What a thrill to be on the bridge with the Captain of RCCL’s the Radiance of the Seas! Last week I was the guest Alaska History Cultural speaker on board RCCL’s Radiance of the Seas, where I had the rare privilege of meeting the captain and narrating the historical information on the Hubbard Glacier from the bridge. I have to admit, when I was asked to do this I had a major panic attack. I’m accustomed to having 200 to 300 people coming in for my presentations, but this was a presentation for the whole ship! As you know, the captain has the right to put anyone off the ship for any reason. I could just see myself sitting on an iceberg with my suitcase, and one of the Glacier Bears licking his chops… Not even two long island iced teas would put me to sleep that night! I guess I did did ok, because I was asked to do an additional six presentations.
What an honor this was! To see such an AWE INSPIRING view from the bridge, so up close and personal, as we slowly sailed into Disenchantment Bay, artfully maneuvered through ancient ice and pristine wilderness, and approached the Hubbard Glacier (known as the Galloping Glacier) was something that I will never forget! This glacier is the size of Rhode Island, and is the largest tidewater glacier in the US. Some scientist say it’s the largest in the world.
Most glaciers, like Juneau’ Mendenhall Glacier, are receding two to four feet a day. However, the Hubbard Glacier advances anywhere from 2-14 feet a day. To give you some perspective, most ships are only 140 feet to 200 feet tall; this glacier is 4,000 feet at its snout, and when the icebergs break off you hear thunderous “booms” as the ice falls into the bay. In 1986, the thunder of the Hubbard Glacier could be heard throughout the world as it advanced nearly a mile! It created a monstrous dam of ice and mud at the mouth of Russell Fjord, which is 1300 feet below sea level. It created a lake/dam some 70 miles long which lasted for five months, until the dam broke. It was said that the sky lit up like a 4th of July fireworks display when this moraine dam broke, with water and debris shooting into the air, as high as 200 feet. In 2002 and 2006, it surged again, advancing 12 feet a day. Then, for some reason, it slowed and the danger temporarily passed. Scientist feel that in the near future the Hubbard Glacier will surge again, and the next time it happens it may create one of the largest lakes in North America, dammed by a glacier. IF this happens, it will probably cover the nearby airport, and of course, wipe out any wildlife and native communities in that area. The only creature living on a glacier/icebergs are the ice worms. They look like black spaghetti. The birds enjoy feeding on them.
This is also a great area to view the beautiful, majestic, shiny black and white Orca whales, known as killer whales. Alaska, our 49th state, transports you back in time to the ice ages, with its beautiful glaciers and the pristine 17 million acre Tongass National Rain Forest. It is America’s largest, wettest and wildest vast land. Southeast Alaska’s landscape has been shaped by fire, ice, and water. Most of it is temperate rain forest, ice fields and glaciers. Here are some photos of my trip. (As you mouse-over the photos you can see the titles.)
Each of the local towns are unique. It’s fun to listen to all the stories about Wyatt Earp, his common law wife of 48 years, Josie Wells, (and how they walked the Dead Horse Trail, even when she was pregnant), Anna McGrath, who at 55 years old traveled the Chilkoot Trail with a sewing machine on her back in search of her son, Kate Carmack, and more. You’ll also enjoy visiting Haunted Red Onion Saloon in Skagway which was once “the best little whore house” in town. You can have one of the scantily clad, buxom madams take you on a tour of haunted Skagway and have the best view, pizza and champagne you’ve ever had!
A tour of Icy Strait Point and the Tlingit Village of Hoonah takes you into the primeval rain forest, with the most beautiful lush green forest that you have ever seen. Look into the ocean you might just see and Orca whale swim by. You might also come across a cute little brown bear alongside of the road, but be careful; mother bear is not too far away. While there, you can visit their many native shops/museums, zip line over the primeval forest if you dare, and try some of their Reindeer Chili. (It was pretty good!) Ketchikan is known as the rain capitol or salmon capitol. While there, visit the “Alaskan Brewing Company” where they make a healthy beer out of the Sitka Spruce Tree. They are also know for many other kinds of beer, which they have won awards for. Don’t forget to visit the many shops at Creek Street and Dolly’s house, now Ketchikan’s poster girl. Those who are adventurous can kayak, hike on a glacier, take an ATV ride, and go fishing.
These are only a few of the wonderful tours that await you. There is something for everyone. (Yes, ladies, Diamonds International has invaded here, too!) Alaska has a lot to offer! I really enjoyed Hoonah. Not every cruise company stops there, however, so when you do decide to take this trip of a lifetime, make sure you really look at the ports of call. See how long they will be in port. There are 27 glaciers that are fed from the 1500 mile Juneau ice sheet. This last trip to Alaska has been one of the most beautiful trips I have ever taken. Every day was warm; there was no rain and it was beautiful. If an Alaskan Cruise interests you I will be setting up a group for the summer 2015 season. In October I will provide information about the cruise and the meet-up groups, where we will discuss the itinerary and you can meet your fellow cruisers. As always, it is my policy to include all costs in my group rates. (Maximum group size: 20.) For those of you going on the SCA 12 Night Golden Gate West Coast Alaskan Cruise, we will have a Bon Voyage potluck champagne party on August 28th, in my home from 6pm-8pm. I look forward to seeing you there!