Wednesday, 8 April 2020

More Glacier Bay - The View From Ashore

Most nights we anchored in front of Reid Glacier.  Usually we would head out to day trip in Fluenta to see the tidewater glaciers but we also did hikes from Fluenta in the inlet.  One trip involved the teenagers and I heading up one of the creek beds to get above the tree line and the other was a family trip along the edge of Reid Glacier.

Pretty quiet in Reid Inlet

Except when these guys run their generators all night.

Some great hikes with the teenagers.  No trails so a bit challenging until got to a high enough elevation.
Some great hikes with the teenagers.  No trails so a bit challenging until got to a high enough elevation.
The view to the north as one of the cruise ships goes by.
Checking out the glacier

And yoga time

and more yoga (in hiking boots)

Xtratufs are the fashion in Alaska.  Tough enough for Alaska but not tough enough for Benjamin though as his have already worn out.

Post-hike bonfire below the high water line.

Handy to have a little person to clean mildew.  With the temperatures getting lower, condensation and mildew become more of an issue.

and schooling continues ... Using the ranger station internet before we leave.  If you look closely you can see Fluenta in the background on the dock.  Not too busy there mid September.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

More Fluenta and Ice (and Cruise Ships) - Glacier Bay

We left Lituya Bay after our day there to enjoy a nice calm overnight passage with a bit of light air sailing from all angles and then motoring in dead calm with the northern lights on display.  At one point we were gybing angles to keep the boat moving and were pointing towards French Polynesia but decided it was too early to head back yet (only 4600 nm away). We stopped at Bartlett Cove to clear into Glacier Bay (it is a National Park) but because it was mid September we no longer required a permit.  We used the ranger station's internet to catch up on some admin/logistic dramas, and motored in the glassy calm to Sandy Cove while the humpbacks and sea lions performed.

It was very beautiful but a bit of a shock after the more remote parts of Alaska further north. We had been in Glacier Bay for only an afternoon and had seen two 980' cruise ships, multiple tour boats and two megayachts (who ran their generators all night).

The next day we left Sandy Cove at 0600 to motor up to see Margerie and Grand Pacific Glacier. The wind was gusty from the north so we did not feel secure anchoring in Tarr Inlet therefore we left one adult loitering in Fluenta while kids and the other adult checked out the glacier. Margerie Glacier put on quite a show with massive chunks of ice collapsing into the water from 200' with thunderous splashes. There was quite a bit of ice in the water for the last two miles to the glacier. We arrived after the two massive cruise ships so we had it to ourselves for most of the time and then only later with one megayacht.  At one point we were 1.0 nm from the Canadian border. 

Liz leading us through the ice so we could get close to the glacier

Fluenta in front of Margerie Glacier

Boom - more glacier calving.  The glacier is over 200' high so this is a lot of ice and water.

The next day Fluenta was in a lot of photos.  We anchored for the day for a front row spot at Margerie Glacier as the ice was open enough to get to where the depth went from 400 to 30 feet. Two cruise ships (1080 to 950 feet long) and two tour boats (170 to 200 feet long) came along to sightsee as well so Fluenta will be part of their photos too. Luckily with the height and width of the glacier we were not blocking much of their view.

We get a front row seat ahead of the cruise ship.

There are a lot of people on the upper decks taking photos !

Anchor down in the glacial silt not from far from the glacier.

Picnic in the sun anchored watching the glacier calving.

You can see the cruise ship behind us while we brunch.

A rare family photo

and a rarer photo of the two of us.

Goodbye !

Small scale chart of our travels in Alaska.  The arrow shows Glacier Bay.

Glacier Bay.  1: The Ranger Station, 2: Reid Inlet where we normally anchored and did some hiking, 3: Margerie Glacier, and 4: Lituya Bay from the previous blog post

Anchored in front of the glacier while a tour boat and a cruise ship visit as well.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Into Lituya - Site of the Megatsunami and La Perouse's Lost Crew

As a child I read, in National Geographic I suspect, about the 1958 megatsunami in Lituya Bay and sure enough when I did the initial planning for our Alaska adventure there it was pretty much on our rhumb line. The megatsunami was one of the biggest waves ever recorded ...  a 1,720 ft wave ... Obviously we needed to stop there ...

We anchored in Lituya Bay after short overnight passage from Yakutat. We had great mountain views on the passage including Mt St Elias (18,008 ft) and Mt Fairweather (15,300 ft) lit by sunlight and then the northern lights. At first we anchored just inside the bay near where La Perouse (a French explorer following a few years after Capt Cook's last voyage) lost over 10% of his crew when their long boat was swept out of the pass on the ebb tide in 1786.  Despite this history, it was an amazingly beautiful spot and even after a brief nap to recover from the overnight passage it was tempting to linger.  However, we moved up the fjord to see the effects of the 1958 tsunami.

Anchored at the mouth of Lituya Bay. It was so tempting to stay longer with views like this.
As we approached northeast end of the fjord where the Gilbert and Crillion Inlets were supposed to be, we had a surprise.  Both inlets had disappeared, and there were mud flats about 7 ft above chart datum 1.3 nm out from where the beach was supposed to be.  Crillion Glacier was about 0.9 nm further towards the sea than the charts show (we have Navionics and NOAA charts).   This was especially impressive as Crillon Inlet was shown to be 380 feet deep on the chart.

The blue arrows roughly correspond to the same location.  The Navionics chart and reality rather do not match.

And here is the view using the latest NOAA raster charts showing about 70 fathoms of water where we anchored. We anchored in about 17 fathoms and the shore line was over a mile closer than indicated

and using the latest NOAA vector charts it is about the same - approx 400' of water expected.  We anchored in about 100' and the shore line was over a mile closer than indicated
We anchored Fluenta in 100' (should be about 400' according to the chart) very close to the shore (not an overnight anchorage !) and the kids and I did a minor expedition ashore to walk to the glacier face.  We saw lots of bear and potentially wolf prints so kept the shore excursion short.

Liz looking more cheerful than I think she was feeling about anchoring here.

You can see there is not a lot of swinging room.  Note we did not stay overnight and we left Liz onboard to monitor the situation while the kids and I went ashore.
the cool patterns where the glacier outflow mixed with the fjord water.

The shore party heading to the beach.

Checking out the bear tracks.  We did a quick hike to the terminal moraine in the distance.  The teenagers took the first photo in this blogpost from the top of the moraine.
Yet another location where we would be happy to spend lots more time but alas the season was moving along and we had a weather window to continue south to join the masses in SE Alaska.

The Google Earth view of where we anchored.  Note the shore line has moved closer to the centre than even what is in the Google data.

A schematic showing how the tsunami occurred. (from Wikipedia)
A photo from 1958 showing where the landslide started from (the red arrow) and then where the largest wave was located (yellow arrow) (From Wikipedia)

As seen from Fluenta, the difference in the vegetation is still apparent.
And for folks looking to follow in our path, a copy of our tracks are below:

Yakutat to Lituya

We anchored in both the western and north eastern ends of the fjord although only for short stops.  I have read reports of yachts waiting out bad weather in the western anchorage.