Hubbard Glacier

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Hubbard Glacier, at the head of Yakutat Bay, is the largest tidewater glacier in North America at 76 miles (122km) long and 7 miles (11km) wide. The terminal face is 600 feet (182m) high, with 250 feet (76m) hidden below the waterline. The 350 feet (106m) visible above the waterline is actively calving, filling the surrounding waters with large chunks of ice.

The glacier generally is increasing in mass and advancing. In 1996 and 2002 glacial advances actually dammed the mouth of Russell Fjord, creating a large lake behind. On both occasions, the dams failed after a few months and a channel of fast-moving water and ice drained the lake in about a day.

The unusually clear and calm weather held for yet another day, and we entered Yakutat Bay under a cloudless and deep blue sky. The Norwegian Jewel slowly advanced between Turner Glacier and seal-filled Haenke Island to the ice-filled waters off Hubbard Glacier. We expected the ship would stop there, but the captain guided the vessel through the ice, past some surprisingly large pieces, and right up close to the face.

The ship idled there for over an hour while everyone took in the fabulous scenery. We spent most of the time on our forward balcony, but continued viewing from the deck 15 Haven Sun Deck when the ship turned to depart.

As we cruised out of Yakutat Bay, we enjoyed fabulous views to the north of Mt. St. Elias and the mountain range of the same name, all still thickly covered in snow this early in the season. Mt. St. Elias looked particularly striking with a collar of clouds below. Straddling the Alaska and British Columbia borders and rising to 18,008 ft (5,489 m), the mountain is the second tallest in both the US and Canada.

That afternoon we took a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship to the galley, laundry, theater and, engine control room and bridge. The gallery is massive, with huge storage lockers and fridges, and dozens of cooks and workers throughout. And while this one serves several restaurants on the ship, it is only one of several galleys on board. The laundry is similarly large to handle all the towels, linens, bedsheets and clothes for a ship capable of carrying up to 3,500 people. We were particularly impressed with a machine that automatically pressed and folds sheets. At the theater we toured backstage and to the dressing rooms and costume storage, and learned a bit about how the shows are produced.

Next was the engine control room, where we spoke with the engineers who remotely monitor all the main engines and generators on the ship. It was super-interesting, but no pictures were allowed there. Our final stop was the bridge, where we had such a good time speaking with the captain and other officers on deck that we completely forgot to take any pictures. But we did get some pictures of the bridge from the viewing room while docked at Skagway.

After dinner, we took in the Le Cirque Bijou at the Stardust Theatre. We enjoyed the show, particularly the acrobatics, and having been backstage and learned more about the production made it more interesting.

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One comment on “Hubbard Glacier
  1. John Schieffelin says:

    Our Alaskan cruise ship, the Seabourn Odyssey, offered passengers a different tour of the galley. They prepared a HUGE buffet, with dishes in every section of the galley. It gave us a first-hand look at the amazing machinery in the galley plus a fabulous meal. One passenger I saw had done this before and instead of putting a little bit of every dish on her plate, she went straight to the crab section and loaded her plate with delicious crabs. Smart.

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