After two days of calling into port, the third day was spent cruising up and down Glacier Bay. Early in the morning three park interpretive rangers (no, I’m not making this phrase up) boarded the ship and were with us through the morning describing what we came across, wildlife we might see, and reading poems. No joke, read more about the program.
It’s sort of weird cruising through something where the attraction isn’t a port of call, but the portion of the cruise itself, but this definitely worked out. We lucked out in having a balcony; for the periods of time I was up on deck it was way too crowded to be peaceful or enjoyable.
Suffice to say, Glacier Bay is very isolated, and incredibly beautiful. Visiting it requires either hiking or travel via a cruise/tour ship, and there isn’t much volume in and out of the bay otherwise.
Our first stop was the Margerie glacier, which is adjacent to the Melburn/GrandPacific/Ferris glacier. While the latter wasn’t much to see from the water, the Margerie glacier was pretty neat. We spent about an hour here watching the glacier calve, and then the cruise ship took about 20 minutes for a slow panoramic about face to head back down the bay.
The Mendenhall glacier was huge, but this glacier is immense. Notice the little black region:
Here’s a close-up of that little black region, notice the birds.
Beautiful stuff though, here’s a few of the many photos I shot:
This doesn’t look impressive, until I tell you that iceberg is substantially bigger than your car:
The gulls were relentless, and would come right up to the boat:
A little bit of calving. Remember, this stuff is extremely dense ice, and huge. You could tell how far away we were because we’d see this stuff falling, and it would be several seconds before we heard it. Again, I can’t really express just how huge these chunks of ice are that are falling.
A seal and some icebergs:
The distance on the wildlife convinced me of something quickly: If you want to shoot wildlife from a cruise ship, you need a long prime telephoto with image stabilization and a tripod. And, by long telephoto, I mean something over 300mm (35mm equivalent). My longest reach right now is a 70-200/4 (non-IS), which makes it about a 300 35mm equivalent on the long side and as you can see it’s hardly sufficient. I think the minimum for hitting eagles, whales, and seals in these scenarios is probably a 400mm with a 1.4x extender on a 1.6x crop body, which is about half a decade out of my financial reach at the moment.
Anyhow, Along the way we saw tons of wildlife — whales, bears (well, I didn’t see the bears, but we were told there were bears), seals, birds.
Anyhow, we cruised from there to the Lamplugh glacier, which was by the Johns Hopkins inlet. We couldn’t really make it into the inlet, because it was too messy with icebergs; here’s the very front:
The interpretive park ranger thing was weird. We went to a slide show from one of the rangers and she spent a lot of time talking about her experiences, and her journeys with people, inspirational quotes, and so forth. It was somewhat hokey, but I can’t deny that Glacier Bay is a beautiful and amazing place, definitely worth a visit.