June 14, Wednesday
Today’s chapter in our Alaska adventure was a very special edition with “Alaska Charters and Adventure” and owners John & Brenda Yeager. We didn’t know what was in store, except that we would be on a boat and see a glacier! What an understatement!
Before reporting to board ship at 10:00 we had time to explore downtown Wrangell; I talked myself out of a pair of muck boots and a shirt that caught my fancy. We also had to pose with the resident pirate statues (pirates in Alaska?)
At the charter headquarters we found that our boat-guide hostess, Brenda, was a serious artist. Her specialty is beautiful watercolor interpretations created on authentic maps of the area. They were just stunning
As we walked the plank to board our boat, our first question was answered: the boat was a smallish craft with completely covered seating for a dozen people. There were 6 day-trippers on our tour with our leader Brenda and pilot Bob – a total of 8. It was a very personal affair.
Leaving Wrangell we bolted for the open water thru the Wrangell narrows. In a few days our ferry boat is to navigate this same pass and seeing how narrow it was, we wondered how that would work . . . . Brenda told us the ferry boats literally suck the water from the shorelines.
Our first destination was Petersburg -- a close-knit Norwegian community founded on fishing. We were scheduled for a 1 ½ hour lunch-stop/shop excursion; Tom had Halibut beer-bites and I had shrimp – awesome.
Back on the boat, we headed for LeConte Glacier – one of the world’s most “studied” glaciers. What is surprising is that it is also not a frequently visited glacier by large-venue sightseer excursions; we saw no other tourists on our way out or our way back. It bears the distinction of being the southernmost active tidewater glacier in the Northern Hemisphere. While still in the harbor, we saw our first sea-life -- hanging out on the harbor buoys.
We entered an area of light ice flows that were insignificant as far as our speed and navigation went. But soon, we heard Brenda mention to Bob that they had not seen so much ice at this point. Then there was talk about “if we can get through” . . . and then Bob was throttling back to watch for and pick his way through an open lead. The aluminum hulled boat seemed to be perfectly capable of forcing a path through the ice floes, but it made a horrendous sound as it scraped along the boat hull.
At the same time, the ice floes/bergs got bigger and we began to see seals basking . . . many with newborn pups. Brenda explained that the seals retreated to the ice floes from the more open sea with their newborn to escape the predator Orca. We saw a baby seal on the end of one floe, and a bloody blemish on the other end -- probably the birth-spot of the seal pup.
As we got deeper into the ice, and closer to the LeConte Glacier, Tom left the security of the enclosed cabin and ventured onto a small 4’X6’ viewing deck and here he stayed for the next hour – camera in hand. There is no way to describe the beauty of the glacier and the floating ice around us, so I will let Tom’s pictures tell the story.
Bob maneuvered the boat in the bay at a safe distance from the glacier for 45 minutes. Long before the boom/crack filled the air, a piece of the glacier could be seen shedding off into the water where it created a splash and shock waves radiating towards our boat. Floating around the base of the glacier were several very large, recently calved, bergs – one was as blue as a clear, blue, diamond. Tom remained on the viewing deck photographing the whole time and reluctantly came in as the boat turned and headed for home. First, though, Brenda scampered out on the deck and harvested some crystal clear ice for the coolers!
There are no port-a-calls with bathroom opportunities this far out on the water, but Brenda and Bob scouted out a coastline with fairly easy access for a trip-into-the-woods stop for those that needed! Then, we seriously headed for home. At this point we were ready for a little celebration and Brenda broke out the beer -- and the whiskey!
The trip back was not a duplicate route. As we came out of the glacier bay, Bob across the top of a land mass and headed back to Wrangell via a different channel.
We arrived back at Wrangell at 6:00 -- after 8 hours of adventure. Oh what a voyage.
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown