Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hubbard Glacier and Seward, Alaska

The final (seventh) day of our Alaska Cruise started with a visit to Hubbard Glacier. We witnessed calving of chunks of ice as high as 20 story buildings. Favorable winds had cleared the icebergs from the area in front of the glacier, so our ship was able to maneuver quite closely.

Hubbard Glacier begins 76 miles away in Canada's Yukon and meets the sea in Disenchantment Bay (also known as Yakutat Bay). It is North America's largest tidewater glacier. As it breaks off into the sea it towers 60 feet tall and is 7 miles wide.

Hubard Glacier face with Batman 20140619

Far to the right, barely visible along the face of the glacier in the above photo, is an ice formation that looks like an animal's head with two protruding ears. We called it the "Batman" formation and it looked unstable.

Hubbard Glacier Batman formation2 20140619

The large deep blue tower just this side of Batman's "ear" suddenly came crashing down with a thunderous roar.

Hubbard tower crashing 20140619

Luckily, I had captured a burst of about 12 frames as the tower fell. If you do not see the animation, click on the image to view the series as an animated GIF, or VISIT THIS LINK.

I did not expect to see many birds from our vantage point, but a mixed flock of Surf Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks appeared in front of the ship.

Surf Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks 20140619

They burst into flight. This was the first time I had ever photographed Long-tailed Ducks. They are distinguished from the scoters by the white they show on their outer tail feathers.

Surf Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks 2-20140619

This chunk of ice shows how the glacier's deepest layers are blue, indicating that the weight of snow that accumulated over more than a hundred years have squeezed out all the air.

Calved Iceberg 20140619

Members of the ship's crew collected chunks of blue ice to be used in carvings (...and maybe cocktails.* Glacier "worms" crawl out when they are irritated by the alcohol-- see note at end of this post).*

Crew collecting ice 20140619

In the foreground, a Bald Eagle was roosting on an iceberg.

Eagle on iceberg 20140619

The eagle flew up. It was in sub-adult plumage, probably in its fourth year.

Bald Eagle sub-adult 20140619

Black-legged Kittiwakes flew around the ship.

Black-legged Kittiwake 20140619

We were offered a private tour of the ship's galley.

Galley tour - bread 20140619

Galley tour - salad 20140619

The next morning, we docked in Seward. Our ship, The Radiance of the Seas, is in the background.

Our families visited the Alaska SeaLife Center. The open aviary provided photo opportunities. Here are better views of Long-tailed Ducks:

Long-tailed Ducks Sealife Ctr 2-20140620

Long-tailed Duck Sealife Ctr 20140620

Horned Puffins:

Horned Puffins Sealife Ctr 2-20140620

Horned Puffins Sealife Ctr 20140620

Tufted Puffins:

Tufted Puffins Sealife Ctr 20140620

Tufted Puffin Sealife Ctr 2-20140620

Common Murres:

A Common Murre with a pair of King Eiders:

Common Murre with King Eiders Sealife Ctr 20140620

Close-up of the male eider:

Red-legged Kittiwake:

Black Oystercatcher

We proceeded up to Denali National Park on the land portion of our tour.

*More about ice worms at this link

The Ballad of the Ice Worm Cocktail
--Robert Service, 1940

(final stanzas as Major Brown finally drinks it down
to earn the right to be called a "sourdough.")

...The Major took another look, then quickly closed his eyes, 
For even as he raised his glass he felt his gorge arise. 

Aye, even though his sight was sealed, in fancy he could see 
That grey and greasy thing that reared and sneered in mockery. 

Yet round him ringed the callous crowd - and how they seemed to gloat! 
It must be done . . . He swallowed hard . . . The brute was at his throat. 

He choked. . . he gulped . . . Thank God! at last he'd got the horror down. 
Then from the crowd went up a roar: "Hooray for Sourdough Brown!" 

With shouts they raised him shoulder high, and gave a rousing cheer, 
But though they praised him to the sky the Major did not hear. 

Amid their demonstrative glee delight he seemed to lack; 
Indeed it almost seemed that he - was "keeping something back." 

A clammy sweat was on his brow, and pallid as a sheet: 
"I feel I must be going now," he'd plaintively repeat. 

Aye, though with drinks and smokes galore, they tempted him to stay, 
With sudden bolt he gained the door, and made his get-away.

And ere next night his story was the talk of Dawson Town, 
But gone and reft of glory was the wrathful Major Brown; 

For that ice-worm (so they told him) of such formidable size 
Was - a stick of stained spaghetti with two red ink spots for eyes.

 Visit these links to view the entire series of blogs on this Alaska trip:

Cruising to Ketchikan, Alaska

Cruising to Alaska's Icy Strait and Hoonah

Visiting Juneau and Skagway

Hubbard Glacier and Seward, Alaska

Denali National Park

Riding the rails from Denali to Anchorage


  1. cute song/lore! i won't drink the worm in tequila, either. :)

    loved all the birds! so cool!

  2. Beautiful shots of the ice! It's great that you can see those birds so close up at the Sealife center

  3. Oh those blue ice glaciers! And getting to see them "calving"--exquisite opportunity! Wow! I am blown away by your photos. The birds are wonderful. It is all like a dream come true. I know you are glad to get to go.

  4. Awesome shots of the falling tower. The puffins are very cute and the long-tailed duck is a beauty.

  5. What fantastic array of birds and a super post.

  6. Wow, stunning photos, a great landscape and birds.

  7. such an interesting post; what an amazing journey you're both having. Wonderful shots I enjoyed a lot.

  8. This part of the world is in my top five "overseas" must visit list - shame its half a world away!

    Great shots of the calving ice.

    Sorry about the much delayed reply - I've been in the UK for a month and I let the blog sit on the back burner - normal service will resume soon!

    Stewart M - Melbourne

  9. WOW! Alaska, here I come. Absolutely fabulous shots, LOVE the Puffins!

  10. Superb shots of glacier and lovely birds.

  11. What an adventure. I must say I'm enjoying your trip without it costing me a penny!!! Love the Puffins.

    Thanks for linking up this weekend at the Bird D'Pot!

  12. Awesome birdphotos!
    My bird-post:

  13. Awesome images of Alaska. How beautiful it must be there. Thanks for sharing.

  14. What an amazing trip! So much beauty. I'd be overcome if I saw all that in person. Loved all your shots, but the puffins are my fave.

  15. What a treat to be able to see all these birds close up.

  16. HI Kenneth this is a trip of a lifetime. Absolutely fantastic birds that you were le to see at close quarters. I would have loved seeing all the different Eider and Puffin. Lovely shots of the Red legged Kittiwake.

  17. Awesome trip and great birds. I love the Tufted Puffin!

  18. What a fabulous post! Love the animation of the huge glacial calving and the bird photos are beautiful. I've never even heard of a Tufted Puffin.

  19. What fabulous birds! No, thanks on the iceworm drink!

  20. Great pictures and (now I can say) memories. You packed a lot into that cruise -- it is taking us three months to see everything you saw (well, we did drive up to the Arctic Ocean on that Haul Road .. I guess you didn't have time for that ;>).....

    I am saving your Florida posts until we finish traveling. Enjoying your version of Alaska.


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