Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Panorama of the lower section of Mendenhall Glacier before it flows into Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Panorama of the lower section of Mendenhall Glacier before it flows into Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Exiting the Mendenhall Glacier Ice Cave under the tidewater edge of the glacier [see our previous blog post] brought us face to face with the full enormity of the glacier.  Before moving from the dirt and rocks and silt to start climbing and walking on the ice of the glacier, we all put ice spikes on our waterproof boots and grabbed a trekking pole from our waterproof back packs.  We then spent two hours trekking around the glacier, exploring many different sections with great views of Lake Mendenhall, the glacier itself, and the surrounding mountains.  We walked around a number of crevasses and saw several moulins [see text, below] and smaller sink holes.  At the tidewater edge of the glacier we stopped on some rocks for photographs and a well earned snack, before heading back to retrieve our beached canoes.  As we headed back to our entry point on Lake Mendenhall [see our previous blog post, “Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA”], we paddled by the face of the glacier for one last look at this spectacular work of Mother Nature’s art.

Mendenhall Glacier is a glacier about 13.6 miles (21.9 km) long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles (19 km) from downtown Juneau in the southeast area of the U.S. state of Alaska.   The glacier and surrounding landscape is protected as part of the 5,815 acres (2,353 ha) Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, a federally designated unit of the Tongass national Forest.  The Juneau Icefield Research Program has monitored the outlet glaciers of the Juneau Icefield since 1942, including Mendenhall Glacier.  The glacier has also retreated 1.75 miles (2.82 km) since 1929, when Mendenhall Lake was created, and over 2.5 miles (4.0 km) since 1500.  The end of the glacier currently has a negative glacier mass balance and will continue to retreat in the foreseeable future.” — Wikipedia

 

Looking downslope over the Mendenhall Glacier to Nugget Falls and lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Looking downslope over the Mendenhall Glacier to Nugget Falls and lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#1), Juneau, Alaska, USA

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#1), Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

“It [Mendenhall Glacier] was originally known as Sitaantaago (“the Glacier Behind the Town”) or Aak’wtaaksit (“the Glacier Behind the Little Lake”), also Latinized as Aakwtaaksit, by the Tlingit. The glacier was named Auke (Auk) Glacier by naturalist John Muir for the Tlingit Auk Kwaan (or Aak’w Kwaan) band in 1888. In 1891 it was renamed in honor of Thomas Corwin Mendenhall.” — Wikipedia

 

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#2), Juneau, Alaska, USA

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#2), Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#3), Juneau, Alaska, USA

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#3), Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

“Glacial ice appears blue because it absorbs all colors of the visible light spectrum except blue, which it transmits. The transmission of this blue wavelength gives glacial ice its blue appearance. Glacier ice may also appear white because some ice is highly fractured with air pockets and indiscriminately scatters the visible light spectrum.” — http://www.fs.usda.gov

 

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#4), Juneau, Alaska, USA

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#4), Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#5), Juneau, Alaska, USA

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#5), Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#6), Juneau, Alaska, USA

Mendenhall Glacier portrait (#6), Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Our guide, Blake, hanging over a tremendously deep Moulin on the surface of Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska, USA; many in our group, one at a time, put on a harness and took a turn at

Our guide, Blake, hanging over a tremendously deep Moulin on the surface of Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska, USA; many in our group, one at a time, put on a harness and took a turn at hanging out over the moulin

 

“A moulin (French for ‘mill’) is a narrow, tubular chute, hole or crevasse worn in the ice by surface water, which carries water from the surface to the base far below. They can be up to 10 meters [33 feet] wide and are typically found at a flat area of a glacier in a region of transverse crevasses. These holes can go all the way to the bottom of the glacier and can be hundreds of meters deep, or may reach the depth of common crevasse formation (about 10-40m/33-132 feet) where the stream flows englacially. These holes are a part of a glacier’s internal ‘plumbing’ system, to carry melt water out to wherever it may go. Water often exits the glacier at base level, but occasionally the lower end of a moulin may be exposed in the face of a glacier or at the edge of a stagnant block of ice.” – www.global-greenhouse-warming.com

 

