Galloping glacier – Hubbard Glacier
Hubbard Glacier is a mesmerizing natural wonder framed in striking glacial blue. The largest tidewater glacier in North America at a whopping 76 miles long and 1,200 miles deep, Hubbard has been nicknamed the “galloping glacier” because of how quickly it’s advancing toward the Gulf of Alaska through Disenchantment Bay. Rapid advancement results in major calving, the dramatic breaking off of chunks of ice at the edge of a glacier. Watching ice melt has never been so exciting! This area is also rife with wildlife similar to that found in Glacier Bay.
See glaciers in action
A highlight of any Alaska journey is being able to see glaciers in action. The ice age is still underway here with an estimated 100,000 glaciers in the state, covering three percent of the landscape and creating most of its rivers. Glaciers are rivers of ice that flow from ice packs high in the mountains, where more snow falls than melts. In constant motion, they can move ahead at speeds of several feet a day, or sudden surges of as much as 300 feet. Some are retreating, or shrinking due to increased melting or a lack of new snow to feed them. The beautiful blue colour associated with glaciers is created by the density of the ice which absorbs all the colours of the spectrum except blue, which is reflected.
The Hubbard Glacier is an active glacier with two major surges in the last 30 years, at one point advancing more than 7 feet a day. These surges were large enough to threaten the nearby coastal town of Yakutat, and they almost blocked the entrance to Russell Fiord. Large chunks of the glacier break off into the ocean on a regular basis. This process is known as calving. Most tidewater glaciers calve above sea level, causing huge splashes as the new icebergs strike the water. If the water is deep enough, glaciers can calve under water.
The Hubbard Glacier, Disenchantment Bay, and Russell Fjord are as wonderful natural treasures as any. Traversing the iceberg-riddled waters en route to the glacier, is only the beginning. Along the way, bear, moose, deer, sea otters, killer whales and many nesting seabirds are often seen. Huge fault lines along the West Coast are seen, and a little about the natural history of this dynamic region is explained.