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Glacier Bay: Thunder and Ice

Travel - Glacier Bay - Glacier Calving - The Travel Information Company
The icy wall of the tidewater glacier moans, grinds, and cracks as it reluctantly inches its way towards the edge of the bay. Suddenly, a thunder-like blast announces the splitting of an immense block of ice which then splashes into the waters below, creating massive waves that propel the hundreds of newly formed icebergs nearly a quarter mile ahead.

The wondrous spectacle that is the calving of a glacier is one that cannot be adequately described through mere words. To be understood, it has to be experienced firsthand. That is probably why Glacier Bay is one of Alaska's most popular attractions, receiving over 420,000 visitors each year. Dozens of cruise ships make their way through Alaska's Inside Passage every week to spend the day navigating the 65-miles extent of Glacier Bay.  Moreover, many of those that visit the park then vow to return, next time bringing friends or family so that they too can experience the breathtaking display of nature's raw power and beauty.

Travel - Glacier Bay - Glacier From Cruise Ship - The Travel Information Company
Those that have experienced Glacier Bay are also likely to tell you that there is much more to this National Park than ice. The surrounding views are as impressive as the calving glaciers. Everywhere you look, you can observe unspoiled natural beauty of snow-covered peaks that rise as high as 15,000 feet, or azure colored icebergs that slip past the vessel, or hundreds of deep fjords and inlets that line the shores of the bay.

Glacier Bay visitors are also likely to catch a glimpse, or more, of the magnificent wildlife that make the park their home.  Some lucky visitors may enjoy the sight and sounds of humpback or gray whales that create their own form of thunder as they repeatedly breach and splash into the waters of the bay.  At other times, the whales may be more sedate, quietly showing their backs and fins over and over again as the cruise ship sails by.  Pods of killer whales are also frequently seen from the cruise ships. Bears and mountain goats are often spotted along the shores of the bay.

Travel - Glacier Bay - Views of Glacier - The Travel Information Company
While taking a cruise ship is probably the easiest way of seeing Glacier Bay, other options are available for those that may prefer a different type of experience. No roads lead to Glacier Bay National Park from other parts of Alaska, but Alaska Airlines has a daily, 30-minute flight  from the city of Juneau to the town of Gustavus during the summer season. Flights to Gustavus are also provided throughout the year by several small air taxi and charter companies. During the summer, the Ferry LeConte also stops in Gustavus twice weekly from Juneau.  At Gustavus, you will find a road that connects to the park, and a variety of options for exploring the bay and surrounding park areas, including local tour operators, outfitters, and charter services.

Regardless of how you get to Glacier Bay, your experience is certain to be unforgetable. When the time comes to start heading home, you will likely do so while considering who you will bring along the next time that you return!

Some content and photos courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.

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