Our Second Full Day in Beautiful Glacier Bay National Park

Un-Cruise Adventures' Safari Endeavour nestled in Glacier Bay National Park near Lamplugh Glacier. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Un-Cruise Adventures’ Safari Endeavour nestled in Glacier Bay National Park near Lamplugh Glacier. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Not every Alaskan cruise includes a visit to magnificent Glacier Bay National Park. Un-Cruise Adventures’ Safari Endeavour, on the other hand, not only visits Glacier Bay as part of the line’s Discoverer’s Glacier Country itinerary – it stays there overnight and into the next day.

When I sail here on a big ship, I am glued to the open decks for the few hours that the ship is in the park. I’ve even skipped lunch because I know that the ship will soon be sailing out, en-route to the next port of call.

Waking up to the misty, moody, ever-changing landscape of Glacier Bay National Park. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Waking up to the misty, moody, ever-changing landscape of Glacier Bay National Park. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

This morning, I woke up to the spectacular sight of Lamplugh Glacier just outside my windows – and literally outside my door. Standing 180 feet above the waterline and submerged for up to 40 feet below, Lamplugh Glacier is considered to be “stable to receding” thanks to a flow rate of approximately two to three feet per day. That means the glacier is only losing approximately 1,200 feet per year of its overall mass that covers a distance of 16 miles.

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Not only are we being treated to a second full day in Glacier Bay, we’re also fortunate to have the unusual privilege of getting off our ship this morning for a full day of activities. Guests on large cruise ships are simply not permitted to do so.

Bright and early this morning, we set out on the Safari Endeavour's skiff for some explorations ashore and a close-up look at Lamplugh Glacier. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Bright and early this morning, we set out on the Safari Endeavour’s skiff for some explorations ashore and a close-up look at Lamplugh Glacier. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I have sailed next to Lamplugh Glacier once before, aboard Holland America’s Zuiderdam back in August of 2012. Large cruise ships almost never round the corner from Tarr Inlet into Johns Hopkins Inlet, but ours did on one particularly beautiful August day. We stayed a few miles offshore, and after an hour or so, rotated around and began our journey out of the park.

Today, I got to walk on the shore right next to the glacier. It’s something I hadn’t even considered to be in the realm of possibility two years ago.

Last night, guests were able to choose one of three activities for today: a rigorous mountain scramble; kayaking in Glacier Bay; or a skiff and beach expedition.

Approaching Lamplugh Glacier, which rises approximately 180 feet above the waterline. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Approaching Lamplugh Glacier, which rises approximately 180 feet above the waterline. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Because I wanted to put my feet on land here in Glacier Bay, I chose the skiff and beach expedition. Really, you can’t go wrong: the excursions are all included in the price of your cruise, and there’s no such thing as a bad excursion. I ruled kayaking out, though, because I wanted to set foot on the shores of Glacier Bay. The mountain scramble was also ruled out because it wasn’t recommended for those who had a phobia of heights, which I do. It’s not that I’m scared of them – it’s more that I don’t want to accidentally fall off a cliff because I’m too busy taking photos. Knowing your own comfort level is key.

Our landing site would be the small strip of rocky, gravel-strewn beach adjacent to Lamplugh Glacier. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Our landing site would be the small strip of rocky, gravel-strewn beach adjacent to Lamplugh Glacier. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The expedition team onboard did a great job of describing the excursions to us and how much effort they’d involve, though there was an uncomfortable pause when they suggested the mountain scramble would require “five points of contact” as guests worked out what the fifth point of contact would be after both hands and feet.

Glacial Solitude. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Glacial Solitude. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

I though the skiff and beach exploration sounded like the best of both worlds, so after breakfast, I set out on a two-hour long journey that combined scenic cruising in front of Lamplugh Glacier with a wander about on the beach that has been carved out just to the west.

Rocky and desolate, the “beach” adjacent to Lamplugh transitions from emerald green waters filled with glacial silt to boulders and stones of every conceivable shape, size and makeup. The immediate side of the glacier is caked with black sediment and earth that clings to its face like dust to a coal miner’s skin. The result is a gigantic mass that is almost featureless, yet one that towers over the surrounding landscape.

The beach has the appearance of a rock quarry, thanks largely to the movements of the glacier itself. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The beach has the appearance of a rock quarry, thanks largely to the movements of the glacier itself. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Our little group set off, largely finding our own way around the rocky crevasses that limited our progress to the first few hundred feet of the beachfront. From somewhere around the bend, Lamplugh Glacier could occasionally be heard calving – the process by which bits and sometimes chunks of ice drop off the face of the glacier and into the ocean.

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Our Live Voyage Report onboard Un-Cruise Adventures’ Safari Endeavour continues tomorrow from remote Gordon Island near Icy Strait Point! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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