USA: Alaska #24 Glaciers of Glacier Bay

Welcome back to this site after our diversion to www.dymusings.com for photos and stories of David’s treks and explorations of parts of China and Mongolia. We hope our regular readers have enjoyed those posts and thank you for joining David for his journeys.

He’s having a rest from travel at the moment and will be off again later in the year.

So to keep all of our armchair travellers out and about and exploring the world, we’ll now return to my journey with David through Alaska’s Inside Passage adventure in June 2015 with National Geographic/ Lindblad expeditions on our small ship Sea Lion. Of course, as I write this from the heat of an Australian summer, Alaska is in the midst of deep winter. But no matter; we can still enjoy more of this amazing part of the world together. I will be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for those who wish to follow these post.

In the last post that I published on this site, (#23 in this Alaskan series), we sailed north through Glacier Bay National Park towards the glaciers that give the park its name. In this post we’ll add photos of some of those majestic glaciers which can only be viewed from the ship… no landings are permitted within this National Park.

Glacier Map

Glacier Map

Glacier Bay needs a full day’s sailing to explore; it covers 3,280.198 acres and we only saw the part visible from our good ship as it meandered its way up through the mountains.

As we sailed, our National Park guide reminded us that when Capt. George Vancouver sailed the Alaska coast in 1794, Glacier Bay did not exist. It lay beneath a sheet of glacial ice several miles wide and thousands of feet thick. Since then, in one of the fastest glacial retreats on record, the ice has shrunk back the 65 miles of our sailing. As it has shrunk, it has unveiled new land and a new bay. It’s as if this area is returning to life after a long winter’s sleep.

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Approaching Margerie Glacier © DY of jtdytravels; P1110593

The first glacier we approached was the Margerie Glacier in the Tarr Inlet. This glacier is about 1.6 km (1 mile) wide and it’s height at the face is about 110m (350 ft) ; that includes the ice that extends underwater for a depth of 30m (100 feet). Although at this point the glacier still looked far away and not too large, it grew in grandeur as we approached. 

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140228

Margerie Glacier extends up into the mountains for a length of 34 km (21 miles) to its source on the southern slopes of Mount Root.

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1110602

We were able to clearly see the black lines of moraine… the dirt and rocks that are carried down with the ice towards the terminus.

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Margerie Glacier © DY of jtdytravels; P1110605

We were able to get close enough to see the deep blues in the fissures in the ice.

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140231

We were told that an iceberg’s colour often reveals its makeup; dense bergs are blue, while those filled with trapped air bubbles are white.

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Margerie Glacier © JT od jtdytravels; P1140235

There were many wonderful ice sculptures to hold our attention.

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140253

Some seemed to be on the verge of breaking away to calve into the bay.

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140255

Ice has been a major force in the Glacier Bay region for at least the last seven million years. However, the glaciers we gazed at with such awe, are remnants of ‘ The Little Ice Age”… a general ice advance that began about 4,000 years ago.  The ice here reached its maximum extent about 1750, when general melting began.

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140219

This is a good example of the layering effect of a glacier… layer upon layer of ice with layers of moraine trapped in the ice for perhaps centuries.

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140258

We were lucky enough to see several calvings of ice from the face of the glacier. It’s just difficult to get your timing right for photos! You can be watching one end of the face, when with a loud creak and crash, the ice falls from another part. But you always hear them. When the ice hits the water it sounds like a cannon shot. “White thunder,” the Tlingit called it, ‘the awesome voice of glacial ice’.

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140252

The remains of a calving break up into various sized icebergs that float off down the bay. Blocks of ice up to 200 feet high sometimes break loose and crash into the water.

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John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140294

Without doubt, the most majestic glacier in Glacier bay National Park is the John Hopkins Glacier. It’s 19 km (12 m) long and cannot be approached too closely by ships… the bergs that carve here are too large for safety. And, anyway, this is a favourite safe haul out for harbour seals… well away away from predators, especially when they are pupping.

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John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140303

With a long distance lens, the ‘roads of moraine’ are clearly visible.

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John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140299

John Hopkins is one of the several huge tidewater glaciers that flow out of from these mountains and down to the sea.

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A retreating glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140327

Our guide told us that scientists come here regularly to study glacial retreat; this area is called by some “a living laboratory for the grand processes of glacial retreat, plant succession, and animal dynamics. It is an open book on the last ice age.”

