Sunday 9 June 2013

Perfect day, Juneau

Sometimes there are advantages to having to get up early. For a start, of course here in Alaska in June, there’s nothing unnatural about 6am, because the sun’s already been up for hours. And then, since it’s too early for the restaurant, we had to have breakfast in our suite; so there was Kripesh prompt at 6.30 with tablecloth, serviettes and covered dishes, laying it out just so for us to enjoy in the sunshine looking out at a perfect morning.

Today we took the glacier excursion option, being collected from the Silver Shadow by a comfortable catamaran and whisked away up the Tracy Arm to see the two Sawyer Glaciers, North and South. But not before stopping to stare at a bear fossicking long the shoreline; and then at lots of harbour seals sunbathing on icefloes, fat pregnant ladies or mums with pups. There were bald eagles too, and Arctic terns, which for migration marathons beat even the godwits: they travel from Alaska to Antarctica.

Most spectacular of all though were the glaciers, sheer 100m-high walls of ice above the water, white, black, blue and transparent. Even the guys on the boat, who see them every day, were as fascinated as us, saying that they change every day. The immensity was too much to grasp: 300m below the water, a mile wide and a mile away although it looked so close. We saw both of them calving, bits of ice splashing into the water followed by, moments later, the “white thunder" roar into the deep silence of the fiord as we sat there watching, the boat’s engine cut.

Gliding past the sheer, glacier-smoothed cliffs with their horizontal scars, we saw all sorts of icebergs, some white and pock-marked, others ethereal blue, still others totally clear. A little one was netted and brought on board for us to touch: smooth as, and filled with bubbles of air that might be 500 years old – or possibly 10,000. It was a wonderful morning, topped by two more bears scraping mussels off the rocks as we returned to Juneau. Lucky us, today.

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