Glacier Bay National Park

Jul 27, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Bird

It seemed like a trip through time as we sailed northward from Bartlett Cove into the heart of the wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park. We had met our park ranger and cultural interpreter early at the dock to begin our journey to the terminus of the Margerie and Grand Pacific glaciers, nearly 65 miles away. Distant blows from humpback whales could be seen from the bow as we entered the main fiord and several sea otters floated past as we increased our speed heading northward into the park.  

After breakfast, introductions, and a brief talk by our guest ranger, we met on the bow to view a hotspot of wildlife within the park, South Marble Island. There, we spotted birds—too numerous to count—flying above, perched upon, and floating around the island. Gulls predominated with large black-legged kittiwakes being the most abundant. Common murres were, well, common as were other alcids including pigeon guillemots and everyone’s favorite, the tufted puffin. Later we saw a horned puffin floating near the cliffs along Gloomy Knob where several mountain goats rested high up on the rocks.

If birds and goats were the highlights of the morning, ice claimed the afternoon spot as the Margerie Glacier rose up to greet us after lunch. Nearly a mile wide and 200 feet tall, this imposing river of ice presented a view few people ever see and brings us back to prehistoric times when early man emerged as dominant at the end of the last ice age. Nearly an hour passed as we listened to the sounds of the ice and birds and watched a turbulent, flowing river emerge from the base of the glacier. 

National Geographic Sea Bird slowly turned and moved away from the glacier and we began our journey back toward Bartlett Cove. We had only sailed a mile or so when our captain spied a brown bear in the distance. Once more, we slowed and stopped for wildlife and were rewarded with excellent views of a large male grazing peacefully along the intertidal.

After additional talks from our guest interpreter and ranger, recap, and dinner, we returned to park headquarters at Bartlett Cove and enjoyed an hour on land, walking along a well-maintained forest trail.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Grover


Jeff's early introduction to the science of geology came from exposure to his grandfather’s extensive mineral collection and his vivid stories of work in the mines of Aspen Colorado.  From this informal beginning, Jeff earned degrees in geology from the University of Southern California (B.S.) and the University of Arizona (M.S.) where he focused on tectonics and structural geology.  Upon graduation, he worked as a petroleum geologist, and as an engineering geologist engaged in landslide and earthquake hazard mitigation.  He is licensed as a registered geologist in California.

About the Photographer

Nathan Kelley

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

He developed his love for nature as a kid at his family’s cabin in Northern Wisconsin. Family fishing trips, camping, hiking and a trip to his first National Park in the Everglades, all vigorously shaped his passion for the natural world. After graduating with a degree in Cinema and Photography from Southern Illinois University in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest, he moved to Southern California to work as a camera operator and photographer in a wide range of projects including work for the National Geographic Society. Now living in Juneau, Alaska he has found the place his heart always belonged. His photography has also been exhibited in galleries and in publications.

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