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Active Retirees : Active Retirees Oct-Nov
TRAVEL CRUISING 16 | www.probussouthpacific.org I didn’t expect a glacier to be blue; I’m not sure what I’d imagined about these massive rivers of ice, but certainly not the azure hue that glistens from the base of the mighty Sawyer Glacier. Alaska’s wild beauty is mesmerising and its glaciers are the showstoppers. I come face to face with several during a cruise from Vancouver to the south-east section of the state known as the Panhandle. After steering a course through Georgia and Queen Charlotte straits, and the waterways between the numerous islands strung along the Canadian coast, we arrive at the entrance to Tracy Arm, a fjord that meanders 48km into the Coastal Range Mountains. Glaciers Disembarking, I board a catamaran with 65 others for a pilgrimage through the steel grey waters, past sheer granite cliffs, to confront North Sawyer Glacier and its twin sibling, the South Sawyer. Large cruise ships can navigate the fjord, but small boats can also venture within a hundred metres of a glacier mouth and mosey up to waterfalls cascading from the icy heights. Like most of Alaska’s tidewater glaciers, North Sawyer is retreating, having shrunk two kilometres in the past 10 years, a guide explains. It originated in the Stikine Icefield, an ice lake high in the mountains, and snaked down to the sea carrying boulders and terrain with it. What I see from the catamaran is its face measuring 60m high and its mouth stretching 400m from end to end. Keeping a safe distance, the captain manoeuvres the boat so we all get a perfect view to watch the monster in silent anticipation. Then, with a rumble that reverberates in the stillness, North Sawyer cracks and huge chucks of blue-tinged ice tumble into the sea. Waiting for a glacier to ‘calve’ is one of the great spectator sports of cruise ship passengers and, a few days later, we get to see it again in magnificent Glacier Bay National Park. The wild side Leaving Tracy Arm, we glimpse the South Sawyer in the distance through its impenetrable traffic jam of icebergs big and small, as the captain heads north to the capital Juneau 50km away, where we rejoin the 82,000 tonne Zuiderdam. Cruising is a perfect way to experience Alaska’s icy splendour and the wildlife Australians so rarely get to glimpse. Cruising into the Glacier Bay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest protected areas on earth, is an undisputed highlight. We enter via Icy Strait and, within minutes, the park ranger shouts “bears”, the cue for me to train my binoculars on a distant bank. I miss the whales that others see, but from the comfort of a lounge chair I watch harbour seals float past on mini icebergs. The pièce de résistance is Margerie Glacier, one of 16 glaciers in Glacier Bay. As Captain Werner Timmers positions the ship, the grand dame Margerie cracks and calves, to the delight of everyone on board. While we encounter at least three big ships at each port we visit, we are the only ship cruising through Northern exposure In the almost perpetual daylight of Alaska’s icy fjords, Caroline Gladstone gets close to calving glaciers and floating seals, but keeps the bears at binocular-length.
Active Retirees Aug-Sept
Active Retirees Dec-Jan 2012