Log #59k Tidal Glaciers of Glacier Bay Day 3

August 15, 2015 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 59, The Logs

Tofino, Vancouver Island, B.C.
Aug. 14, 2015
Hi Folks,
We are half way down the west coast of Vancouver Island, enjoying this rugged terrain very much, even though we are exposed to the long Pacific Ocean swells. We have been fortunate with the calm weather, and have even had a few warm sunny days.
This log gets us close encounters with a couple of tidal glaciers in Glacier Bay. In my last log, I mentioned a bit of the history of Glacier Bay, and how in 1780 the ice was down below Bartlett Cove, and has receded over 60 miles to its present configuration since then. I used the figures from our pilot book which referred to the Little Ice Age as 4000 years long, ending in the mid 1700’s. It was their error, as I was corrected by a friend that that ice age was only 400 years in duration. Mea Culpa!
All the best,
Aubrey
PS – Trouble trying to send this from Tofino, so I will try again here from Ucluelet, although attempts today (Aug. 18) were unsuccessful.
PS – No luck in Ucluelet and had to wait until we got down to Esquimalt. We are now at the Canadian Forces Sailing Association (CFSA) here at the navy base in Esquimalt, enjoying showers, and WiFi from the boat at their dock. We had a good trip down the west coast of Vancouver Island with no problems.

Log #59k Tidal Glaciers of Glacier Bay Day 3
Walters Cove, Vancouver Island, B.C.
Aug 11, 2015
We had a quiet night at anchor in Reid Inlet (58 51.589N, 136 49.384W) with the Reid Glacier clearly visible half mile away up the inlet. I was eager to get in the dinghy to go and explore it close up.
Reid Glacier
This glacier at the end of Reid Inlet is one of the eight major glaciers that empty into Glacier Bay. It does not have the spectacular calving of icebergs as the bottom of the face is only ten feet below the surface at high tide, but it has a height of up to 130 feet. It is ¾ mile wide and extends back 9.5 miles into the glacial field. It is receding at a rate of 800 feet a year or about one to three feet a day
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Reid Glacier
We dinghied to the muddy moraine pushed up by the glacier.
59k-2 Dinghy on the moraine
The mud is a very fine slurry caused by the grinding of the rocks by the implacable glacier as it plows its way down the valley, with other rocks piling up. Judy wandered along the moraine, huddled up against the cold which surrounds the ice.
Judy at the base of the glacier 59k-3
Meanwhile I climbed up some of the muddy ice at its base. The mud was slippery, and of course the ice beneath the muddy surface was also treacherous. I didn’t have crampons, and did not want to risk climbing up the slippery mud or ice. We were close enough.

59k-4 Not easy to climb
At the side of the glacier is a muddy stream of the melting ice, carrying the glacial flour into the inlet. We noticed such characteristic streams on the sides of several tidal glaciers.
  Muddy glacial stream  59k-5

In some areas we could see the melting clear water from the glacier.
59k-6 Melt water in the centre
On the left side of the glacier was an even larger area of muddy pinnacles and lava-like textured surfaces pushed ahead of the white glacial ice.
59k-7Muddy base of Reid Glacier  
We dinghied back to Veleda, taking a picture of her at anchor, with Reid Glacier in the background,
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Veleda at anchor in Reid Inlet
then set off up to Tarr Inlet to see the dramatic Margerie Glacier and the Grand Pacific Glacier 15 miles north of Reid Inlet. The Margerie Glacier is off to the left and the Grand Pacific Glacier is at the head of the inlet.
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Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers

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Margerie Glacier

Margerie Glacier
This location (59 01.910 North, 137 01.927 West) marks the furthest north, and the furthest west that Veleda has ever been. This monstrous glacier extends 50 to 100 feet below and towers 250 feet above the surface. Because it extends into the water, it does not have a muddy, rocky moraine at its base as the Reid Glacier has. It is over one mile wide and has flowed down from the glacial field over 21 miles to the sea. Margerie Glacier is known for the icebergs that calve off it several times a day. We didn’t see any this time, but we did when we were here in the Holland American Line ship Volendam in April of 2014. Below is a shot I took from the Volendam just after a berg calved off and I caught the spray created.
59k-13 Spray from iceberg calving
Because it is so spectacular it is a favourite of the cruise ships which idle nearby to give their passengers a dramatic view close up. These ships do not have to worry about the small icebergs or bergy bits floating densely packed around the base, and can get closer to the glaciers whereas we have to stay off a bit to avoid even the smallest of the bergy bits lest they damage our prop.
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Passengers on the Volendam
It was earlier in the year, April 2014, when we were there on the Volendam, and there was much more ice and snow on the mountains at that time.
Margerie in April 2014   59k-15
We saw several bergy bits as we approached the glacier, even the smallest of which could break a blade off our prop. They are sometimes difficult to see especially if transparent.
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Bergy bits from Margerie Glacier
The picture of the ice berg below also shows the thick floating ice field which limits our ability to get closer to the glacier.
59k-18 Margerie Iceberg
Grand Pacific Glacier
Grand Pacific Glacier is the largest in Glacier Bay, two miles wide and extending 35 miles up into the ice fields with a height varying from 60 to 180 feet. It does not extend into the inlet very much and as a result has a large moraine and a muddy face piled up in front of it making access and visibility limited. Also as a result it does not calve off ice bergs.
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Grand Pacific Glacier and its muddy face
We left Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers mid afternoon of June 27 and headed out Tarr Inlet through Russell Island Passage 40 miles to anchor in North Sandy Cove, a bit more than half way back down Glacier Bay. We passed a couple of humpback whales on the way. Next day we headed out of the bay, informing by VHF the National Park office of our departure from their boundary at 1049, in case another boat was waiting to enter the bay.
The three days we were in the bay were cool, grey and rainy, but we enjoyed not only the spectacular glaciers but also the whales, otters, puffins and sea lions. In the three and a half days we were there we motored over 177 nautical miles from the entrance to the extreme northerly Tarr Inlet. We were glad we made the trip.
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Outside Glacier Bay we headed southwest to Elfin Cove on Chichagof Island which borders on the Pacific Ocean. This small fishing community clinging to a steep rocky peninsula has no roads and uses boardwalks throughout the hamlet.
59k-21  Boardwalks of Elfin Cove
We are now getting ready to head south along the outside islands of southeast Alaska, to be exposed to the long Pacific swells.