The Most Amazing Piece of Ice I've Ever Seen
06/20/2011 58 °F
The berg emerged out of the thick fog glowing dull blue against the heavy, low cloud cover. At this distance, I could see that it was HUGE. As we drew closer, the vivid blue of deep glacier ice grew stronger. Blue glacier ice is more vivid with cloudy skies than with sunny ones. This is thought to be due to several factors, but there is no definitive answer as to why. All I know, is that this piece of ice was the most remarkable I have ever seen.
Since it was still early morning (around 5 am) and we were ahead of schedule, the captain decided to make slow circles around the berg, allowing everyone to get a fantastic look at the floating glowing sapphire. I grabbed my camera, and spent a couple of hours taking photos, and finishing my early morning chores. Even as I worked, my eyes were drawn to the ice. I couldn’t get over how blue it was! It was amazing, mesmerizing, and just plain zing to the dreary morning.
This berg was a “shooter.” A shooter is a piece of ice that comes from the bottom of the glacier underneath the water. As forces shape the ice, they occasionally crack off, and come shooting towards the surface in a massive upwelling of surging water and ice. Shooters can be massive, as this piece shows, and to witness this hunk rising to the surface must have been amazing. The water displaced by the ice surges outward in a large circular wave. The next time you are in the tub, stick your hand on the bottom and lift upward sharply, keeping your hand underneath the surface. The upwelling of water is on a micro scale compared to glacier size chunks of ice.
I could also tell this was a shooter just by the surface of the ice. It had bizarre waves and carvings all over the surface. Most of the berg had clear crisp ice. It hadn’t been exposed to weather for very long which breaks down the surface of the ice allowing air to permeate the inside causing it to turn white and cloudy.
When the ice is held in place under the water by the glacier, the ice is carved by pressure and currents of the surrounding sea. When icebergs break free and float away, more forces continue to work on its surface. The weather erodes the exposed ice, and the water continues to carve the underwater surface. After awhile, the iceberg will roll exposing new areas to the air, continuing the cycle until it melts.
Enough science. Look at this ice as a beautiful work of art. How many eons have patiently carved the delicate ice forms? Look at the coloring, the myriad of subtle blues. This is a masterpiece of ice carving, and one I won’t soon forget. Words don’t really do this piece justice, but perhaps these pictures can.
This iceberg started at the Sawyer Glacier, or the South Sawyer Glacier. This afternoon, we were able to position the ship within easy sight of the Sawyer glacier at the head of Tracy Arm. I write a lot about Tracy Arm, and I’ve been lucky to visit here once a week. This place just keeps getting better, and the views that strike me continue to change. It could be the countless waterfalls, the rock formations, the icebergs, the glaciers, wildlife or clouds. Tracy Arm has it all, and shows off more of its stunning beauty with each visit.