The early morning mist, like tufts of cotton wool caught on top of the pine trees, clings to the side of the fjord. As the mist clears, the snow covered mountain peaks reveal themselves.
The sun has warmth, but the wind is bitter. It whips over the surface of the frigid waters and down the fjord gathering momentum until it finally finds its target. Me!
I always thought that I didn’t feel the cold, but this morning I learn that I do.We and a few other hardy souls, are sitting on the rear deck of the Sojourn having breakfast
The wind is biting into any extremity that I have left uncovered. Unfortunately that is rather a large area as for some inexplicable reason I am wearing just shorts and a T shirt (well, I thought I didn’t feel the cold). There are heat lamps overhead, but the icy wind seems to whisk the heat away before it reaches us. Pots of hot tea and a gargantuan breakfast helps, as does the offer of a blanket that Seabourn thoughtfully supplies. But it is an alarming shade of orange and clashes terribly with my colour scheme this morning. A blanket is a wonderful thought, but who wants to be swaddled in bright orange at 9 a.m. – or at any time come to that.
The more sensible passengers sit inside looking out. But I haven’t come all this way to experience Alaska through a picture window. I have come to have my senses awakened by all that Alaska has to offer, and as I look out on the stunning scenery I relish the fact that what Alaska is offering me is mimosas and breakfast on the deck of a luxury 6 star ship.
We have chosen to come here once more because Seabourn, after years of not coming to Alaska, decided to return this year and to offer an entirely new experience. We are on one of their expedition ships that carries kayaks and zodiacs and they promise to use both to get us as close to the glacier walls as possible. Now dear readers, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that I have never been in a kayak. Paddling just isn’t my thing, and I don’t think now is the time to start, especially considering the freezing waters we will be in. A zodiac on the other hand, even though it doesn’t offer the level of comfort I prefer, seems like an exciting way to get up close and personal to a glacier, especially when there would also be the chance of landing in places where only mountain goats have been before. It was an enthralling prospect.
However two days before we left we got an email from Seabourn informing us that the zodiac trips had to be canceled. Their email gave no information other than the following sentence
Last week, a regulator asked a very specific question about our operations. As a result, some of the Ventures by Seabourn Zodiac-only tours in Alaska have been cancelled or modified
We were left to wonder what the “very specific question” might be, and despite various enquiries are none the wiser today. To say we were disappointed is a major understatement. But Seabourn is trying hard to make things right. They have rented small catamarans designed to cope with ice strewn waters that will take us as close to the glaciers as it is possible to get
The morning starts with the captain carefully navigating our way up the fjord to the glacier. As we get nearer the emerald blue waters become strewn with small pieces of ice.
Up ahead is the Holgate glacier
Finally the captain can go no further and the ship stops. The only sound is the ice flow hitting the side of the ship and a few lonely calls from passing seabirds. The peace is shattered by the Fabulosity Meter shrieking at the unbelievable backdrop
It is then that the small boat Seabourn has hired comes along side. Only those that had paid for a zodiac experience get to board the ship and for the next three hours we are treated to a magical trip. After taking a closer look at Holgate glacier we enter another fjord for an up close and personal view of the Aialik glacier. We wend our way through the ever increasing number of tiny icebergs.
Many of them have seals and their pups resting happily on a bed of ice. I should offer them a nice orange blanket.
The seals come here to have their pups as it is the only place they know the whales will not follow. And if an orca does come hunting, then its radar is unable to distinguish between a piece of ice and the seal that is on it.
Our little ship gets to within 400 yards of the glacier, switches its engines off and there we float in absolute silence
No one on board makes a sound or starts a conversation, we just all watch the glacier in awe of what nature can achieve. Occasionally there are thunderous cracks as it “calves” dropping huge chunks of ice into the water and creating all these tiny icebergs
As the sun hits the glacier we can see the amazing icy blues in the cracks, fissures and caves that mark the end of the flow
The Fabulosity Meter is in full cry.
All to soon, it is time to leave .
On our our way back to the Seabourn Sojourn, we pass the hardy souls in their kayaks
As I wonder what would possess anyone to kayak anywhere, let alone next to a glacier surrounded by chunks of sharp ice, waiters appear on our tiny catamaran offering us bowls of steaming hot and absolutely delicious crab chowder and glasses of mimosa. Seabourn thinks of everything and I think of how grateful I am not to be in a kayak.
My Alaska experience is working out perfectly.