As we sailed between glaciers, we saw that much of the very rugged, more recently deglaciated land was beginning to host some vegetation.

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A retreating glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140324

Several glaciers were continuing their retreat back into the mountains.

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140353

Lamplugh Glacier was my favourite of all the glaciers. It rises 45 to 55 m (150-180 ft) above the waterline and goes down 3 to 12 m (10-40 ft) below. The Lamplugh is immense; almost 1.2 km (3/4 ml) wide. It flows for 26 km (16 ml) from its source at a rate of 365 m (1200 ft) per year. They are pretty impressive statistics; but not as impressive as being there, right there… close up to such grandeur!

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140335

While we were enjoying the spectacle of such a wonderful glacier, our guide gave us brief explanation of the formation of a glacier. Up in the high mountains, at the source of the glacier, it’s so cold that none of the snow melts even in the summer… so the snowfall exceeds snowmelt. Over time, that snow pack builds up until the weight of the upper, newer, layers of snow press down on previous layers of snow, deforming the flakes beneath and changing them into granular snow, like round ice grains. I was amazed to learn that individual crystals can sometimes grow the size of a football. Air trapped between the snowflakes is also frozen into the ice at this immense pressure.  Eventually the granular snow becomes solid ice, many, many meters thick.

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140339

The ice near the bottom of the glacier is under such tremendous pressure that it flows almost like plastic over the rock beneath. Friction between the glacier and the bedrock produces meltwater which also allows the ice to slide. In places, you can see a cave like section under the glacier where the lowest layer of ice has melted away.

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140349

It’s fascinating to watch large chunks of the ice calve off forming icebergs, some so large they might last a week or more as they deteriorate and melt way. Icebergs provide perches for bald eagles, cormorants, and gulls, as well as haul-outs for seals.

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140352

We heard the mighty crash and splash as more ice fell into the bay. Spectacular! But it was also a timely reminder that icebergs are in retreat in many places around the world… and that’s not a good scenario for rising sea levels.

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140359

Here, we were able to witness the start of an iceberg’s journey down towards the sea. Earlier in our journey, we’d had the privilege of getting up very close to icebergs in our inflatables. Then, we’d actually heard the crackles and pops as ancient, long-trapped air was released from the ice.

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Retreating Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140314 2

Too soon, it was time to sail back south away from the glaciers. There, on slopes which had been deglaciated 50 to 100 years ago, we saw alder and willow growing in the moraine close down to the shore. Rocky areas and cliffs, exposed within the last 30 years, had patches of pioneering plant life such as mosses, mountain avens and dwarf fireweed. And on the crest of the view was the last vestige of yet another retreating glacier.

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Leaving the glacier zone © DY of jtdytravels; P1110591

The further down the bay we sailed, the more vegetation we saw. This new vegetation has created habitats for wolves, moose, mountain goats, black bears, brown bears, ptarmigan, and other wildlife; all in an environment less than 200 years old. Our park ranger guide told us stories of her camping trips in the wild here and of her contact with some of these animals… up close and personal! A little too close and personal for my liking!

The sea here also supports a wide variety of life; salmon, bald eagles, harbour seals, harbour porpoises, killer whales and humpback whales… and its the story of one particular whale that will be the centre of our next Alaska posting.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass this site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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USA: #23 Alaska Glacier Bay National Park

A much anticipated day was our visit to Glacier Bay National Park.

Glacier Bay map

Glacier Bay map

This area, at the northern end of Tongass National Forest on the Alaskan Panhandle is very special. As far back as February 25th, 1925, the uniqueness of this area was noted. It needed to preserved as true wilderness. In a far sighted act, the then US President, Calvin Coolidge, proclaimed it a ‘National Monument under the Antiquities Act’.

In total, the wilderness area of Glacier Bay National Park covers 10,784 km² (4,164 mi²). There’s also a large extension to the park that’s called a preserve, where hunting can be undertaken, but only under special licence. I’ve never been able to fathom the need for people to hunt and shoot wild animals for ‘trophies’ but that’s the way it is in these parts.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1140458

The entrance to Glacier Bay is close to the entrance of the Inside Passage. The big Cruise Ships come in from the Gulf of Alaska via Icy Strait, away from the rolling sea, as I remember it from my last visit here in 2001, and into much calmer waters. On this visit to Alaska, in 2015, I’d spent the night asleep on board our small ship ‘Sea Lion” in the calm waters of one of the nearby coves. In the morning, we only had to sail across the strait to the National Park  headquarters to pick up our guide, Nicole. Every ship, large or small, must take on board a Park Ranger. Their task is to check that no rules are broken and also to act as the NP guide for the day.

