Alaska: North but not so cold
After pondering about traveling up north for years, my family and I have finally decided to visit the great white Alaska of USA. Since we prefer to travel in a relax way, we have decided to sign up with Princess Cruise to explore the area.
When I was on the plane, I was excited to see the view from my window. Since it was during summer time, I didn't expect Alaska to be too cold. However, the picture below excited me a lot.
Unfortunately, as soon as I landed in Anchroage (the most north city that I have ever been), it turned out that this area was really warm - up to 23 Celcius degrees!
Anyway, we hopped on a coach bus which brought us to the cruise port - the city of Whittier. On our bus, we learned a few things:
1) Glacier formation is caused by the compression of snow and ice due to gravity. Even though summer is relatively warm, the deep snow underneath remains in tact and the accumulation of snow throughout the years forms large glaciers.
2) When ice puts pressure on the rocks, the erosion that is caused by ice pressure forms a glacier silt, which is then being push down towards the lake. As a result of the silt, it causes a thick muddy layer of sediments on top of the water and prevents sun from penetrating the water. Without the sun, there is no photosynthesis beneath and therefore no plants are formed.
3) Whales love Alaska and Glacier Bay. In the past few years, the number of whales have increased significantly through animal help groups.
4) Alaska only has two seasons: 1) Winter and 2) Construction (that was a joke)
5) The streets of Anchroage have high markers on the road to indicate the height of snow. During winter, snow can get crazy and cover the roads completely. Since certain roads in Anchroage are built along mountains (cliffs on one side), it can get dangerous to drive on the roads without knowing where your roads are. These markers can help indicate whether the driver is still on-side with the roads or not.
Once we learned a few great things about Alaska, we had to pass through a long tunnel (The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel) to reach Whittier. Inside the cruise, my brother and I were surprised to see that we had an ocean-view state room. We believed that we got a free upgrade.
The cruise itself was not the biggest that I have been. However, it had enough amenities for most people and it was very family oriented. They had shows every night, movies being played on the deck, and casino that pretty much never close. The only problem that I had with this cruise was the number of times that I got ID-ed. When I told them my age, most were shocked.
The first two days of the cruise were on the sea, but we were still able to see some cool glaciers. Glaciers are the biggest at Glacier Bay. Unfortunately, global warming has caused the ice at Glacier Bay to recede by more than 50% since 1950s. On the ship, we were able to learn that the first explorer of Glacier Bay was a naturalist named John Muir, who ventured out to Alaska because he wanted to understand landscape formation. Through his discovery, he was able to witness the big glacier retreat, and all the sediments that it left. Later, it was discovered that the retreat of glaciers caused the formation of hills and valleys.
For some reason, the river at Glacier Bay was not frozen and that was partly because of tidal fluctuation and the wind. With the help of wind, the river was not completely frozen despite the numerous number of icebergs that we saw.
When we finally saw the first glacier, we were impressed by the scene.
The captain of the ship was nice enough to stop by the glacier for a while and let us take pictures. Of course, I took the opportunity to take a panaroma view of the glacier.
As you can see from the pics below, it wasn't too cold surpisingly and I was okay with wearing just a long sleeve sweater.
At night, we were treated with nice entree dinner. Sometimes, it's okay to tell the server to give you two entrees instead of one.
The next day, we had to tunnel through the narrow Glacier Bay river again to see more glaciers. On our way, we saw a beautiful scenery.
On the deck, there was a naturalist on board whom was nice enough to give us commentary about the bay. I must say that this was an unbelievable view from the deck while watching mountains moving past by us.
Right at the end of Glacier Bay, we saw what we wanted to see - Margerie Glacier. Margerie Glacier is about one mile wide, 250 feet high above waterline and 100 feet below sea level.
The captain, once again, was nice enough to stop by Margerie Glacier to let us take pictures. In fact, since it was a sunny day, it stopped for longer.
This time, Alaska was a lot colder than the previous days. This was probably because we were closer to the inner part of Glacier Bay.
According to the naturalist, we were able to understand why glaciers are blue in colour. When light hits the highly compacted ice, the long red wavelength is absorbed by the ice, and reflects the shorter wavelength to our human eye. This short wavelength colour is blue.
Another paranomic picture for you to be amazed at the grandeur of glaciers.
On the ship, we had a feast of seafood for lunch while having Margerie Glacier in front of our eyes.
At night time, I continued to go into the casino (being ID-ed) and tried to learn how to play craps, which I still don't know how to play. Nonetheless, I was able to win small amount of money at the Roulette table.
The next day we had our first shore excursion at Skagway. Skagway is a tiny town with a maximum number of 3,000 residents during the summer time. We were able to learn that the settlement of Skagway originated from the gold rush. When people spreaded rumours about the gold rush in Dawson City at the Yukon, gold seekers had to go through Skagway in order to reach Dawson City. The trip was tough because the trail was dangerous and most people couldn't even survive the trail. In fact, there weren't much gold at Dawson City and most people came back to their home city empty handed. The people who actually made money were the merchants who supplied the tools, food and supplies to gold seekers.
Here is a pretty nice view of Skagway.
At the end of Skagway, there is a famous suspension bridge called the Yukon Suspension Bridge. Although it is located in British Columbia, it is named the Yukon Suspension Bridge because the people who built it were from the Yukon. The bridge is about 180 feet long.
Capping off this blog post with a picture (and evidence) of being in Alaska.