When touring Alaska, Glaciers rank at the top of items most people want to see. But what are the glaciers and how can you see them?
Scientists say that Alaska has about 100,000 glaciers. Only about 650 of them have been named.
Let's explore a few of the glaciers that cruise lines visit and best ways to see them.
Glacier Bay National Park
Cruise Path: Inside Passage
World's largest international protected area, Glacier Bay National Park covers 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers and temperate rainforest.
Glacier Bay boasts seven tidewater glaciers with the most famous being Margerie Glacier (Pictured above). It is one mile wide and 250 feet feet high above waterline.
President Coolidge established the Glacier Bay National Monument on February 26, 1925. President Franklin Roosevelt doubled the size of the monument in 1939.
There are only two permits issued per day for cruise lines to visit the Glacier Bay National Park. National Park service works closely with the cruise line industry to ensure that impact to the natural habitat remains minimal.
Cruise Path: Inside Passage
The longest tidewater glacier at 76-miles long is Hubbard Glacier.
Tidewater glaciers are great rivers of ice that stretch over and between mountain ridges until they meet the green tidewater, calving large chunks of ice with cracks into the sea.
Hubbard Glacier is a glacier located in Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve in eastern Alaska and Kluane National Park and Reserve in Yukon, Canada, and named after Gardiner Hubbard.
Cruise Path: Typically one way trips to or from Whittier
Situated in the Northwestern section of the Prince William Sound (between Whittier and Valdez), the fjord is home to five tidewater glaciers, five big valley glaciers, and many tiny glaciers, most named after famous colleges.
As you travel into College Fjords, you will notice that all the glaciers on the left were named after women’s colleges while those on the right were named for men’s colleges.
Some of the most famous glaciers names include Amherst, Bernard, Smith, Vasser, Yale, Columbia, and Harvard. Rumor has it the explorers purposefully snubbed Princeton from the list of names.
The Harvard Glacier is the second largest tidewater glacier in the area, but the most visited and viewed by those traveling by cruise ship. Measuring 1.5 miles wide and about 300 ft thick, the Harvard Glacier covers 120,000 acres of Chugach National Forest.
Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier
Endicott Arm is a 30-mile fjord (one-fifth is covered in ice) that snakes through the Tracy Arm-Fords Wilderness Area. At the head is the majestic Dawes Glacier. It is located 50 miles southeast of Juneau and is part of the Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness Area.
Fun Fact: Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier are the breeding grounds for harbor seals.