Cruising Yakutat Bay

P&O strike again.

The Cruise Director announced that two guides have come on board and would be giving a narration for three hours in the Crow’s Nest ONLY.

Now this is monumentally stupid, even for P&O, because you can’t get more than a few hundred people in the Crow’s Nest, and that’s standing room only. There are two THOUSAND passengers who want to hear this.

Furthermore, the Belvedere restaurant affords both views and seating down both sides of the ship. Why not pipe the narration in there as well? What about Neptune Pool? The roof is closed, so you wouldn’t be disturbing the wildlife if you let them hear the commentary there as well. That way, you wouldn’t be trying to fit several hundred people into one, albeit large, room. Seriously, am I really the only person on the whole ship who thinks about the PASSENGERS?!

FYI, these pictures are of, I am [reliably?] informed, the Hubbard Glacier, which we are passing on our port side at the moment.

We are here too early in the season. We’re one of the first ships of the year to come up here. The ice is barely melting and the bears are still asleep. Why would they wake until the salmon arrive in July? They’d starve! The ground hasn’t even thawed enough for the grass to grow, so there’s absolutely NOTHING to eat.

We are now so close to the shore that you can see the scoring on the mountainsides where the glaciers have passed. They have carved what can only be called grooves in the granite and have formed astonishingly straight lines.

Glacier ice really is a startlingly bright shade of light blue, almost turquoise at times, but, boy, is it dirty. As it gouges its way down the mountainsides, it picks up everything in its path, so that, by the time it hits the water and starts to float away, it is often quite black and grubby in places. Mum said one piece looked like it had been run over and had tyre marks on it! See? You never thought icebergs would be black, did you?! Although, strictly speaking, these are ‘bergies’, not ‘bergs’. They’re too small. Talking of jargon, ‘growlers’ drop lots of small bits, ‘calving’ is for a large chunk in one go.

The water they fall into is a deep bottle green in colour, and it does look like bottle glass, as there is virtually no wind or current to disturb it, becoming much paler where the sun hits it or our wash disturbs it. The wind is a constant but very light one (light airs, for the more precisely-minded of you), causing millions of tiny ripples on the surface and rendering the whole bay utterly opaque. Even if there were fish, you wouldn’t be able to see them.

The sand on the bottom must be white, because, as we use our thrusters to turn, clouds of sediment are forced to the surface, turning the water an opaque, milky green that is like no other colour I have ever seen. I would put a simile here if I could think of one, I promise, because “milky green” doesn’t help you much. I’ll try and find a photo that does it justice, but don’t hold your breath.

One small triumph for the passenger: I went to Reception the night before last and asked if they could wash the windows while we were in Juneau yesterday. I pointed out that, if we are spending two days just cruising past scenery, it would be nice if we could SEE the scenery. Dad bumped into the Purser and asked the same thing. Well, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the windows in the Belvedere WERE cleaned yesterday. You can see the smears. Power to the people! Hoorah for P&O. See what you can do when you try? Shame we had to ASK you to do it, though.

So other than getting the timings wrong (we arrived at Yakutat Bay three hours EARLIER than advertised) and completely messing up the commentary arrangements, P&O have, despite themselves, managed to give us a very pleasant afternoon moving very slowly through Yakutat Bay, which is a dead end, by the way, taking hundreds of photos of the Hubbard Glacier and the ice field in the water at its base, peering fruitlessly at the shoreline in search of ursine company and commenting to each other on the way the water changes colour. A lot. Not much to keep you occupied for over four hours, you’d think, but you’d be surprised!

As the sun turns its efforts to lifting the remaining mist and the cloud, even more mountains are revealed, white-capped and so far away, the camera can barely make them out. It’s only because the sun is at a lower angle, casting the beginnings of shadows, that some of them can be seen at all. But the peak I photographed when I paused at the beginning of this paragraph is now once again shrouded in mist. Less than ten minutes have passed and it’s gone. If you missed it, you missed it. It’s a nightmare.

The sun is shining full throttle now, but it is still bitingly cold out. Not even I could last more than about a half hour without a coat. It’s THAT cold. There is still virtually no wind, however, which is nice. The sun sets here at about 11pm and rises at about 4.30am, so if I didn’t have an inside cabin, I’d be seriously sleep-deprived by now! Marge was awake at 5am yesterday. She got to see a pod of orcas, but 5am? Really? No, thank you! It does mean that the views are constant. It’s hard to have a nap or go to a talk or even go to the loo, because you might miss something even more breathtaking than the last thing. Thank heavens for the occasional patch of really boring conifer forest, otherwise I’d have wet myself by now! Even in the cabin, I have the television tuned to the mastcam, so that I don’t miss one moment of this amazing landscape, crafted by sheer brute force and so dumbfounding to gaze at. I wish I had the words to describe it to you better. Alaska is making me feel very inarticulate!

Now, at about half four in the afternoon, as we make our way back out of the bay, in a southeasterly direction, rather confusingly, I have to sit and go through the 170 photos I took to find a couple for you that do justice to the beauty of this place. Wish me luck.

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