After a 5 day excursion through Denali and Copper River Basin, we headed to Valdez by bus where we took a trip to Harriman Fjords before sailing to Whittier to pick up our Princess Dawn ship. This took us through Prince William Sound and exposed us to incredible scenery and marine life. Near Whittier, we took a side trip to Harriman Fjord, ending with the The Harriman Glacier. This, along with it's neighboring Vassar, Smith, Harvard and Yale Glaciers in the College Fjords, were breath taking in not only size but sound. We experienced the glacier's calving in action - and were close enough to hear it's crackling and feel it's crashing into the water. There were also several good size icebergs around us. It's hard to believe 90% of an iceberg is underwater. So when you see one that doesn't appear too big, look down!
The next two days we sailed to other fjords and through Glacier Bay National Park, including John Hopkins and 11 other tidewater glaciers. It's hard to believe the bay's shoreline was completely covered by ice just 200 years ago, making it the fastest retreating ice on earth.
Glaciers are offshoots of Ice Fields, which exist because more snow falls than melts annually. As snow falls, it causes pressure on existing layers. This process, called firnification, creates dense and granular snow which eventually turns into ice. Imagine stomping on the same footprint in the snow thousands of times. Each time it compacts into a harder and harder form of ice. This is in a sense what an ice field is. Now as the tips of the ice fields flow down valleys of the mountains into the water, they form Glaciers. And by definition, Glaciers are moving bodies of ice. Which we experienced first hand in Harriman. Finally, fjords themselves were carved out by the largest glaciers as they tore away mountain bedrock.