Glacier Bay National Park

Aug 17, 2017 - National Geographic Quest


Bright yellow and orange bits dot the rocky fiord walls in the northern portion of this great and storied bay, prompting us to contemplate the turning of the year. Fall is beginning here in Southeast Alaska, and the brightly hued leaves make the scenery even more dramatic. Early risers carried their coffee to the bow as we rounded Jaw Point to behold the inspiring view of the Johns Hopkins Glacier winding its way up toward the well-named Fairweather Mountains. That 15,000 foot high coastal range keeps this glacier fed with year round snow and stable (neither advancing nor receding).

As we eased out of the icy inlet sharp eyes spotted a male killer whale’s blow and tall black dorsal fin. He appeared to be alone and hunting stealthily in waters where he might find an inattentive harbor seal. This animal was a transient whale, the type of killer whale that eats marine mammals. Just a few minutes later, we chanced upon a male moose browsing on willow shrubs along a steep rocky slope. In this part of the bay, moose are a rather uncommon and unexpected sighting. The very first moose in Glacier Bay was seen in 1966 and these days, there is a population of about 400 moose in the greater area around Kim and Melanie’s home town of Gustavus.

At the head of Tarr Inlet, we spent some time observing Margerie Glacier, and were rewarded with calving ice and the sound of “white thunder”. The nearby and nearly unnoticed Grand Pacific glacier was the great carver of Glacier Bay, though today the ice has thinned and melted and what is left appears from the bow to be a great mound of black rock.

Gloomy Knob, an impressive large gray dolomite feature in the bay, rarely disappoints the vigilant watcher- despite its name. Right down at the water’s edge, a large brown bear scouted for snacks along the rocky beach with its surprisingly fast gait. The large shoulder hump was very visible on this likely adult male animal and fortunately he was unconcerned about our presence. Just around the corner, up on an incredibly steep outcrop, a mountain goat perched.

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About the Author

Bette Lu Krause

Naturalist

Bette Lu's adventurous spirit has taken her around the world by sea — those adventures include tramping about the oceans on old break-bulk freighters, navigating the South Pacific Ocean and on to Antarctica on research vessels as well as several seasons in the Alaskan arctic dodging icebergs in the Beaufort Sea.

About the Photographer

Ian Strachan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

One steady constant in Ian’s life has been the ocean. Born by the rocky shores of mid-coast Maine, his family repatriated to far north Queensland in Australia early on in his life where he became a dual-citizen and sparked his passion for exploring new environments. Living only an hour away from the Great Barrier Reef served to direct, if not focus, the exhilaration of discovery and set him on his current path. Returning to native soil for education, Ian was fascinated by altogether too many subjects, leaving him with a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Psychobiology, focusing on animal behavior and perception, and with minors in Astronomy, History, and Environmental Science.

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