Alaska, Day Three

Slowly making our way south, I’m learning that this might be one of my favorite cruises because throughout our journey there’s always something to peer into. More than the tranquil blue waters of the Caribbean, the various landforms that litter (many times) both sides of the horizon, my affinity for cooler weather and, more importantly, mountains, is confirmed. Again, binoculars and spotting scopes out, peering into the beaches and hillsides hoping to see brown bears, happy to see sea otters, finding ourselves staring one way while the rest of the passengers look the other.

Named after one Spanish explorer’s opinions on this not being a shortcut to the Northwest Passage, Disenchantment Bay is hardly that. Home to the famous Hubbard Glacier, we strategically place ourselves in a manner anticipating the Captain’s course reversal to head west and south towards Glacier Bay National Park. Gazing into the deep blue crystalline structures of the glacier, hoping the sun’s rays (which, incredibly, have been visible for most of this voyage so far) will help push a few large chunks into the water below, a few of us get to see it for ourselves. Others hear the recounts of others.

Bergy bits and growlers float by as we make our way back around. Frozen water has never had such a captive audience, and tales of glaciers retreating raise concern and invoke discussions on climate change and human impact on Mother Nature. Contrary to those discussions, however, Hubbard continues to advance, and regularly raises a different concern as its movement dams off Russell Fjord and at one time created the greatest glacial lake outburst flood in recorded history.

A few new species added to the life list (black legged kittiwake, red necked grebe, black footed albatross) will help eBird remember this voyage. Sitting down, peering out to the horizon’s apparent infiniteness, I’m taking back something I said earlier, wondering what my affinity for being on the water is all about. Someone who’s spent almost a year and a half of their life in the air looking down, someone who regularly reads books about heroic feats in the air, I’m looking at the ocean thirsty for more, albeit in something a little more quaint than a floating strip mall and retirement community. Something a little more adventurous. Something like the Cub, but with no need for Josh to carry my kids and gear.

Thinking about anchoring around these parts, taking out a little zodiac and exploring a little more into these fjords, I’m seeing more than the byproducts of snowmelt and time turning water into that deep blue glacial ice. I’m seeing more than arctic birds, aquatic mammals, and the occasional bear. I’m seeing possibilities, learning that maybe that’s what the wilderness is all about. Not what’s there, but what could be there.

And there were definitely puffins there. Totally saw those cute little things.