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Glaciers in Alaska

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One of the highlights of cruising Alaska is viewing of the different glaciers. There are three types of glaciers. There is a hanging glacier, which you will see in many places. These just, as suggested by the name, just build and hang in the mountains. They do not move they just hang there.

There is a retreating glacier. These glaciers are getting smaller and literally heading back to where they once started. The nice thing about them is that you get to see how they carved a path in the ground. you can see different layers of ice. You can also see how they crushed everything in their path, but they are getting farther away from you.

Then there is the advancing glacier. This is the one that is still building its path. This is the one that people will see the face of the glacier breaking off, otherwise known as calving.

There are several things you will notice about glacial ice. One is that it may have black stripes in it. This is actually the ground, rocks and trees that were in the path of the glacier. You may also notice the blue color of a glacier. The glacier is not actually blue. A glacier will absorb every color except blue. It will reflect blue. How blue it is will depend on the sky. A very clear sky and the glacier will be white, with clouds it will start reflecting the blue. It can be quite beautiful.

While watching glaciers everyone looks for the big splash from the glacier breaking off. One big mistake people do is trying to figure out where it will break by the sound of the glacier. This is a mistake because you can hear cracking for miles. Cracking sounds do not indicate the face is breaking. What you want to do is watch the waterline where the glacier meets the ocean. If you start to see small splashes like someone dropping pebbles into the water, you should look directly above those splashes. That is where the glacier is breaking and those splashes mean something bigger is going to drop soon.

If you ever get the chance to take a flight over a glacier you may see some extremely beautiful pools of water. These are sun pools. These are pools of water created from the sun and these can turn some gorgeous blue colors.

If a glacier is calving a lot the ships may have trouble getting near it. If you are fortunate to see some calving it will be exciting both in site and sound.

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Very interesting. When we entered Tracy Arm to view Sawyer Glacier, the ice was described by an on-board narrator as "Windex blue." I was hoping for a sunny day, but it was quite overcast that day. I'm glad we got to see the blue ice, but next time around, I'll settle for some sunshine. :cool2:

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Glacier cruising is the highlight of the trip for many visitors to Alaska. This will likely be the coldest day of your cruise (it may actually be the only cold day) but it is well worth it to spend as much time outside as you can to enjoy all of the magnificent views! Even if you have your own balcony, don’t forget to the check out the views from the public decks – and if the top decks seem crowded, head down to the promenade; you’ll be amazed at how different the glaciers look from closer to sea level!

We’ve cruised both Tracy Arm (Sawyer Glacier) and Glacier Bay (Hubbard Glacier) – both are amazing but if you have to choose, we enjoyed the views of Hubbard Glacier more.

One more hint: you have to drink some hot cocoa – it’s the perfect glacier viewing beverage!

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  • 4 months later...

On this cruise we were able to get pretty close to Saywer Glacier. Only a few times this season has that been possible.

The blue in the ice is awesome and the size of the glacier is too.

If you see nothing else while in Alaska, seeing a glacier is the tops.

While we were viewing the glacier we heard a big sound and was hoping to see it calving but it must have been just


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