Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hubbard Glacier a sight to behold

When I wrote about Alaska's Hubbard Glacier in January, I hadn't seen it. Now I have. The left picture was taken less than a mile offshore, in near ideal weather. It shows the blue ice, dense and ancient, which is now exposed. Chunks  drop away as the glacier calves. The surrounding ocean is full of ice pieces. However, these do not qualify as true icebergs unless they are 5 metres across. Smaller lumps of ice are classed by size into bergy bits and growlers, so named for the grinding sound they make against the hulls of ships.
According to NASA's Earth Observatory, this enormous expanse of ice, 9.6 m across, 122 km long and 90 m high, runs counter to the worldwide trend of receding glaciers. Hubbard is advancing. In 1986 and again in 2002, glacial ice temporarily blocked the entrance to Russell Fjord. 

Named after Gardiner Greene Hubbard, an American philanthropist who was the first to preside over the National Geographic Society, this enormous river of ice flows from the St. Elias range into Disenchantment Bay (so named by George Vancouver, when he found it did not lead to the Northwest Passage). The bay opens off Yakutat  Bay in Alaska, and the range lies at the top of the Alaska Panhandle, close to the Arctic Circle, where British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska meet.

The glacier begins at Canada's tallest mountain, Mount Logan, 5959 metres high, which lies in Kluane National Park in the St. Elias range, Yukon Territory. This peak and its taller Alaskan neighbour Mount McKinlay are the highest mountains in North America.

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