In 1794 Captain George Vancouver cruised by what is now the entrance to Glacier Bay and found it to be filled with a tidewater glacier. In 1879 when John Muir visited the same area, the glacier had retreated 48 miles north. Today, those same glaciers have re-treated a total of 60 miles in a little over 225 years. What they left behind is now protected as Glacier National Park and Preserve. It is the second largest protected piece of land in the world with 3.3 million acres. Can you guess the largest?? It has some 24 million acres and we have visited it too – Antarctica.
This morning we entered Glacier Bay and made our way by Marvel Island where we saw tons of sea birds with lots of Puffins. The next huge rock was called Gloomy Point and was filled with mountain goats. Many of them had kids. Pretty cool! You did have to wonder how in the world those new born baby goats kept their footing. As one of our guides said, the process of natural selection is not kind. I imagine many of those newborns fall to their demise. I am very glad none of them did that while we were watching.
Here is some interesting trivia for all the dog lovers. We saw a wolf right next to the water. It was a gray wolf that was brown in color. You could see that this wolf was huge. Most of the wolves in this part of southwestern Alaska are black. Not a good color if you want to hide and hunt in the snow. Why black you say? Well when the people crossed the land bridge, they had huge black dogs with them, and they ended up breeding with the wolves in the area. Black it turns out, if you are wild, and no one takes you to the vet, is genetically healthier. So, I guess that means my next dog has to be black. Why these wolves were brown, was a question the naturalists will have to answer later.
OK, another point that would blow dog lovers away. How many times do we base something we do with our dogs on what the wolves in the wild would do? Well note, I said one wolf. We did see another one but quite a distance away. Where was the pack? Well Glacier Park wolves don’t hunt in packs. That is hard work and can be pretty dangerous. Our naturalist said, they just stand there and watch the moose walk by. Much easier to hunt and eat all sorts of shell fish, roots, washed up dead fish and other animals along the water front when the tide is low. You have to admit that is pretty smart. So they eat a sort of omnivore instead of carnivore diet and live alone. I will have to think a bit on all of this unusual information. Anyway, this wolf certainly did look healthy and it was fun to see. My favorite on board naturalist said, usually if they are lucky enough to see a wolf, when the ship approaches it runs into the forest. So this was truly an animal sighting highlight for me. For Tom, the photographer, it was a little frustrating compared to Africa because the wolf was still quite a distance from us.
Then we went to the face of Margerie Glacier and were lucky enough to see and hear some calving known as white thunder. Niki would not have liked it a bit because it was very loud. I had forgotten that from Antarctica. It was a nice day and I am glad we came to Alaska, but being honest there is so far no comparison to Antarctica.
When we returned to Bartlett Cove to let off our park ranger and cultural speaker, we went for a one mile walk in the forest. It was very pretty and I do love walking in the woods here. The vegetation is so different from anything I have seen. The mosses on the trees and ground cover are an amazing sight. We started our walk at 9:00 pm after dinner and were still out at the lodge there past 10:00. It was very peaceful and a wonderful way to end our day.
There are two large cruise ships allowed into the park each day. They of course don’t stop to look at wildlife, but one of our expedition leaders praised the large vessels as a way to allow 3,000 people at a time to see the glaciers without leaving a foot print on the land. I guess that is right. We were one of the twelve small expedition ships allowed in the park each day.
“Seek and you will find. Don’t be willing to accept an ordinary life.” – Salle Merrill Redfield
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Tom and Holly