Saving the best until last – Harvard Glacier puts on a spectacular show

//Saving the best until last – Harvard Glacier puts on a spectacular show

IMG_1148.jpgPassengers on Diamond Princess probably thought nothing could surpass the splendour of Glacier Bay. They were wrong.
A day later, after crossing the Gulf of Alaska, our ship entered Prince William Sound and then headed for the inlet of College Fjord.
The first thing to make an impression was the amount of ice floating in the water; bergs large and small which had detached from the five tidewater glaciers which reach the sea in the inlet.
Then there were darker objects which caught the eye, sometimes in groups of as many as five or six. Otters – big sea otters as much as six feet in length and weighing up to 100 lbs – were lying on their backs, apparently taking in the view themselves although they were, of course, eating. It was good to see their numbers are recovering after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Off the port beam, rivers of ice flowed towards the sea, but the real gem lay at the head of the fjord where the Harvard Glacier swept majestically down from the Chugach icefield, collecting several tributaries along its way, and reaching the sea in a mile-and-a-half cliff face of ice which was 350-ft high.
The sheer scale of it all was impossible to comprehend. As Captain Bob Oliver brought his ship closer and closer to the vivid blue wall of ice – closer than he’s been able to achieve all summer – it seemed as if we could almost reach out and touch it. But it was still more than a mile away.
One clue came in the fact that when we could see lumps of ice falling into the sea as the glacier calved, it was a few seconds before we heard the explosive sound of it breaking off and then the splash as it hit the water – rather like the delay between a flash of lightning and the sound of thunder. And we were lucky enough to see some huge chunks sliding from the glacier face, some probably as big as a house, as Harvard put on a special show for our final day at sea..
harvardglacier.jpgWhen the ship’s rescue boat was lowered to carry a hardy group from Princess’s photographic team to buzz around taking pictures of the glacier and the hundreds of people hanging from every balcony and every inch of railing, it was a tiny orange speck against the towering cliff – smaller than many of the bergs it was dodging between.
Two bald eagles soared dizzyingly overhead and they too seemed to want to make the most of the spectacular scene.
For almost an hour, Captain Bob held station, turning the ship through 180 degrees so that occupants of cabins on both sides could get equal shares of the view. But as the evening light began to fade, it was time to turn back down the fjord, and passengers returned to the mundane task of packing, ready for our departure in Whittier next morning.
Many were heading for Princess’s luxury lodges inland; others were extending their holidays with a rail excursion. For me, sadly, it was a brief bus ride to Anchorage and a flight back to London via Seattle.
As promised, there will be more to come on the cruise and the ship itself. First though, I have to recover from the shock that greeted me when I stood on the bathroom scales …

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:22+00:00 24 August 2010|Cruise Destinations|1 Comment

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.

One Comment

  1. Oman 29 August 2010 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    thats must have been a jaw dropping sight John; the only way to see it AND a captain who helps by becoming a ballet dancer doing a twirl

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