Sunday, December 04, 2011

Alaska 4

Our first major undertaking of the trip to Alaska was the Northwestern Lagoon in Kenai Fjords National Park. We did five days of kayaking on what I would have called a bay, or maybe even a fjord (see name of national park, e.g.). Upon looking up the actual definition of lagoon, I see that it was perhaps properly named.

The Northwestern lagoon is home to several tidewater glaciers - i.e., glaciers that end in the sea, calving big icy chunks into the water. The crazier part is that according to reports from our guides (which we have been unable to corroborate from the interwebs), as recently as 100 years ago, the entire lagoon -- at least five miles long -- was covered by the glaciers that are now rapidly retreating. The landscape featured a lot of very steep rock faces, scoured by the retreating ice and relatively free of vegetation. 100 years seems like a pretty quick retreat for a glacier, but I can't prove they were wrong.

Taking satisfying pictures of glaciers turns out to be pretty tough, as is the case with many immense things. The picture above gives some sense of scale, but in fact the kayaks in this picture are probably still a quarter mile away from what the glacier. (The park service recommends staying a half mile away from the glaciers to avoid being capsized by the waves from falling sheets of ice - I would guess we pushed that boundary a fair bit.)

Stay tuned - there will be more pictures from the Northwestern Lagoon for the rest of the week.

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