Alaskan Fjords — Fog, Rain, and Ice

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We spent much of the first week of our voyage cruising in the fjords of Alaska’s southern coast, including Glacier Bay.  During that period it rained intermittently and when it wasn’t raining, the weather was chilly, overcast, and frequently foggy.  But, rather than detract from what we saw the weather enhanced it.  There is a brooding majesty to these fjords, with their towering cliffs, dark forests, narrow passages, and floating ice.

Some of the fjords are headed by glaciers, monstrous walls of ice that I will show in a future post.  All of the glaciers were calving and, consequently, floating ice was a common sight in those fjords with glaciers.  Some of the little icebergs that we saw were intensely blue in color, so blue in fact, that they almost seemed to be unreal.

Look closely at this third image of floating ice and you can just make out the Sawyer Glacier at the extreme rear of the image.

What accounts for this brilliant blue ice?  Ice has no color.  Hold a piece of ice containing uncontaminated water up to your eye and it will be as transparent as a pane of glass.  But ice, particularly large pieces of it, refract light in the way that prisms do.  Ice that has been extremely compressed, such as ice that has calved from glaciers, is extraordinarily dense and free of air bubbles and it refracts light as blue.  So, the ice isn’t blue but the light shining through it appears to be blue.

At times, the fjords were choked with ice, especially as we approached glaciers.

The fjords were an imposing sight even when they were nearly ice-free.

Tomorrow I’ll post about some of the wildlife that we saw inhabiting these fjords and adjacent waters.

All images, with the exception of the third image, taken with a Canon 5DS-R, 16-35mm f4 IS L zoom lens.  The third image was taken with a Canon 5Div, 70-200mm f4L IS zoom lens. All images at aperture priority setting.  First image, ISO 640, f8 @ 1/160.  Second image, ISO 320, f9 @ 1/400.  Third image, ISO 500, f 4.5 @ 1/400.  Fourth image, ISO 320, f9 @ 1/400.  Fifth image, ISO 500, f8 @ 1/500.  Final image, ISO 320, f9 @ 1/250.

7 Replies to “Alaskan Fjords — Fog, Rain, and Ice”

  1. Tom Munson says:

    Terrific images, Steve. Love the colorful icebergs.

  2. Julie Carpenter says:

    We did the same Lindblad trip and many others. Go on the Lindblad trip to the Amazon in the early fall when it is low water season! An amazing trip! Julie Carpenter

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. If I did not experience them myself the colorful ice is unbelievable. I enjoyed the words and images.

  4. Julie Shanahan says:

    Steve and Louisa went on a nat geo cruise in Alaska- some amazing photos.

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Linda says:

    Love the blue ice in the inland passage remember this drama from our cruise 12 years ago glad there is still some left

  6. tkiiatmindspringcom says:

    The first photograph really captures the feel and mood of the area!

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