Monday, June 19, 2006

Alaskan History Cruise, Part Three - History of Glacier Bay


I have spent the day on the ms Zaandam cruising Glacier Bay. As the name suggests, Glacier Bay, Alaska is the home to several glaciers. The entire bay was carved out by the ice as it expanded and then receded.

There were no shore excursions today but there were no need for any. I spent most of the day on deck watching the great scenery. In addition to glaciers, there were numerous mountains and wildlife. I think I saw about a dozen whales today in addition to birds and sea lions. We spent the most time at the Margerie Glacier and it calved (dropped ice into the sea) several times making a loud thunder sound. A park ranger from the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve boarded the ship and give a nice presentation too.

History of Glacier Bay

The native seal-hunting Tlingit have been in the area for as long as they remember which may be a few thousand or only five hundred years. With oral folklore, it is hard to tell. Their stories tell of a time when a glacier came to life and moved as fast as a dog forcing the natives to flee the area.

Joseph Whidbey (working for Captain George Vancouver) visited and mapped Glacier Bay in the 18th century. By 1879, the glacier had retreated 50 miles startling and confusing later visitors who had inaccurate maps. A glacier retreating 50 miles in a century would be cited as evidence of global warming today! However, glaciers retreat and expand and it is not always tied to current weather patterns as a look at Glacier Bay history shows.

The famous naturalist John Muir visited Glacier Bay in the late nineteenth century. He wrote articles about the location and tourists began visiting in 1883. The United States Federal government set aside Glacier Bay and the surrounding area as a National Monument in 1925 and made it into a National Park in 1980.

I have a full day of hiking in Sitka tomorrow. My post (if I am awake enough to write when I get done) will be late.

Previous Post: Alaskan History Cruise, Part Two - History of Juneau

Next Post: Alaskan History Cruise, Part Four - History of Sitka

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