Thy sea, O God, so great,
My boat so small.
It cannot be that any happy fate
Will me befall
Save as Thy goodness opens paths for me
Through the consuming vastness of the sea.
Thy winds, O God, so strong,
So slight my sail.
How could I curb and bit them on the long
And saltry trail,
Unless Thy love were mightier than the wrath
Of all the tempests that beset my path?
Thy world, O God, so fierce,
And I so frail.
Yet, though its arrows threaten oft to pierce
My fragile mail,
Cities of refuge rise where dangers cease,
Sweet silences abound, and all is peace.
~Winfred Ernest Garrison
We entered Glacier Bay just after dawn on August 30, and being the only cruise ship there, spent the better part of the day perusing a half dozen glacial faces. The one just below is Johns Hopkins Glacier at the head of the inlet of the same name. The tongue of white ice coming in from the left at the water line about 1/4 into the scene is a bit of Gilman Glacier. This photo was taken about 3:00 in the afternoon from about 6 miles distant.
Johns Hopkins Glacier continues to advance with Gilman Glacier as a single ice front. The glacier is about 1-mile wide, 250 feet high at the terminus, and 200 feet deep at the water line. It is formed from numerous tributary glaciers, many of which extend 12 or more miles into the surrounding peaks. About 50 medial moraines develop from the joining of these tributary glaciers. The debris in these moraines can be seen in the ice face and extending up-glacier as prominent black bands. This debris is transported in and on the ice and released either by melting of the ice face or calving of icebergs into Johns Hopkins Inlet. Melt-water from the glacier is discharged from submarine tunnels or conduits located near both the eastern and western edges of the glacier.Sometimes this water emerges at the inlet surface as fountains. Birds are commonly seen diving and floating where the melt-water up-wells along the ice face.
Johns Hopkins joined Gilman Glacier at its eastern edge in about 1990. During the decade following this merging of the ice, the two glaciers have separated and joined several times. The two glaciers were once again attached at the eastern edge of Johns Hopkins in 2000 and both are now advancing slowly with a 150 to 200 foot steep ice face where they join. Of note, Johns Hopkins is characterized by submarine calving -calving below the water surface caused by breaking off of ice from an “ice foot” that extends from the basal part of the glacier. These “basal bergs” rise suddenly and unexpectedly, emerging, sometimes explosively, without warning at the water surface. In late July 2003, submarine calving was extremely active.
I don’t think bears search for food in the tree tops much. They would be focused on what’s on the ground or within arms reach. Conifers don’t have much to offer in the way of Fall color and the Aspen and Birch leaves turn yellow and then brown and then fall off, all within a day or two. So if you want to observe the Autumn colors in Denali, look down like the bears.
Around 300 to 350 grizzly bears live in the park on the north side of the Alaska Range. You can see them on open tundra, and along the gravel bars of streams and rivers. About 80% of a Denali grizzly’s diet is roots, berries, bulbs, tubers and fresh vegetation. They have long claws for digging. They also eat ground squirrels, caribou, moose and sheep when they can catch them. Along the coast, their larger cousins eat a lot of salmon but there are none here. Grizzlies hibernate from October to April so September is their last chance to build fat reserves before the long sleep.
It’s hard to believe that these would feed a 600 pound grizzly, let alone fatten him. The name “bearberry” for the plant derives from the edible fruit which is a favorite food of bears. The fruit, also called bearberries, are edible and are sometimes gathered for food. The leaves of the plant are used in herbal medicine.
I’ve a few more photos of Denali that I’ll share later but tomorrow I think I’ll spend a little time on Glacier Bay National Park.