Glacier Bay National Park

Jun 05, 2019 - National Geographic Venture

Today we awoke aboard National Geographic Venture and began our day with spectacular panoramic vistas from the entrance of Glacier Bay National Park. Expectations were high, with many onboard anticipating their first up-close encounter with an active glacier. Our day however, had much more than just sapphire ice in store for us. After docking at Bartlett Cove, the park’s headquarters, we set off to explore the temperate rainforest by foot. Winding trails guided us among the tall spruces while carpets of soft mosses and lichens lent to an ethereal atmosphere. Eventually, we found ourselves back aboard the ship to where we were greeted by Park Ranger Julia and Cultural Interpreter Mary. Throughout the day, these wonderful women regaled us with stories of the local Tlingit people and their relationship with the land, as well as aiding in bird identification and glaciology talks.

As we set sail and entered the mountainous fjord system, the scale of this magnificent park truly began to take shape. Several humpback whales soon visited us, including the first calf sighted this season. Humpback numbers have been declining within the park in recent years and we took comfort in seeing this healthy calf feeding among the others. Tufted and horned puffins appeared next, as did many other birds feeding on krill and small fish. However, the real highlight of the morning’s transit was a close encounter with a male coastal brown bear. For 30 minutes, we watched the big bruin cruise along the coast, sniffing along the low-tide line for would-be morsels. At one point, we even saw the bear swim in the ocean to avoid having to climb up and over a short cliff face.

In the early afternoon, we arrived to witness the enormous faces of the Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers. National Geographic Venture drifted to just 0.4 nautical miles away from the glacier, allowing us to hear the thunderous cracking as the glacier pushes into the sea. Recognizing this telltale sign of calving, guides alike prepared for pictures just as a large chunk broke off the glacier. Everyone erupted in excitement as we saw firsthand how icebergs are born.

The journey back toward the park’s exit at Icy Strait was no less exciting. At one point, a fellow guide exclaimed that he had spotted a ‘kid’ high on the cliffs at Gloomy Knob! Of course, the ‘kid’ in this case was a young mountain goat, following along with his mother, the nannie. Nearby, billies and other nannies grazed the grasses and forbs along improbable mountain cliffs. Overall, it was a notable day in one of America’s most spectacular national parks.

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About the Author

Colby Brokvist

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Colby’s love of exploration and adventure is infectious and immediately evident to those around him. His passion for guiding lies at the intersection where people, wildlife, and wilderness collide. “These are the extraordinary places just beyond one’s usual comfort zone, where we can at the same time discover things about the world around us as well as our own selves.” It’s no surprise then that Colby has developed a special affinity for the remote Polar Regions.

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