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John Hopkins Glacier is on a Mission to Move


By Lindsey Nielsen, expedition guide, Safari Endeavour

Ice scraped and cracked against the side of the Safari Endeavour as the ship pushed forward up Glacier Bay. Ice chunks parted before us as we continued toward our destination: John Hopkins Glacier. Due to the large amount of ice and the pupping seals, this area in Southeast Alaska is closed for the beginning of the summer. This would be our first time to the glacier this year.

Eagles below the John Hopkins Glacier

Fog hung low as we approached, and through the wisps of cloud we could finally see the enormous glacier. Reaching 250 feet above the water, 200 below it, and extending over a mile and a half across the fjord, John Hopkins Glacier is a mighty sight to behold. The ice is a deep blue and white and is covered in curved medial moraines pushed together and contorted as the glacier scrapes its way down the mountainside.

Aftermath of glacial calving

Today John Hopkins is one of the few glaciers still advancing. And indeed it is advancing quickly, surging forward about 17 feet a day! Creaking and popping, settling and sliding lead to the sudden thunderous BOOM! A chunk the size of a school bus topples into the water. Passengers and crew cheer and exclaim "awwws" as the thunderous sound echoes though the valley. It is raining and cold but no one goes inside. We are all in rapture at the sound of the glacier. A guest speaks to me without taking his eyes from the wall of ice, “You know, I have seen a lot of beautiful things in my life, but this...this is simply perfect.”

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