From up on the rocks on the shore, a view of the tidewater face of Mendenhall Glacier as it flows into Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

From up on the rocks on the shore, a view of the tidewater face of Mendenhall Glacier as it flows into Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

A last glimpse back uphill towards the Juneau Icefield source of Mendenhall Glacier (more than 13 miles-21 kilometers away), Juneau, Alaska, USA

A last glimpse back uphill towards the Juneau Icefield source of Mendenhall Glacier (more than 13 miles/21 kilometers away), Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

From our canoe, Mendenhall Glacier_s face as it flows into Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

From our canoe, Mendenhall Glacier’s face as it flows into Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2017 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier), Juneau, Alaska, USA

As we hiked up from the beach of Mendenhall Lake, Mendenhall Glacier came into view; Juneau, Alaska, USA

As we hiked up from the beach of Mendenhall Lake, Mendenhall Glacier came into view; Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

After we beached our canoes near the Lake Mendenhall tidewater entrance of the Mendenhall Glacier, we put on hard hats and packed up our ice spikes and headed out across the glacial moraine toward the retreating ice edge of the glacier.  Our first surprise from our guides, following our viewing of the glacier from below, was the fact that we would be able to enter and walk trough a glacier ice cave that had been carved out by a heavily flowing stream that flowed down the surrounding mountain.  This unexpected adventure revealed some stunning vistas once we entered the cave.  The ice glowed in various shades of blue as we transited the cave, walking uphill through the rapidly flowing streambed.  The Mendenhall ice caves have been described as “otherworldly” and “surreal”, but it is important to note that they are “melting” and “fleeting”.  Exiting the cave, we came face to face with the glacier and were immediately struck with its massive size.  Of course we were only looking at the terminus – the ice field from which the Mendenhall Glacier flows was over 13 miles (20.9 kilometers) away, uphill.

 

The entrance to the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier) was not intuitively obvious to the casual observer, Juneau, Alaska, USA; from the outside things look pretty “black a

The entrance to the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier) was not intuitively obvious to the casual observer, Juneau, Alaska, USA; from the outside things look pretty “black and white”

 

Once inside the entrance of the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier), the vistas became “otherworldly” and “surreal”; Juneau, Alaska, USA

Once inside the entrance of the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier), the vistas became “otherworldly” and “surreal”; Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

The ceiling in the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier) was fairly low, so your intrepid explorer and blogger could not stand up all the way; Juneau, Alaska, USA

The ceiling in the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier) was fairly low, so your intrepid explorer and blogger could not stand up all the way; Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

What are “ice caves” or “glacier ice caves”? From an Alaska tour company website: “The term “ice cave,” it turns out, is sometimes used by geologists to describe a regular bedrock cave that features year-round ice, but as it’s usually meant when discussing Alaska, ice caves refer, well, to caves within a body of ice, namely a glacier.  (“Glacier cave” is probably a better term, technically speaking).

“These caves usually form as water flows through a glacier and melts out a passageway in the ice.  Often, water pours in at a so-called moulin (pronounced like the Disney movie), basically a hole in the surface of a glacier, before eventually making its way out to the glacier’s terminus, which could be the ocean itself.  This is the story behind most of Alaska’s ice caves, which can vary hugely in their length and width.

“Part of what distinguishes glacier ice caves, such as the Mendenhall Glacier ice caves, from “normal” bedrock caves is that they are, geologically speaking, quite temporary.  Ice caves like the ones in Alaska may change substantially from year to year, lengthening, widening, or changing direction as meltwater continues to flow and the glacier moves downhill. Indeed, a glacier ice cave that was well-developed last year may even have disappeared come spring!” – www.alaskashoretours.com

 

Our path through the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier) was upstream and uphill with the water flowing rapidly and, in some places, deeply – our trekking poles were as impo

Our path through the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier) was upstream and uphill with the water flowing rapidly and, in some places, deeply – our trekking poles were as important as our hardhats; Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

The colors and shapes of the ice ceiling and walls in the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier) reminded us of some of the Chihuly glass sculptures we had seen a month ago in Se