Many of the glaciers in this famous Bay, owe their existence to the largest of all mountains in the area, Mt Fairweather. Storms blow in from the ocean and dump their icy waters as snow on and over the Mt Fairweather area. Over centuries, glaciers form from the compacted snow.

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Tlingit Totem symbol © JT of jtdytravels; P1140456

In the 1800’s, this area became a fishing place for the native Huna Tlingit. Their name for the highest mountain in the area was Tsalxhaan.  When Captain James Cook saw it, on a fine day in 1778, he named it Mt Fairweather… not really an apt description as it’s not often seen for cloud and is not known for fair weather. Regardless of that, Cook’s naming has been kept.

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Glacier Bay in 1750 © JT of jtdytravels; P1140448

The story of Glacier Bay in recorded history is one of fast, spectacular retreat. In Tlingit memory, a huge glacier protruded out into Icy Strait. The first European to mention this area was French explorer La Perouse in 1786. Then, when George Vancouver’s expedition came this way in 1794, they found Icy Strait choked with ice…. hence the name. The area we now know as Glacier Bay was in fact just one tidewater glacier. By 1879, just 85 years later, the famous naturalist John Muir found that the glacier had retreated up the bay by 77km (48mi). And by 1916, the ‘Grand Pacific Glacier’ had retreated 105km (65mi) from the mouth of the bay. This was the fastest recorded iceberg retreat and has been studied by scientists ever since.

The most dramatic example of glacier retreat in the last century was that of the glacier named after John Muir. The calving face of Muir Glacier was 3.2 km (2mi) wide and 81 m (265 ft) high. By the 1990’s, it was no longer calving into the bay. It had retreated back into the ice sheet in the mountains. One wonders what Muir would have made of that!

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Tlingit summer fishing camp © JT of jtdytravels; P1140452

In the late 1800’s, John Muir found the Tlingit people living in their summer camps near the mouth of the bay. They came here to fish and hunt. These people travelled in their dug out canoes throughout these waters, fishing, hunting and visiting other clans for weddings and for ‘potlatch’ ceremonies in which gifts were exchanged to keep peace between the various clans. Maybe we could learn something from this ‘potlatch’ tradition today to help maintain peace instead of resorting to seemingly endless wars! A tradition of giving rather than taking!

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Tlingit canoe © JT of jtdytravels; P1140425

This example of a Tlingit canoe was built, in the traditional way using an adze, by craftsmen in 1987.  It’s made from a single spruce tree and is on show at the Ranger’s headquarters.

After picking up our Park guide Nicole and her understudy, Jenny, we sailed on into the bay in search of wildlife. This was the distinct advantage of being on such a small ship. The large cruise ships sail straight up the bay to see the glaciers and then straight back down again. We had the priviledge of taking our time, of exploring around small islands, of slowing right down when animals were sighted and of getting in close to bays and beaches and cliffs. But we stayed on board. There were no off ship excursions or activities. That was not permitted.

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Stellar Sea Lions hauled out on a rock © DY of jtdytravels; P1110474

Small rocks we passed were often covered in Steller sea lions. They are named after Georg Wilhelm Steller who first described them as a distinct type of sea lion in 1741. They are the largest of the eared seals and like other sea lions, they are thigmotactic; they like to cuddle up close together!

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Steller Sea Lions © DY of jtdytravels; P1110503

Steller sea lions are, for some as yet unexplained reason, declining in numbers in Alaska. They are the object of much debate by Alaskan scientists, fishermen and politicians. The reason for the decline is likely to be a complex web of factors including less available fish due to over fishing. With less fatty fish like herring available, sea lions eat more of the leaner fish like pollock and flounder. This limits the amount of fat in the diet, a necessary requirement for survival in these cold waters. Other reasons put forward for this decline in numbers are: shooting by fishermen who see the sea lions as a threat to their own livelihoods, changes in climate, contaminants in waters and increased predation by orcas. The latter I find hard to believe. We did not see one Orca on the whole expedition.

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Steller Sea Lion defending territory © JT of jtdytravels; P1140041

The big bull Steller sea lions constantly defend their chosen territory. They are polygynous but, unlike the sea lion species we had seen in Galapagos, these Stella sea lions don’t have harems of females. Instead the bulls control a space where females can come and go but no other male is welcome. We watched this big fellow see off several intruders.

