The first part of my Alaska adventure with Marc Adamus revolved around a helicopter fly-in to our camping location with grand scenic views of glaciers in the distance. In the next phase, we flew from Juneau to Petersburg, where we shifted our focus to boat-in camping with views of a glacier that were up close and personal. Literally.
We started with a 45-minute boat ride from Petersburg to our campsite, which was located about a mile from the edge of the LeConte Glacier. The face of LeConte is about a mile across. It is difficult to judge the height of the glacier face, but my guess is that it is a couple of hundred feet tall. Needless to say, the face of the glacier with its blue and white ice is an impressive sight, even from a distance as we approached our campsite. Several miles from the face of the glacier, we encountered huge chunks of ice that grew more and more numerous the closer we got to our campsite. The next day, we boarded our kayaks to float amongst the ice and photograph the first light of day. It was an amazing sunrise! It was surprisingly difficult to photograph for me personally: imagine moving ice, moving kayaks, low light, wide depth of field. For the photographers out there, you can appreciate the challenges that creates photographically. I can only hope that some of my images turn out. I’m going to wait until I get home before I even look at this collection of images. I figure if they turn out well, it will be a nice surprise; if they turn out bad, it won’t matter at that point.
Regardless of the photography, kayaking around the ice was amazing! The bay was littered with countless pieces of ice, some small enough to pick up and chill a small cup of Jim Beam 🙂 and others the size of the body of a 747. As is so often the case, this was one of those times when the experience could never be captured with a photograph. Throughout our time on LeConte Bay, we frequently heard thunderous crashes as ice calved off the face of the glacier. We later learned from our boat captain that the natives call this area Thunder Bay. Very appropriate! As we left the bay to return to Petersburg, we spent a couple of hours (safely) near the face of the glacier to photograph the ice falling into the bay. With dozens and dozens of seals in the foreground. It was soooo cool. I mean really cool. Glaciers create their own weather. The ice cools the air, causing downdrafts with cold winds that easily exceed 20 mph. It was exhilarating to be on a boat in the ice, with the seals and the sun and the glacial wind in my face!
Today, I’m back in Petersburg. We timed our visit to southeast Alaska with the beginning of summer, which arrived a little late this year. Here in Petersburg, glaciers don’t come up much in the local conversations. Here, it is all about fishing. Big time. It seems that in Petersburg, you either make a living catching fish, or you make a living helping someone else catch fish. In a way, the fishing community here reminds me of the agricultural community I grew up in. Instead of crops, farm equipment, and weather, the talk around here is halibut, fishing gear, and, well, weather is important here, too! I feel like I’m back home!
What’s next? I have no idea…this is a trip with Marc Adamus. I’ll know the next phase when it happens! In the meantime, enjoy this sequence of images of a calving event from the LeConte Glacier yesterday. The three images from left to right are separated in time by three seconds. Glaciers calve quickly, but the seals in the foreground don’t seem to mind!