The colors and shapes of the ice ceiling and walls in the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier) reminded us of some of the Chihuly glass sculptures we had seen a month ago in Seattle; Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Another Chihuly-like section of the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier), Juneau, Alaska, USA

Another Chihuly-like section of the Mendenhall ice cave (under Mendenhall Glacier), Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

As we exited the ice cave, we got our first look straight up the Mendenhall Glacier and realized its enormity, Juneau, Alaska, USA

As we exited the ice cave, we got our first look straight up the Mendenhall Glacier and realized its enormity, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2017 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Our first view of Lake Mendenhall near the massive Mendenhall Glacier, Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska; from this beach we launched our canoes for the 2 mile (3.2 kilometer) paddle acros

Our first view of Lake Mendenhall near the massive Mendenhall Glacier, Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska; from this beach we launched our canoes for the 2 mile (3.2 kilometer) paddle across the lake to the tidewater entrance of the glacier

 

When we got to Juneau, Alaska, we went on one of the most terrific outdoor excursions in our extensive travels – “Mendenhall Glacier Canoe and Trek”.  We met up with two fantastic guides from Above & Beyond Alaska (ABAK) Wilderness Trips and got outfitted in rubber pants, rubber rain jackets and tall waterproof boots in anticipation of Juneau’s famous liquid sunshine.  With the rest of our trekking gear in waterproof duffel bags, we drove to a short trailhead leading down to Mendenhall Lake, about 12 miles (19 km) from downtown Juneau.  Our group of nine split up into two groups with four of us and our guide, Brent, in one canoe and the rest of the group in a second canoe.  Our 2 mile (3.2 kilometer) paddle across the lake to the tidewater entrance of the massive Mendenhall Glacier into the lake was a wonderful experience.  We started paddling in heavy fog and then, as the fog cleared a little, we got to experience 20 minutes of rain (“Juneau liquid sunshine”) as we came around the bend in the lake into full sight of the Mendenhall Glacier.  Twenty-five years ago we had taken a helicopter to the middle of the glacier for our first glacier walking experience.  Coming up to the glacier by canoe blew away that experience.  We got to the lakeshore and then, after pulling our canoes out of the water and securing them, got outfitted for a trek on the glacier – detailed in our next blog post.

 

A canoe on Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

A canoe on Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Your intrepid explorer and blogger suited up and ready for the canoe paddle to the glacier where we would trek for several hours, Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Your intrepid explorer and blogger suited up and ready for the canoe paddle to the glacier where we would trek for several hours, Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Slowly while we were canoeing, the fog began to lift off of Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska

Slowly while we were canoeing, the fog began to lift off of Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska

 

Mendenhall Lake is a proglacial lake in the Mendenhall Valley at the 1962 terminus of Mendenhall Glacier, 3 miles (4.8 km) North of the Juneau City and Borough Airport in the Coast Mountains [of Alaska].  It is the source of the short Mendenhall River.  The lake is included in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area of the Tongass National Forest.  Like other geographic features with Mendenhall in their title, Mendenhall Lake is named for physicist and meteorologist Thomas Corwin Mendenhall.” — Wikipedia

 

Our first glimpse of the tidewater entrance of the massive Mendenhall Glacier from behind a spit of land protruding into Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Our first glimpse of the tidewater entrance of the massive Mendenhall Glacier from behind a spit of land protruding into Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Nugget Falls descending to Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Nugget Falls descending to Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA; note the three kayaks in the fog

 

Near the glacier, we ran into another very heavy patch of fog on Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Near the glacier, we ran into another very heavy patch of fog on Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Our first full view of the tidewater entrance of the Mendenhall Glacier into Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Our first full view of the tidewater entrance of the Mendenhall Glacier into Lake Mendenhall, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

The Mendenhall Glacier flowing into Lake Mendenhall as seen by canoe (#1), Juneau, Alaska, USA

The Mendenhall Glacier flowing into Lake Mendenhall as seen by canoe (#1), Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

The Mendenhall Glacier flowing into Lake Mendenhall as seen by canoe (#2), Juneau, Alaska, USA

The Mendenhall Glacier flowing into Lake Mendenhall as seen by canoe (#2), Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2017 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Whale Watching, Juneau, Alaska, USA