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Cormorants © DY of jtdytravels; P1110498

These cormorants seemed to be doing the impossible; standing on a steeply sloping rock face. But they do more than just stand on the slopes; they nest on narrow ledges and shallow depressions on the steepest slopes they can find on the cliffs of rocky islands like this one. The nests are made of anything they can find such as marine algae, grass, moss, sticks and flotsam and debris. They use their excrement to cement these bits and pieces together. All that work is not wasted as the nests are reused year after year. These birds are great divers and feed mostly on bottom feeding fish and invertebrates.

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Puffin © JT of jtdytravels; P1140074

It was wonderful to see quite a lot of puffins in these waters near the small islands. But they are very small and so hard to photograph. And they are endlessly diving for small fish. Their large colourful bills are more colourful in the summer nesting season than in winter when the bill’s outer layers are shed. Their black and white plumage is referred to in their genus name  Fratercula, which is derived from the Latin meaning ‘little brother’. It was thought that their plumage resembles monastic robes. Once again, perhaps some imagination is required!

In general, puffins nest underground but at rocky sites like these islands, they do nest on cliff faces. The female lays just one whitish egg and then both parents take turns in the important tasks of incubating the egg and going out to fish. The chick is hatched in July or early August, and then the parents take turns in caring for and feeding the chick. At about five days old, the chick has to fend for itself on that ledge whilst both parents go out to find food.  As the colder weather comes in, the birds leave to spend the winter in the Ocean and never venturing back to the land until the next breeding season. So we were very lucky to see them at nesting time.

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Braided stream © JT of jtdytravels; P1140105

In several places we saw braided streams coming down through old glacial valleys. Here, the pioneer plants like Alder were in evidence, re-establishing land previously covered in ice.

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Snow and ice covered mountains ahead. © JT of jtdytravels; P1140116

Ice covered mountains came into sight the further north we sailed up the bay.

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Rocky cliffs scoured by glacial action © JT of jtdytravels; P1140147

Only lichens and mosses could grow on these cliff faces.

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Grizzly Bear © JY of jtdytravels; P1140166

The cry of “BEAR! BEAR!” soon had everyone rushing to the side of the ship. Because we were on such a small ship, the captain was able to edge closer to the shore and hold position while we watched the bear graze and wander through the grasses. It took absolutely no notice of us.

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An old glacial valley © DY of jtdytravels; P1110543

We sailed by several of these very picturesque old glacial valleys, testament to the time when this bay was covered in ice… and that just over two hundred years ago… not millennia!

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A beach of glacial murrain © JT of jtdytravels; P1140168

Gravel brought down by the stream from this mountain had formed a beach.

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Wolves © JT of jtdytravels; P1140204

And it was on that beach that we saw wolves (Canis lupus). This caused great excitement. Many of our crew had never seen them and the Captain said it was most unusual to find them in this area. They are usually much more secretive. But on this day, these two chose to wander along the beach and were in view for at least twenty minutes. We just slowly followed them along the beach… from the safety of the ship, of course.

These wolves had very dark pelts, much darker than those found in northern parts of Alaska where, I suppose, they need to be able to ‘melt into’ the colours of a very different landscape. But the pelt colour of Alaskan wolves ranges from black to nearly white, with every shade of grey and brown in between although grey or black wolves like these are the most common.

Wolves can be legally hunted and trapped in Alaska, outside of the area of the National Park. They are classified as both big game animals and as furbearers and are deemed to be not endangered in Alaska. We were told that between 1994 and 2005 more than 14,000 wolves were reported to have been killed or trapped by hunters… and probably as many as that were not reported. We were glad that these two had the protection of a National Park.

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Mountain goats © DY of jtdytravels; P1110565

Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), as their name suggests, inhabit rugged habitats. They are the only North American representative of mountain ‘ungulates’ or rock goats. And they need to live in an environment like this where wolves can’t easily get to them. To survive here, their hooves are specially designed for climbing on steep, slippery slopes. Their feet have a hard keratinous sheath with an imbedded soft pad which enables them grip the maximum surface area on even the smallest rock or crevice. It was fascinating to watch these three gamble about on this cliff, grazing, but ever watchful.

They have another survival adaptation that allows them to live in the extreme conditions of South East Alaska; in winter they grow a long, shaggy coat. They would need it!

