Mary Cook: Day 9 at Sea, March 27, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Sunday, March 27, 2016 (Easter)
Time: 9:56 am

Data from the Bridge
Pressure: 1012 millibars
Speed: 1.2 knots
Location: N 58°49.516’, W 136°32.367’

Science and History Log

I have found the National Park Service’s brochure to be very interesting and would like to share some of this information with you.

The following information has been quoted from the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve brochure.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is located in Southeast Alaska about 65 miles west of the state’s capitol city of Juneau. It is comprised of 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, forests and waterways. The highest mountain is Mount Fairweather at 15,300 feet. Accessible only by plane or boat, Glacier Bay serves as a home for a multitude of wildlife including grizzlies and black bear, moose, birds, mountain goats, sea lions, otters, orca, and humpback whales. Glacier Bay is a highlight of the Inside Passage and a destination for kayakers, hikers, campers, as well as cruise ship passengers.

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Just 250 years ago, Glacier Bay was all glacier and no bay. A massive river of ice, roughly 100 miles long and thousands of feet deep, occupied the entire bay. Today that glacier is gone. There are hundreds of smaller glaciers dotting the landscape, tucked into mountain valleys, including about a dozen tidewater glaciers situated at the heads of their inlets.

Tidewater Glacier

An example of a tidewater glacier

Tlingit Totem

Tlingit Totem

Contrary to what you might think, Glacier Bay is a land of rapid change. In the 1600’s-1700’s, the Huna Tlingit lived in the valley in front the big glacier. By 1750, the glacier had reached its maximum and dislocated the people from their homes. Captain George Vancouver sailed there in 1795 finding the glacier melted back five miles into the Bay. In 1879, conservationist John Muir traveled there and the glacier had retreated 40 more miles up the bay. Today you must travel 65 miles up the bay to view tidewater glaciers. You might it interesting that some glaciers are retreating here, and others are advancing.


Personal Log

What a blessing it is to explore Glacier Bay with a group of scientists who want to better understand the climate and interconnectedness of life on Earth. It seems there are glaciers at every turn! And surprisingly, it’s not as cold as I expected. Most days the temperature has been above freezing. Yesterday was the first day I’d seen it snow in the Bay. The snowflakes were big and wet plopping into the blue-green waters– very beautiful sight to see.

Snow Falling

Snowfall in Glacier Bay

Wildlife viewing has also been great fun. We’ve seen lots of bald eagles, seabirds and mountain goats. I spent about an hour watching a group of goats maneuver their way up and down steep slopes one morning. Amazing animals in their own right. A few humpback whales were spotted near the mouth of the Bay as they are just beginning their return migration. More elusive have been the smaller Orca whales. The divers have gotten to see even more amazing wildlife below the surface. I’m so glad they take cameras with them so they can share it with those of us confined to the ship.

Glacier Bay National Park–truly a treasure to protect for future generations.

Mary and sign

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