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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Strawberry to Gustavus and Adolphus

Day 9, Glacier Bay, Alaska. Scenic Sailing with a day at sea.

We were excited today for our scenic sailing in Glacier Bay! And after two busy port days, it is always nice to have a sea day - especially one with amazing views!

We entered the Sitakaday Narrows passing near Bartlett Cove and the Glacier Bay Lodge around 8:30am. The bonus of going on a cruise ship through Glacier Bay is that since 1969 the National Park Rangers that live in Gustavus, Alaska and work at the Visitor Center board the cruise ship to provide a narrated talk about the National park. The Encore activities were scaled down today so that everyone could spend their time listening to the Park Rangers over the intercom or on channel 8 of our TV (if following the exploration of Glacier Bay as we were, from the comfort of our cabin).

Our cruising journey through Glacier Bay was taking us up the John Hopkins Inlet to see the John Hopkins Glacier as well as the Hoonah Glacier. Along the way though we had stunning vistas of various inlets, bays, glaciers and mountains as we traversed through Glacier Bay.

Today‘s blog will be more or less a photo journey through Glacier Bay as it is hard to describe what we were seeing. It was very, very cold on our balcony looking for the next big ‘Ah ha” moment, but the good news was we had the heat on high in the cabin and we could quickly move back inside to warm up between getting some amazing photos!

The reflection of the snow capped mountains in the water was breathtaking!

What is real and what is a reflection? The sailing was so smooth through Glacier Bay with mirror like water reflecting off the breathtaking scenery!

As we got closer to the John Hopkins Inlet we started to see more chunks of glacial ice floating on the water.

The chunks of ice started to get much larger and had more striations on them as we got closer to the John Hopkins Glacier.

Brave souls out in the frigid temperatures capturing the gorgeous scenery!

John Hopkins Glacier on the right with the Hoonah Glacier on the left.

The colour of the ice in the glacier was the most beautiful aquamarine blue I have ever seen!

Aquamarine blue striations in the glacier.

The photography was absolutely stunning!

The ship did a couple of 360’s turning every so slowly so that everyone had a chance to appreciate the beautiful views of the glaciers. After we had seen the glaciers we headed to the Garden Cafe for lunch.

While we were at lunch the Park Ranger made an announcement over the P.A. System saying that a pod of Orca’s had been sighted on the starboard side of the ship. Luckily for us our friends were on their balcony and were able to capture the orcas’ as there were too many people for me to try and get a shot through the glass windows of the cafe.

Finally! I got to see whales!

Poor Richard had paid for a whale watching cruise on my 60th birthday in Tofino, B.C. and we never even saw the hint of a whale!

Otter playing near the Encore in Glacier Bay, Alaska.

After lunch we headed back to our cabin and sure enough we saw an otter and a killer whale at the same time off the starboard side of the Encore. We also captured a bald eagle in flight In Glacier Bay. Other folks saw mountain goats and seals floating on ice flows, but not us. It was a stunning day and we were so lucky to have the weather that we did for our sailing!

After the ship turned around the Park Ranger did a presentation in the Encore Theatre (which we attended) about the mapping of the glaciers and the different types of glaciers. It was amazing to have the enrichment on the glaciers provided by someone who is an expert on glaciers. The Park Ranger said that today was one of the best days he has ever seen for sailing in Glacier Bay! We sure lucked out with the weather on this cruise!!!

We learned from the Park Ranger that Gustavus used to be known as Strawberry Point, named for the bounty of sweet strawberries that grew wild across the flats. The name Strawberry Point was changed to Gustavus (taken from the name of the point at the mouth of Glacier Bay) by the new local post office in 1925. Locals apparently didn’t agree for they continued to refer to it as Strawberry Point through the 1950s and beyond. On a related and interesting note, In 1793 Captain George Vancouver named Point Adolphus (today the “spot” known for finding the humpback whales) after Adolphus Frederick, the seventh son of King George. In 1878, William Healey Dall, while working on a coastal survey, saw “Adolphus” on the map, and assumed it was for King Gustavus II of Sweden, AKA Gustavus Adolphus. Strawberry Point, which is across from Point Adolphus, wasn’t listed on the map so Healey put “Gustavus” on the map! Strange and mistaken names in Alaska!

The scenic sailing of Glacier Bay, Alaska was definitely a highlight for me on this 7 day Norwegian Encore Alaskan cruise. The peaceful serenity of seeing the beautiful, rugged, massive ice fields was breathtaking and helped us understand how vital the glaciers are to ecosystems all over the world.

We set sail for Ketchikan the last port we will be visiting in Alaska. We will be in Ketchikan for such a short period of time unfortunately, but we knew that when we signed up for this cruise. It would be worthwhile taking a longer, more intensive Alaskan cruise, but this being our first Alaskan cruise has given us a deeper appreciation for the beauty and awe of Alaska!

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