A humpback whale dives underwater in front of a whale watching boat in the Pacific Ocean off Juneau, Alaska, USA; note that the shape of the fluke is unique to each whale, like human fin

A humpback whale dives underwater in front of a whale watching boat in the Pacific Ocean off Juneau, Alaska, USA; note that the shape of the fluke is unique to each whale, like human fingerprints, and are used to identify individual whales

 

In Juneau, Alaska, a group of us chartered a whale watching boat for the afternoon to head out into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Juneau to look for the humpback whales that eat all summer in the cold waters full of salmon, krill (small shrimp) and herring, before migrating back to their mating grounds in Hawaii (90% of the whales around Juneau) or Mexico (10% of the whales).  It was a cool, rainy day that was overcast, misty and damp.  Not the most pleasant weather, but the whales put on their swimming and eating show for us, none-the-less…

We found a pod of humpback whales and were able (by law) to stay a couple of hundred yards (meters) away and watch for 30 minutes.  In the middle of our watch, we were quite fortunate in observing the rare bubble-net feeding where a group (here about a dozen) of humpback whales work together to create a net of bubbles that “traps” the fishes.  Collectively the fishes then rise to the surface and swallow literally tons of sea water and fishes (filtering out the water with their unique baleen plates).  It’s quite a spectacle to watch (see photographs, below).  Our guide told us that in three months of sailing daily (one or two trips per day), this was only his seventh observation this season of bubble-net feeding.  We left feeling quite lucky!

 

One humpback whale exhausts water that was ingested -- while feeding on small fish -- out of the blowhole, as another dives underwater with just his-her fluke visible; Pacific Ocean, Jun

One humpback whale exhausts water that was ingested — while feeding on small fishes — out of the blowhole, as another dives underwater with just his/her fluke visible; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Water spouting from blowholes of a pod of humpback whales, Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Water spouting from blowholes of a pod of humpback whales, Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

After blowing out the water from feeding through the blowhole, each humpback whale will dive underwater, with the fluke being the last visible sign of the mammal for around 15 minutes; P

After blowing out the water from feeding through the blowhole, each humpback whale will dive underwater, with the fluke being the last visible sign of the mammal for around 15 minutes; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

A humpback whale fluke, Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

A humpback whale fluke, Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

The rare sight of a pod of humpback whales breaking the surface of the water as they gulp massive amounts of water and fish in their unique bubble-net feeding routine; Pacific Ocean, Jun

The rare sight of a pod of humpback whales breaking the surface of the water as they gulp massive amounts of water and fishes in their unique bubble-net feeding routine; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA; note that one whale’s mouth is open with water pouring out, filtered by its baleen plates

 

Bubble-net feeding is a unique and complex feeding behavior engaged in by humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)…  It is one of the few surface feeding behaviors that humpback whales are known to engage in.  This type of feeding is often done in groups.  The group size can range from a minimum of two or three whales participating and up to sixty at one time. Whales can also perform a similar method of surface feeding called lunge feeding but is done solo.

“Humpback whales are migratory and only eat during half the year.  They will typically spend the summer months (May through September) in feeding grounds with cooler waters that they return to every year.   They have been documented feeding in areas such as Southeast Alaska and off the coast of Antarctica.  During the other half of the year humpbacks will spend time in their breeding grounds where they do not eat at all.  During their feeding season humpback whales will actively feed for up to twenty-two hours a day.  They do this in order to have enough fat reserves stored in their bodies to live off of during their breeding season.

