Our final two days at sea have us heading north by north-west out of the Inland Passage and across the Gulf of Alaska. First viewings of the glaciers are in Glacier Bay, the day is heavy with cloud which covers the tops of the mountains on either side of the Bay. At the start it’s wet and rather cold, beanies and weather jackets on but as the morning advances it clears up a bit. Still no blue skies for those postcard like views one sees in the travel brochures, apparently the weather we have is more the norm. The glaciers though are still impressive and the quiet misty waters surrounded by mountains really emphasises that we are in a quite remote and special part of the world. Our big ship moving very slowly around the Bay seems out of place, an invader if you like!
We get to the end of the Bay in front of the Margerie Glacier and the ship does a slow 360 pivot several times so that all can get a good view of the scene. Many of the glaciers in the bay are clearly in retreat up their valleys, others seem to be close to having their noses crawl out of the sea. No more pieces breaking off and plunging into the water. There is one though that is still advancing, the Johns Hopkins Glacier. Apparently it is fed by part of the Ice field on Mt Fairweather which still gets enormous quantities of snow each year. Mt Fairweather was named by Captain Cook on his 3rd and final voyage when he was searching for the long hoped for North West Passage across the top to Europe. Unable to find it he turned back near present day Anchorage and headed south for Hawaii.
We leave Glacier Bay around lunchtime and head across the Gulf of Alaska. Our next viewing is in College Fjord late in the afternoon the next day. College Fjord is found not far to the south of Whittier which is our final port and where we leave the ship for the land journey to Fairbanks. College Fjord and many of the glaciers along side it are named after the famous American Universities. So at the end of it is Harvard Glacier, Yale Glacier is beside it.
Harvard Glacier was responsible for carving out College Fjord, before retreating and having its valley inundated. A number of the glaciers are still well in the water and are known as tide water glaciers. All of them though are receding and one wonders how long the current scene will persist? It has been pretty gloomy and cold in College Fjord as well. At the end of the Fjord we do a few half pivots in front of Harvard Glacier and a little patch of blue sky appears above the glacier. Not for long though!
We now head off to Whittier and the end of the cruise early on the following day.