Alaska Cruise Report: Glacier Bay National Park

From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska, June 2, 2010

There are few places left in the world where timelessness is always in the air, places which are virtually untouched by humans, and ecosystems whose future is dictated by the forces of nature; not by ours.

Glacier Bay National Park is where we spent our morning. These massive fjords surrounded by majestic mountains tell stories of cataclysmic events, which are written on the scarred rocky faces. Glaciers have made their way through here, carving all we saw today.

One of our first wildlife sightings was at South Marble Island. This rock is an important breeding colony for different bird species. Here we could see tufted puffins sitting on the water and flying to their nests, Black-legged kittiwakes, common murres, bald eagles and black oystercatchers. This island is also a haul out for Steller’s sea lions. Hundreds of them lined the shoreline with their massive bodies.

Moving on as we headed north, we stopped at Gloomy knob, a huge monolith that is home to a good number of mountain goats. We had the good fortune to find more than a dozen of these creatures on the steep rocks, where they are safe from land predators. Nannies and kids slowly found their way through the cliff moving with ease through the escarpments at high altitude.

Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers was where we stopped to contemplate the majestic views. We patiently waited for the glaciers to calve, and our patience paid off. Several times the face of Margerie Glacier broke into pieces in certain areas. Glacial ice fragments of all sizes splashed violently into the water as we listened to the thunder it produced. As we left the glaciers behind, we had an outstanding view of several horned puffins that flew close to our bow.

Glacier Bay is also a place where the most elusive creatures can often be seen. Today we saw six bears as we navigated near the shorelines. A single brown bear, then a brown bear mother with two cubs and finally two black bears were found. Our best sighting of all was the last black bear we spotted at Geikie Inlet, as it slowly grazed on the sedges and moved in and out of the alder thickets.

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