“Bubble-net feeding is a cooperative feeding method used by groups of humpback whales.  This behavior is not instinctual, it is learned.  Not every population of humpbacks know how to bubble net feed according to some studies.  After observing different populations it is apparent which whales know how to create a bubble net and which do not.  They have to learn the method in order to be successful.  Humpback whales use vocalizations to communicate to one another in order to effectively and efficiently execute the bubble net in order for them all to feed.  As the group circles a school of small fish such as salmon, krill [small shrimp] or herring they use a team effort to disorient and corral the fish into a net of bubbles.  One whale will typically begin to exhale out of their blowhole beneath the surface at the school of fish to begin the process.  More whales will also start to blow bubbles while continuing to circle their prey.  They corral the fish into a tight circle while creating a net of bubbles to surround the fish and keep them from escaping.  The size of the net created can range from three to thirty meters in diameter.  One whale will sound a feeding call, at which point all whales simultaneously swim upwards with mouths open to feed on the trapped fish.   As the whales swim up to the surface to feed they can hold up to 15,000 gallons of sea water as they use their baleen plates to strain the water to get the maximum amount of fish they need.   Humpback whales have 14 to 35 throat grooves that run from the top of the chin all the way down to the navel.  These grooves allow the mouth to expand.  When they swallow they blow the sea water out from their blowhole as they ingest the fish.  The fish that they ingest are also a source of hydration for them.  Bubble netting is an advanced and necessary feeding method developed by humpback whales to feed multiple mouths at one time.” — Wikipedia

 

This pod of humpback whales fell back to the surface of the ocean after jumping up to eat in bubble-net feeding, with several large white dorsal fins visible; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alas

This pod of humpback whales fell back to the surface of the ocean after jumping up to eat in bubble-net feeding, with several large white dorsal fins visible; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

The four white dorsal fins belong to four separate humpback whales that are quite close to one another as they finish their bubble-net feeding routine; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

The four white dorsal fins belong to four separate humpback whales that are quite close to one another as they finish their bubble-net feeding routine; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Note that the birds arrived as soon as they witnessed the humpback whales pod_s bubble-net feeding, as they know that there will be a lot of fish on the surface of the water for them t

Note that the birds arrived as soon as they witnessed the humpback whales pod’s bubble-net feeding, as they know that there will be a lot of fishes on the surface of the water for them to swoop down and take; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

Humpback whales pas-de-deux (a dance or figure for two performers), part I; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Humpback whales pas de deux (a dance or figure for two performers), part I; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, US

 

Humpback whales pas-de-deux, part II; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Humpback whales pas de deux, part II; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, USA

The humpback whales that we observed were swimming in the Pacific Ocean quite close to shore; Juneau, Alaska, USA

The humpback whales that we observed were swimming in the Pacific Ocean quite close to shore; Juneau, Alaska, USA

 

These humpback whales, despite their gigantic size and weight, impressed us with their delicate “dancing” on the surface and their diving; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, US

These humpback whales, despite their gigantic size and weight, impressed us with their delicate “dancing” on the surface and their diving; Pacific Ocean, Juneau, Alaska, US

 

Humpback Whales of Alaska

 

“The humpback whale got its name due to the fact that the dorsal fin sits on a big hump on the whales back which is visible when the whale arches its back and dives.

 

“Humpback whales can be found in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Prince William Sound, Glacier Bay and throughout the Inside Passage of South East Alaska in the summer.  In the winter they move south to the Banderas Bay in Mexico, Baja California and the Hawaiian islands.  They spend the spring, summer and fall months in the cooler waters around Alaska and head for warmer waters in the winter months.  Researchers believe that there may be resident populations in the southeastern part of the state.

 

“Their diet consists of krill and many different kinds of fish including chovies, sardines, herring and capelin.  They gather their food by blowing a net of bubbles to surround and confuse their prey, then with jaws open swim through the center of the air ring to scoop up their food.  Baleen, finger like material, hangs down in the whale’s mouth to filter the food from the water.  They eat one to one and a half tons of food a day.  During winter months they don’t feed but live off fat reserves in their blubber.

 

“They are easily identified by the distinct hump in front of their dorsal fin.  They have the largest scalloped, winglike flippers of any whale species.  They are mostly black with a white area on their throat.  The flippers are all white beneath and partly white above.  They are unusually susceptible to parasites resulting in there being up to a half a ton of barnacles on a single whale.

 

“Humpbacks can be found in groups of four to five but generally travel and feed individually.  They are relatively slow swimmers with speeds up to 16 miles per hour with and average speed of 2-9 miles per hour.  In the summer they dive for 3-5 minutes but in the winter breeding grounds can dive for 15-30 minutes.

