Written by Missy Johnston

Margerie Glacier – Glacier Bay

Formally known as Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, Glacier Bay is a special place to visit on crewed yacht charter of Southeast Alaska. As part of an area designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay covers over 3 million acres. Glacier Bay is a relatively new natural phenomenon as until the early 1700’s, this area was covered by one large single solid block of ice called the Grand Pacific Glacier. Since the early 1700’s, this glacier has retreated over 65 miles to the head of the bay at Tarr Inlet, and while retreating, left 20 other separate glaciers in its trail. This modern glacial retreat and the subsequent creation of many smaller glaciers offer an excellent opportunity to see nature in action and all aspects of glaciers in this very active glacier area. Access to Glacier Bay is heavily restricted however to allow nature to take its course unimpeded by man, and therefore, only certain charter yachts are allowed entrance which is by special permit. If visiting Glacier Bay is on your list of what to see and do in Alaska, be sure to ask for a charter yacht with Glacier Bay permits.

Glacier Bay, glacial waters in Resurrection Bay

Originally homeland only to the Tlingit Indians, once the Grand Pacific Glacier started its epic retreat through Glacier Bay, others ventured into the area, including a rush for gold in the 1890’s with the establishment of the Berry mining district. Salt mining was also tried in the area in Bartlett’s Cove. Fox farming, natural trapping and even a cannery thrived at various points in time as more and more of Glacier Bay was exposed as habitable land. John Muir took a great interest in the scientific and naturalist aspects of Glacier Bay, first visiting in the late 1800’s to witness and document the glaciers in action. In 1925, when President Calvin Coolidge first declared parts of the area as a National Monument the following was recorded:

“a number of tidewater glaciers … in a magnificent setting of lofty peaks …; a great variety of forest covering consisting of mature areas, bodies of youthful trees which have become established since the retreat of the ice which should be preserved in absolutely natural condition, and great stretches now bare that will become forested in the course of the next century; a unique opportunity for the scientific study of glacial behavior and of resulting movements and developments of flora and fauna and of certain valuable relics of interglacial forests..”

MargerieGlacier- Glacier Bay – Calving

Today, on a crewed yacht charter visit to Glacier Bay, it is still all about Glacier action. There are at least 10 tidewater glaciers, where the face of the glacier meets the salt water and at least 7 of these are actively calving, which is when various parts of the face of the glaciers crack with a loud thunderous noise and fall into the sea raising large waves. The large pieces of ice that break off of the face of the glaciers become small floating icebergs or ice floes, which literally litter the waters of Glacier Bay, on which little harbor seals can be seen basking in the sun.

Glacier Bay Iceburgs

With the retreat of the glaciers, 200 year old Hemlock and Spruce forests have grown on the now exposed shorelines where various bird species including the American Bald Eagle can be found nesting. There is abundant marine life in the waters, with various species of salmon, which have drawn black and brown bears and other wildlife into the area including deer, moose, goats, wolves and coyotes. Humpback whales can be seen feeding in the southern part of the bay. And various species of seals and sea lions abound, with the land blossoming with trees, flora and fauna and marine and wildlife moving in as the ice retreats.

Glacier Bay – Margorie Glacier, a Tidewater Glacier

The main focus in Glacier Bay are the Glaciers, with the constant large blocks of ice calving from the glacier faces, with the, loud roaring and the resultant huge splash creating a constant beehive of activity, sights and sounds. This is not a location for those seeking peace and quiet, but rather for those looking to see Mother Nature’s energy and hear her loud roar. And one of the only ways to see and experience this is on a crewed yacht charter sitting in Glacier Bay under the face of the calving glaciers.