We visited the Hubbard Glacier while on an Alaskan Cruise in 2009.
In order to get a 10-day cruise (the first one of this length for Alaska ever offered by our cruise line), we had to select the last cruise of the season, so we traveled the last few days in September into the first few days in October. Our ports were cold, but I can honestly say that if we were to do it again, we’d go at the same time of year. The air everywhere was so clean that it implanted one of the strongest olfactory memories I have.
The morning that we pulled in to Disenchantment Bay on the Russell Fiord was clear, so we were able to get within a half mile of the face of this gorgeous giant.
Our captain made several complete rotations of the ship so that all passengers could get a good view. We started by watching from our cabin balcony, and then later walked up to the top deck to take in the panoramic view. The glacier calved occasionally (it calves more actively in the spring and summer) and as the big pieces of ice fell off into the bay, it sounded like thunder. It is truly among my most amazing travel experiences to date.
The Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater calving glacier on continental North America. It is off the coast of Yakutat – 200 miles North West of Juneau. The only way to view the face of the glacier is by ship or helicopter.
Hubbard is 7 miles wide at the foot and approximately 76 miles long. The face is up to 400 ft tall and there are icebergs 3 – 4 stories high (most of the icebergs’ size being underwater) These measurements change continually as the glacier calves and advances. Where other glaciers are receding, Hubbard has been thickening and advancing for over 100 years.
We were told that Hubbard Glacier could permanently dam the entrance to Russell Fiord within 25 years, and then cruise ships would no longer have access. The Fiord has been temporarily closed by the advancement of the glacier twice within recent history – the last time being 1986, when the Fiord was closed by the glacier for 5 months.
Knowing the likelihood of permanent closure, we feel very fortunate that we were able to witness this calving glacier in all it’s glory.
“Purple snow capped mountains marched off in either direction, with clouds floating around their middles like fluffy belts. In a massive valley between two of the largest peaks, a ragged wall of ice rose out of the sea, filling the entire gorge. The glacier was blue and white with streaks of black, so that it looked a hedge of dirty snow left behind on a sidewalk after a snowplow had gone by, only four million times as large.”
― Rick Riordan,