 

“Humpback whales breech, throwing themselves completely out of the water.  You may also see them swimming on their back with both flippers in the air.  They are known for tail lobbing, raising its huge fluke out of the water and slapping it on the water surface.  Researchers believe this is a form of communication as the slaps can be heard for long distances underwater.

Humpback whales have the most diverse range of sounds for any whale or animal in the world. Sounds include moans, shrieks and grunts.  Males sing for 10-20 minutes to attract a mate, repeating the sequence for hours during winter breeding months.  Their feeding song is high-pitched which stuns fish causing them to stop swimming long enough for the humpback to gobble them up.

 

“The humpback whales’ main predator is the killer whale.  Commercial whalers were allowed to hunt humpbacks into the 20th century.  Today as whales live so close to the coastlines they are often hurt by pollution, collision with boats and getting tangled in fishing nets.  But this is why new rules have been created to protect the mammals of our oceans.  You will find that tour boats must maintain a safe viewing distance to protect the whales.” – www.whale-watching-alaska.com

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2017 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

 

Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska, USA

Our ship sailed fairly far up Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska, USA, before we stopped and lowered Zodiac inflatable boats for an opportunity to cruise the fjord and explore the icebergs,

Our ship sailed fairly far up Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska, USA, before we stopped and lowered Zodiac inflatable boats for an opportunity to cruise the fjord and explore the icebergs, waterfalls and scenic vistas

 

“Tracy Arm is a fjord in Alaska near Juneau (outlet at 57° 46′ 40″ N 133° 37′ 0″ W).  It is named after the Secretary of the Navy Nenjamin Franklin Tracy.  It is located about 45 miles (72 km) south of Juneau and 70 miles (110 km) north of Petersburg, Alaska, off of Hoklham Bay and adjacent to Stephens Passage within the Tongass National Forest.” — Wikipedia

 

These icebergs, from the Sawyer Glacier at the end of Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska, USA, were “carved” by the rain, wind and water

These icebergs, from the Sawyer Glacier at the end of Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska, were “carved” by the rain, wind and water

 

The walls of Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska, are quite tall and many sections of the fjord are quite narrow

The walls of Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska, are quite tall and many sections of the fjord are quite narrow

 

In the summer there is quite a bit of water runoff from the melting snow in the mountains, resulting in beautiful waterfalls, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska

In the summer there is quite a bit of water runoff from the melting snow in the mountains, resulting in beautiful waterfalls, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska

 

A close up of a waterfall in Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska

A close up of a waterfall in Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska

 

This iceberg looks like a sculptor was on site creating a smaller ice version of the mountain behind it, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska

This iceberg looks like a sculptor was on site creating a smaller ice version of the mountain behind it, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska

 

Our ship, almost hiding behind a large iceberg floating in Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska

Our ship, almost hiding behind a large iceberg floating in Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska

 

The blue color of the iceberg is natural, a result of the physics of light where the red and green rays of light are trapped in the ice and the blue light is reflected back to the viewer

The blue color of the iceberg is natural, a result of the physics of light where the red and green rays of light are trapped in the ice and the blue light is reflected back to the viewer, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Alaska

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2017 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Wrangell, Alaska, USA

Early morning sea fog blanketed the harbor and waterside streets of Wrangell, Alaska, USA

Early morning sea fog blanketed the harbor and waterside streets of Wrangell, Alaska, USA

 

One of the oldest non-native settlements in Alaska, the old fashioned town of Wrangell was originally home to a good-sized village of Tlingit natives.  The area attracted Russian fur traders in the early 1800s, followed by the British-owned Hudson Bay Company in 1840.  Ultimately, the town would fly the American flag following the purchase of Alaska by the U.S. in 1867.  Today, Wrangell is slowly reinventing itself as an ecotourism destination.  We learned at dinner in town that the locals refused to go along with a proposal from two major cruise line companies to have the cruise companies buy up and then operate all the stores in town (as they had done successfully in Ketchikan and another Alaskan town on the Inside Passage).  As a consequence, those two cruise lines no longer stop in Wrangell, although Oceania and smaller excursion ships do visit weekly (and daily) in season.  To this day, there are no Starbucks, McDonalds, etc. (major US food chain restaurants) in Wrangell!  Congratulations to the citizens of Wrangell for their independence and embrace of ecotourism.  The town’s history and culture are valued as well, as witnessed by the Wrangell Museum at the Nolan Center, Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park and the Tlingit clan house and totem collection on Chief Shakes Island.

