Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Aialik Glacier Calving
Aialik Glacier, When It Was Peaceful
Aialik Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier of Kenai Fjords National Park. A tidewater glacier terminates at sea level and calves directly into the sea.
Aialik Glacier Terminating Into the Gulf of Alaska
The source of Aialik Glacier is the vast Harding Icefield. The face of the Aialik Glacier is 300 to 400 feet high from sea level to top, but its source, the Harding Icefield, is 3500-4000 ft thick of ice.
One of the natural dynamic changes that occurs in a tidewater glacier is ice calving. Ice calving is the sudden release of a mass of ice from a glacier or from an iceberg, or from other huge masses of ice. When we were close to the glacier but still at a very safe distance, we were asked to become quiet and listen to our surroundings. With silence, we saw and heard glacier calmness, and the chilly winds glued us onlookers in awe.
Hoodoo Like Structures of Aialik Glaciers
Then, we heard a cracking sound somewhere, soft at first, that we onlookers were looking where it came from. Then, the cracking sound started to rumble and roar, and we saw flakes of ice falling into the frigid waters of the sea.
Aialik Glacier CalvingThe falling ice roared like thunder, maybe many times louder. The sea jumps as the ice threw water into the air.
Splash of Ice Threw Water Into The Air (can you see the bird flying away?)
Then, the ice fall became softer, and gentler, looking more like a waterfall.
Icefall Thinning towards the end of Glacier Calving
Thin Ice Fall Looked Like A Waterfall
When all the calving was over, the meeting of the mountains, sea and ice looked calm again, as calm as we first saw it. Birds were flying into the glacier again, not flying away.
After the Glacier Calving, Everything Is Calm and Birds Flew In
A lot more ice spread out in the sea.
Ice That Fell from the Calving
As the sea calmed, we started seeing wildlife which seemed to be rejoicing either for a life spared,or for the ice that fell to answer their needs.
Sea Otter thankful for having Escaped the Wrath of Ice Fall or Thankful for More Ice
Sea Otters and Harbor Seals often haul out on icebergs, which offer refuge from terrestrial predators such as bears. Also, orca whales don't usually hunt in ice-choked fjords. The reason why fjord estuary ecosystem is one of the richest assemblages of life on Earth.
Seal Looking Perhaps for a Bigger Ice to Haul For Safety
Happy Sea Otters,
perhaps they sing: "let there be more ice, don't make them too big we can't climb, but don't make them too small either we'll get caught"
As we left Aialik Glacier, the experience still continue to linger, and the memories of the dynamic changes in nature serves as one of the living lessons of why everything has a purpose.