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Sailing ever closer to those remaining glaciers © DY of jtdytravels; P1110572

We left our search for wild life and sailed on towards the glaciers,

still quite a way to go to the head of the bay.

So time out for lunch.

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The ice shelf visible above an old valley © JT of jtdytravels; P1140314

After lunch the terrain around had changed somewhat.

Now we could see evidence of the ice shelf in the heights above a valley.

Stunning scenery all around us.

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Small ice flows in the water © JT of jtdytravels; P1140322

Finally, the glaciers were heralded by sightings of small ice flows in the water.

And the glaciers that ice came from is the subject of our next post.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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Russia : Kamchatka : #5 Mutnovsky Volcano

After crossing the Mutnovsky Plateau for three hours in our bus/truck transport, we were tantilisingly close to Mutnovsky Volcano.  But our driver could take us no further than the road head.  From there we had another three hours ahead of us trudging on foot over scree, ash, ice and snow and up a glacier to get to one of Mutnovsky’s craters.

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P1110314 © DY of jtdytravels

It’s not easy crossing ice.  We followed each other, single file, carefully.

One wrong step and it would be a slippery slide down to the rocks below.

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P1110322 © DY of jtdytravels

Once across the ice, I could take time to take in the rock formations around me.

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P1110323 © DY of jtdytravels

There was still ice aplenty on the ground.

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P1110324 © DY of jtdytravels

It was a long, slow, tiring march up the valley.

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P1110325 © DY of jtdytravels

But the higher we went, the better the views of the Mutnovsky Volcano crater.

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P1110338 © DY of jtdytravels

While we expressed that overused word “WOW” many times, some had seen it all before.

 Our guide Sasha, in camouflage, and our interpreter, Gulya, stopped for a chat.

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P1110342 © DY of jtdytravels

For the rest of us, all this was new and quite spell-binding; difficult to take it all in.

It was one of those ‘pinch yourself’ moments!  Am I really here?

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P1110345 © DY of jtdytravels

In front of us, fumaroles belched steam out of all that hot stuff inside in the volcano.

This is one volcano that is still very much alive.

There are something like twenty seven active vocanoes in Kamchutka.

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P1110347 © DY of jtdytravels

Sulphur deposits.  These usually emit that awful rotten egg gas smell, but not here.

Perhaps the breeze helped!

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P1110354  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110354 © DY of jtdytravels

It quite takes your breath away looking down into these deep holes.

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P1110355 © DY of jtdytravels

Yellow, sulphur rimmed fissures could be seen right across the crater.

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P1110357 © DY of jtdytravels

Huge rocks had been blown out with a blast at some time whilst mud bubbles nearby.

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P1110379 © DY of jtdytravels

After walking around the crater edge for some time, we realised it was already 14h30 .

Well and truly time for a bite to eat.

We sat down to enjoy the view and to enjoy the delicious food in our lunch boxes.

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P1110380 © DY of jtdytravels

Then ’twas time to begin the return journey back down the icy valley.

Some folk already on the trail were now just tiny specks in the bottom of the valley.

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P1110384  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110384 © DY of jtdytravels

We passed a simple memorial to a young man who had fallen.

He was just 22 years old; a reminder that this is a dangerous place.

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P1110386 © DY of jtdytravels

A view of the track through the ice.  We had just walked across that.

In fact we had successfully crossed it twice: there and back!

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P1110388  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110388 © DY of jtdytravels

On the way, I noticed some plants that pioneer areas such as this after volcanic activity.

This one is Saxifraga merkii or Merk’s Saxifrage.

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P1110389  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110389 © DY of jtdytravels

Another plant that survives in this inhospitable environment is

Shrubby Beardtongue, Pennellianthus frutescens, with its small mauve flowers.

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P1110391  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110391 © DY of jtdytravels

Spiraea beauverdiana can be found in habitats such as this from Alaska to Japan.

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P1110404  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110404 © DY of jtdytravels

This bright red berry is the Lingonberry, a favourite food of bears.  Lingonberry, Vaccinium vitas-idaea is found in the cold to moderate zones of the whole of the Northern Hemisphere.  It’s a valuable medicinal plant and is high in vitamins.

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P1110396  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110396 © DY of jtdytravels

We detoured on the way back to camp to look down at a waterfall formed when melt water from both the glacier and the remaining snow from last season tumbles over a precipice.   The first snow of next season will arrive before all the snow from the last one melts.  The water turned to ice at the bottom of this waterfall.  That’s cold!  Very cold!