 

At the tender pier in Wrangell, Alaska, the Stikine Inn and Restaurant emerged from the fog enveloping the harbor; we had dinner in their casual restaurant with good American-style food

At the tender pier in Wrangell, Alaska, the Stikine Inn and Restaurant emerged from the fog enveloping the harbor; we had dinner in their casual restaurant with good American-style food served in very generous portions

 

Near the pier, this carved bear sported a “Paddington Bear” yellow hat, Wrangell, Alaska, USA

Near the pier, this carved bear sported a “Paddington Bear”-style yellow hat, Wrangell, Alaska, USA

 

St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, established in 19879, was the first Parish Church in Alaska; Wrangell, Alaska, USA; the beautiful wooden church is very well maintained and beloved by t

St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, established in 19879, was the first Parish Church in Alaska; Wrangell, Alaska, USA; the beautiful wooden church is very well maintained and beloved by the parishioners we met in town

 

As we climbed the hills of Wrangell, Alaska, we looked back and discovered that our ship had been nearly “swallowed up” by the dense sea fog in the harbor

As we climbed the hills of Wrangell, Alaska, we looked back and discovered that our ship had been nearly “swallowed up” by the dense sea fog in the harbor

 

The woods on the Mt. Dewey trail that climbs 0.4 miles (0.64 kilometers) and 250 feet (76 meters), Wrangell, Alaska, USA; our hike was very refreshing and gave us great views from the pl

The woods on the Mt. Dewey trail that climbs 0.4 miles (0.64 kilometers) and 250 feet (76 meters), Wrangell, Alaska, USA; our hike was very refreshing and gave us great views from the platform at the top of the mountain

 

With two of our grandchildren “in tow” with their dad, we climbed up the streets of Wrangell to the Mt. Dewey Trailhead.  The trail was climbed in 1879 by conservationist, naturalist, explorer and writer John Muir (1838 – 1914), most famous for his explorations in, writings about and promotion of Yosemite (now a National Park) in California, USA.  Note that Muir spent two summer/fall seasons in Alaska and Muir Glacier is named in his honor.  The trail quickly transitioned from rock steps to a raised boardwalk of wood.  The Mt. Dewey trail winds around the base of Mt. Dewey, offering great views of the town and harbors as the trail switchbacks up to the top.  We were rewarded at the top with an observation deck that overlooks the town of Wrangell.

 

Our four year-old grandson made it to the top of the Mt. Dewey trail, unassisted, and celebrated on the last steps of the raised boardwalk made of wood, Wrangell, Alaska, USA

Our four year-old grandson made it to the top of the Mt. Dewey trail, unassisted, and celebrated on the last steps of the raised boardwalk made of wood, Wrangell, Alaska, USA

 

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir, Our National Parks, 1901.

 

As we descended through the forest, we found that the fog had lifted and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of our ship in the harbor, Wrangell, Alaska, USA

As we descended through the forest, we found that the fog had lifted and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of our ship in the harbor, Wrangell, Alaska, USA

 

The locals note that John Muir visited Wrangell in 1879 during his travels in Alaska.  He hiked Mt. Dewey during a rainstorm and lit a campfire to warm himself.  Wrangell townspeople saw only the strange glow the fire cast on the surrounding clouds.  Muir later returned to town and talked about “one of the best campfires that he had every enjoyed,” explaining the unusual light.  Muir remains known as “The Father of Our National Park System [in the USA]” due to his involvement in the establishment of Yosemite, Sequoia, Mt. Rainier, Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon National Parks.  Muir also helped found the Sierra Club with the following mission: Enjoy, Explore, and Protect the Planet.

