July 22, 2004
On our last day at sea, the ship sailed into Yakutat Bay for us to see the Hubbard Glacier. Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in North America. The ship does a complete turn so it doesn’t matter if you stand port side or starboard side. The views are stunning. Photos don’t do it justice. And remember if you hear it, you’ve missed it. Getting a calving on video (and/or a photo) is nearly impossible, but patience pays off.
Hubbard Glacier, named in 1890 for Gardiner Hubbard, the first president of the National Geographic Society, is 76 miles long, 7 miles wide, and 600 feet tall at its terminal face (350 feet exposed above the waterline and 250 feet below the waterline). It starts at Mt. Logan (19,850 ft), the 2nd tallest mountain on the North American continent, in the Yukon Territory of Canada and ends within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. The ice you see at the terminal face is approximately 450 years old and is over 2000 feet thick at some locations.
The glacier is currently advancing (last 100 years), while most Alaskan glaciers are retreating (95% ). This is not in contradiction with current global temperature increases. The Hubbard Glacier will advance during times of warming climate and retreat in time of colder climates. The current rate of advance is approximately 80 feet per year. The glacier’s rate of overall forward velocity is much higher, but the advance is due to its calving.
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