Bears, glaciers, humpback whales and sealions – all in a day’s sightseeing

//Bears, glaciers, humpback whales and sealions – all in a day’s sightseeing

me_at_glacier.jpgHow did you feel when you woke up this morning? What did you see when you drew back your bedroom curtains?
I was like a bear with a sore head after staying up too late drinking too many glasses of JD and Coke in the Windjammer bar on Diamond Princess, and should have been awake long before the back-up alarm went off at 8.30.
Stumbling from the bed to the balcony, I threw the curtains open to discover that the ship had come to a halt a few hundred yards from a beach deep inside Glacier Bay. Right in front of me, a big brown bear was feasting on the rancid, rotting carcase of a humpback whale.
Two more bears were splashing about in the water a few yards away in the middle of a play fight, and further along an even bigger bear was stalking purposefully across the beach. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, grabbed the binoculars and camera, and watched for about 10 minutes as three of the bears congregated around their feast.
What a way to greet the morning!
There was more to come. Within half an hour I had my own feast to contend with as a champagne breakfast was delivered to my balcony – smoked salmon and cream cheese, a warm quiche stuffed with Alaskan king crab, pastries, muffins, coffee, and a half bottle of champagne on ice.
Then in quick succession came the magnificent sights of the Reid, Lamplugh and John Hopkins glaciers, all reaching down to the sea from the Brady icefield.
The star of the show was the Margerie Glacier, at the head of Tarr inlet, 65 miles from the open sea. Towering 200 feet above the water, its vivid blue face riven with cracks and crevices, it heaved and creaked as it inched forward. Occasionally a loud gunshot-like crack echoed across to the watching passengers on Diamond Princess, signalling a calving as huge chunks of ice fell into the water.
As the ice floes bobbed in the bay, seals hauled themselves up onto the larger lumps, and gulls colonised the smaller ones.
Captain Bob Oliver kept the ship in position for about half an hour before turning around so passengers on the other side could enjoy the view, while a visiting ranger from the Glacier Bay National Park gave a running commentary from the bridge.
Margerie might have been the most spectacular glacier, but she wasn’t the biggest. That honour goes to the Grand Pacific, whose sweeping curves could also be seen winding down to the head of Tarr Inlet, and which, over the centuries, has probably been responsible for the creation of the whole bay.
But instead of reaching the water in a crescendo of crevasses this glacier slows, its ice choked with debris until it reaches the water an obsidian black.
All too soon it was time to start heading back towards the open ocean, and passengers flocked back inside to warm up with steaming bowls of chili and chowder.
There were more amazing sights to come. Later in the afternoon, as the ship reached Icy Strait at the exit of the park, we were treated to a succession of sightings of humpback whales – I counted 16 in total coming to the surface, blowing spouts of spray into the air, and then diving, with a majestic flick of their massive tails.
Finally, as we passed an island point, there in front of us was a rookery of Stellar sea lions basking on the rocks.
Not much chance for the passengers to bask on the decks or round the pools – it was too chilly for that, although some braved the hot tubs.
Tonight is the second formal evening of the cruise and tomorrow is our final day at sea, with a visit to College Fjord preceding our arrival in Whittier on Saturday morning.
Internet access in the Gulf of Alaska might be a bit patchy, so I’m not sure when I will be able to send this despatch. Look out next for more on the Diamond Princess herself, especially the food and the restaurants on board.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:23+00:00 20 August 2010|Cruise Destinations|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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