increasing amount of ice. In 2002, it had retreated for a distance of 7.5 miles, leaving approximately 18 miles to go before reaching bedrock on shore. This retreat is truly ‘history in the making.’ ”

A bald eagle sits atop a piece of ice.


Steller Sea Lions. The brochure said, “Large males average 1,200 pounds, females up to 650 pounds. They eat during the night, sunning and resting on rocks during the day.”


Don’s watching something off the back of the boat.


Dennis is wondering if I’ll notice he stole my cap.


The tanker we saw earlier in port, Polar Enterprise, heading out to sea with two escorts. It's heading for Anacortes, Washington, a place we’ve visited and hope to return to someday.


Animals we saw but couldn’t get pics: Mammals – dall’s porpoise, mountain goat. Birds – cormorant, horned puffin, black-legged kittiwake, pigeon guillemot.

It was a very good day shared with our friends. We look forward to many more.


  1. You have no idea just how lucky you were on that ride.. When we did it six years ago, everyone got sick and the entire ride out to the glacier was spent with our heads over the side. Coming back was awesome. Thanks for the memories.

  2.'s like deja vu all over again. It seems like we were just there. :) From an email I received from Dennis, it looks like we may be meeting up around the 13th at Deep Creek. See you soon.

  3. Looks like a fantastic cruise! Enjoying your travels.


Please tell me what you think, either here, on Facebook, or by email. I *love* comments!