Scenic USA - Alaska

Hubbard Glacier

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Hubbard Glacier - Yakutat, Alaska

Photo by Ginny West

   While there are countless variations of Alaskan cruise line packages, the typical itinerary for seven day cruises include visits to three or four ports of call. And the greatest number of round-trip Alaska cruises make their way through Alaska's Inside Passage with stops at Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Haines, Icy Point Straight or Wrangell. Here along the southern coast during peak season, the Passage sees on average 10 large ships per day. Passing nearly 1000 islands, the Inside Passage is popular for its spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife, various Native cultures and intriguing history. An ongoing pre-cruise debate includes the decision for a trip to Glacier Bay or Hubbard Glacier.
   Dwarfed by the surrounding Chugach Mountains, the size of Hubbard Glacier is lost to first time sightseers until they get much closer to those "tiny boats" near the glacier head. When they turn out to be a massive cruise ships, only then you get a real sense of the term massive.
   Figures cannot tell the whole story of Hubbard Glacier. Well out of sight from the bay, the glacier begins high upon Mount Logan and stretches 76 miles to the sea at Disenchantment Bay. It's the longest tidewater glacier in Alaska and measures 1200 feet thick. Nicknamed the "galloping glacier", displays of open calving along its six mile face are quite common. The term calving is used when huge pieces of glacial ice break off the head of the glacier and drop into the sea.
   This view shows a slurry of ice floating on top of the bay at Yakutat. From time to time, a few major icebergs lurk below the surface. During the early spring, the bay is often choked with frozen ice, keeping cruise ships at a distance. Those hoping for a close-up view will have to wait on warmer weather.

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