 

In contrast with the first photograph of this blog post, here we could finally see the industrial harbor and fish processing plants at the south end of the town of Wrangell, Alaska, USA

In contrast with the first photograph of this blog post, here we could finally see the industrial harbor and fish processing plants at the south end of the town of Wrangell, Alaska, USA

 

Commercially important fish species in Wrangell, Alaska

Commercially important fish species in Wrangell, Alaska

 

The home of “Wolf and Raven Silks”, Wrangell, Alaska, USA

The home of “Wolf and Raven Silks”, Wrangell, Alaska, USA

 

The fishing and recreational harbor of Wrangell, Alaska, USA

The fishing and recreational harbor of Wrangell, Alaska, USA, viewed from Chief Shakes Island

 

A Tlingit decoration at the front of the tribal house on Chief Shakes Island, Wrangell, Alaska; behind the tribal house are preserved (lying down, under shelters) several old Tlingit tot

A Tlingit decoration at the front of the tribal house on Chief Shakes Island, Wrangell, Alaska; behind the tribal house are preserved (lying down, under shelters) several old Tlingit totem poles that showcase traditional Tlingit designs and carving

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2017 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Misty Fjords National Monument, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA

This image from our late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, shows that the fjord lives up to its name – it was lightly raining, “mist

This image from our late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, shows that the fjord lives up to its name – it was lightly raining, “misty” and cool

 

Following our visit to Ketchikan, Alaska, we spent the next day on our ship cruising through Misty Fjords (National Monument) with two stops – mid-day and late afternoon – to lower our Zodiac inflatable 20 foot / 6 meter boats for “cruising” along the fjords and observing the spectacular geography, flora and fauna.  “The spectacular Misty Fiords National Monument, lying just 22 miles east of Ketchikan, is a natural mosaic of sea cliffs, steep fjords and rock walls jutting 3,000 feet / 914 meters straight out of the ocean.  Taking its name from the almost constant precipitation characteristic of the area, the monument is covered with thick rain forests that grow on nearly vertical slopes from sea level to mountaintops.  Dramatic waterfalls plunge into the salt water through narrow clefts or course over great rounded granite shoulders fed by lakes and streams that absorb the rainfall of more than 150 inches annually.” – www.travelalaska.com

 

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #1 – our ship is pictured with “steam” on to hold its position, as the fjord was too deep to drop an

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #1 – our ship is pictured with “steam” on to hold its position, as the fjord was too deep to drop an anchor

 

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #2

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #2

 

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #3

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #3

 

“Misty Fjords National Monument is a national monument and wilderness area administered by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Tongass National Forest.  Misty Fiords is … along the Inside Passage coast in extreme southeastern Alaska, comprising 2,294,343 acres (928,488 ha) of Tongass National Forest in Alaska’s Panhandle…  John Muir compared the area with Yosemite Valley for its similar geology and glacial morphology.   Light-colored granite, about 50 to 70 million years old (Eocene Epoch to Cretaceous Period) has been sculpted by glaciers that gouged deep U-shaped troughs throughout the monument.  Many of the glacial valleys are filled with sea water and are called “canals”, but they are not man-made in any way; the walls of these valleys are near-vertical and often rise 2,000 to 3,000 feet (600 to 900 m) above sea level, and drop 1,000 feet (300 m) below it…  Western hemlock, Sitka spruce and western red cedar dominate the prolific rainforest vegetation; wildlife in abundance includes both grizzly and black bears, many species of salmon, whales, mountain goats and deer.” – Wikipedia

On our cruising through the fjords we also caught sight of some bald eagles, many birds, and lots of seals (gingerly poking their head out of the water long enough to spot us and then dive back underwater).

 

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #4

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #4

 

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #5

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #5

 

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #6

Mid-day Zodiac cruise around Smeaton Bay, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #6

 

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #2

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #2

 

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #3

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #3

 

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #4

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #4

 

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #5

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #5

 

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #6

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #6

 

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #7

Late afternoon Zodiac cruise around New Eddystone, Misty Fjords, Ketchikan, Alaska, USA, #7; this image reminds us a lot of Milford Sound, New Zealand

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2017 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.