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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