Log #59j Glacier Bay Day 2

August 4, 2015 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 59, The Logs

Hakai Beach Institute, Calvert Island, B.C.
Aug. 4, 2015
Hi Folks,
We are getting ready for our first overnight passage this year, going from the north of Calvert Island around Cape Scott on the north tip of Vancouver Island, and down the west coast outside. We met up with my brother’s grandson Ben who is working at the institute here as a marine biologist. We went out with him and some other researchers netting and counting fish in a couple of area bays, part of an annual survey of fish life.
We are getting ready for our first overnight passage down to Vancouver Island. All is well with us so far.
This log gets us back up into Glacier Bay looking at some of the glaciers. My next log will have even more glaciers and dramatic scenery of Glacier Bay, and this will be our furthest north and furthest west in Veleda.
I hope this gets out OK.
All the best,

Log #59j Glacier Bay Day 2

Hakai Research Institute

Pruth Bay, Calvert Island, B.C.

Aug. 3, 2015


Our (free) permit from the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve covered three days, Aug. 26, 27, and 28 from midnight on the 26th to midnight on the 28th. To maximize our time, we left Bartlett Cove at 0437 (4:37 am) and headed up Glacier Bay on a cool misty, drizzly day to see glaciers.


In 1794, Captain George Vancouver arrived in Glacier Bay, which at that time was only a five mile indentation in a gigantic glacier that was 4000 feet thick, twenty miles wide and extended 100 miles into a coastal mountain range, covering what today is Bartlett Cove. This was at the end of what is called the Little Ice Age which extended back 4000 years, ending in about 1750. Since then the glaciers have been melting, retreating more than 60 miles up to Tarr Inlet, revealing the landscape of the present Glacier Bay.

Glacier Bay contains many glaciers, both tidewater and non-tidewater, some of which are advancing (John Hopkins Glacier is advancing at 8 feet per day) and others receding (Grand Pacific Glacier is receding at 4 feet per day). Apparently tidewater glaciers follow their own cycles and are independent of climate changes (Exploring South East Alaska, pg 251, Glacier Facts).

Tidewater glaciers are those whose ice flow comes down to open water and is characterized by ice sections calving off in dramatic explosions giving rise to large icebergs and smaller bergy bits drifting down the inlets. Non-tidewater glaciers are those that do not reach the sea, but have receded well above the water line, perhaps to thousands of feet, or are still up in the valleys of the glacial fields, melting rivulets and streams down the mountain sides.

We saw examples of both types aplenty in Glacier Bay.

Passage up Glacier Bay

As we rounded past Bartlett Cove, motoring north up Glacier Bay, we had a bit of a southeast breeze, enough for us to set the genoa a few times, only to furl it within a half hour or two due to light winds. It was grey and rainy, as we made our way up the bay, not seeing any of the sea life we saw a couple of days ago, the mountains shrouded in cloud and rain. They still had an austere cool beauty in spite of the clouds.

Cloud shrouded, snow-capped mountains

By 1310, we were off Reid Inlet on the west side of Glacier Bay, seeing the tidal glacier at the end of it.

Reid Inlet Glacier

We proceeded further, past Lamplugh Glacier, another tidal glacier,

Lamplugh Glacier

up to Jaw Point at the entrance to John Hopkins Inlet and Tarr Inlet. We were not allowed into John Hopkins due to the protected seal colonies inhabiting the ice flows and bergy bits from the glacier at the end of the inlet but we had a view down the inlet to the tidal John Hopkins Glacier. It was quite dramatic with its sinuous path oozing from the glacial field down the mountain valleys into the open water of the inlet.

John Hopkins Glacier

At Jaw Point we saw another non-tidal glacier snaking its way through the valleys but terminating in glacial streams plunging into the bay.

Non-tidal glacier off Jaw Point

Down the mountain sides we could see several waterfalls carrying glacial melt into the sea. There are ice fields high in the mountains giving rise to these rivulets cascading down the slopes.

We wanted to go up Tarr Inlet to see the dramatic Margerie Glacier, but decided to go a few miles back to anchor in Reid Inlet for the night and visit Margerie next day. On the way back we went closer to the Lamplugh Glacier to get a better look at the crevasses, spires and castles on this glacial front.

Lamplugh Glacier

Even though there was a small glacial moraine at the base, there were a few bergy bits which escaped and floated away from the glacier.

Bergy bit from Lamplugh

Our pilot book indicated shallows in Reid Inlet as most other inlets have very steep-to sides, too deep for anchoring. We nosed in to the inlet looking for a shallow area near the glacier.

Veleda entering Reid Inlet

The water was a murky slate-grey due to run-off from the glacier, not allowing us to see any bottom as we approached the glacier. We edged back up the north side of the inlet until we found shallows on our depth sounder, but a half mile from the glacier. We anchored (58 51.589N, 136 49.384W) and were OK there for the night. We were intrigued by the undulating mottled surface of this glacier.

View of Reid Inlet Glacier from our anchorage

We looked forward to exploring it close up in our dinghy in the morning.