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P1110406  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110406 © DY of jtdytravels

Here’s a landscape for all of you artists.  What a wonderful palette of earthy colours?

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P1110412  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110412 © DY of jtdytravels

A lonely Spiraea beauverdiana in a huge landscape!

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P1110417  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110417 © DY of jtdytravels

The walk back down took us 70 minutes.  We were all very pleased to climb back into our vehicles after our 12 km hike ( 6 up, 6 down). The return trip to our campsite took us two hours, back through the snow and ice, but this time with no dramas along the way.

After dinner we sat around the campfire and introduced ourselves and gave a short biography.  Six of us come from Canberra, and include the only two men in the group and one from Sydney.  The other three are New Zealanders.  It was then the crew’s turn to reveal all!

David

All Photography copyright ©  David Young  of  jtdytravels

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Greenland, Helicopter Ride to the Glaciers, 16 August 2012

 

Finally – it was the day for the much anticipated helicopter ride to a glacier!  Some light cloud came in early in the morning which could have dampened the enjoyment somewhat, or even caused the cancellation of the flight.  Thankfully the cloud lifted mid-morning leaving us with another crystal-clear Greenland day.  The flight to the glacier was brilliant.  Toby said that our group was his first for the season that had been able to do everything on their itinerary without substantial changes due to the weather closing in.  Lucky us!  I was rugged up and ready to fly!

Yours truly – Tasiilaq in the background     (P1010355 © DY of jtdytravels)

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How could one not enjoy this!      (P1010370 © DY of jtdytravels)

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A mass of Crevasses criss-crossing glaciers      ( P1010369 © DY of jtdytravels)

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One of the views from our landing spot     (P1010373 © DY of jtdytravels)

We landed on a gravelly knoll in the middle of a large ice cap which gave a great panorama of a number of glaciers and we looked down on the fjord we had travelled by boat on the 15th.

Float ice making its way down ‘our’ fjord    (P1010371 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Our 1980 built Bell 212 Helicopter    (P1010374 © DY of jtdytravels)

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On top of the world! (P1010385 © DY of jtdytravels)

Here I was, seemingly on top of the world, literally and figuratively. I was in ‘seventh heaven’! It was warm with not a skerrick of a breeze.  Just another perfect day in the natural paradise of Greenland.  We had 40 minutes to wander around and take in the breathtaking views before the return flight.

Stunning views    (P1010403 © DY of jtdytravels)

And as usual, I looked down as well as out and found some small plants surviving even up here on the ‘top of the world’.

Such tiny beauties! [Silene acaulis] (P1010377 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Even the dried flowers of Silene are attractive  [Silene acaulis]  (P1010391 © DY of jtdytravels )

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Tough conditions, tough plant!  (P1010402 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Lichen and Birch (P1010395 © DY of jtdytravels)

Much too soon for me, it was time to get on board for the flight back. There’s never enough time to explore.

Pilots get ready to take off again    (P1010405  © DY of jtdytravels)

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After takeoff – closer view of a glacier    (P1010408 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Surface of a glacier    (P1010409 © DY of jtdytravels)

Skimming over a glacier’s surface, the world was suddenly all in black and white and greys – not a colour to be seen.

Back up to the sweeping big picture    (P1010411 © DY of jtdytravels)

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An impressive last view    (P1010412 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Out across the Fiords again    (P1010414 © DY of jtdytravels)

It was amazing to look down from on high onto the ice flows.  I looked down from the helicopter at small chunks of ice which, I knew from experience, were really large icebergs (some six stories high) when seen up close in a small boat.

Over the hills, back towards Tasiilaq  (P1010416 © DY of jtdytravels)

And so back to Tasiilaq and the end of another magical Greenland experience… I hope I have been able to give you a glimpse of just how spectacular it was.

Preparing to leave Greenland    (P1010423  © DY of jtdytravels)

In fact this was our last Greenland experience.  We had lunch at the hotel, picked up our gear and then had to wait for the helicopter to finish an emergency evacuation job.  Then it was free to take us to the airport for a mid afternoon flight back to Reykjavik in Iceland.  And from there, our next destination was  to be The Faroes.  More of that anon   D

ALL PHOTOGRAPHY COPYRIGHT  © DY of jtdytravels