Mary Cook: Day 9 at Sea, March 27, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Sunday, March 27, 2016 (Easter)
Time: 9:56 am

Data from the Bridge
Temperature:
37.0°F
Pressure: 1012 millibars
Speed: 1.2 knots
Location: N 58°49.516’, W 136°32.367’

Science and History Log

I have found the National Park Service’s brochure to be very interesting and would like to share some of this information with you.

The following information has been quoted from the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve brochure.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is located in Southeast Alaska about 65 miles west of the state’s capitol city of Juneau. It is comprised of 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, forests and waterways. The highest mountain is Mount Fairweather at 15,300 feet. Accessible only by plane or boat, Glacier Bay serves as a home for a multitude of wildlife including grizzlies and black bear, moose, birds, mountain goats, sea lions, otters, orca, and humpback whales. Glacier Bay is a highlight of the Inside Passage and a destination for kayakers, hikers, campers, as well as cruise ship passengers.

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Just 250 years ago, Glacier Bay was all glacier and no bay. A massive river of ice, roughly 100 miles long and thousands of feet deep, occupied the entire bay. Today that glacier is gone. There are hundreds of smaller glaciers dotting the landscape, tucked into mountain valleys, including about a dozen tidewater glaciers situated at the heads of their inlets.

Tidewater Glacier

An example of a tidewater glacier

Tlingit Totem

Tlingit Totem

Contrary to what you might think, Glacier Bay is a land of rapid change. In the 1600’s-1700’s, the Huna Tlingit lived in the valley in front the big glacier. By 1750, the glacier had reached its maximum and dislocated the people from their homes. Captain George Vancouver sailed there in 1795 finding the glacier melted back five miles into the Bay. In 1879, conservationist John Muir traveled there and the glacier had retreated 40 more miles up the bay. Today you must travel 65 miles up the bay to view tidewater glaciers. You might it interesting that some glaciers are retreating here, and others are advancing.

 

Personal Log

What a blessing it is to explore Glacier Bay with a group of scientists who want to better understand the climate and interconnectedness of life on Earth. It seems there are glaciers at every turn! And surprisingly, it’s not as cold as I expected. Most days the temperature has been above freezing. Yesterday was the first day I’d seen it snow in the Bay. The snowflakes were big and wet plopping into the blue-green waters– very beautiful sight to see.

Snow Falling

Snowfall in Glacier Bay

Wildlife viewing has also been great fun. We’ve seen lots of bald eagles, seabirds and mountain goats. I spent about an hour watching a group of goats maneuver their way up and down steep slopes one morning. Amazing animals in their own right. A few humpback whales were spotted near the mouth of the Bay as they are just beginning their return migration. More elusive have been the smaller Orca whales. The divers have gotten to see even more amazing wildlife below the surface. I’m so glad they take cameras with them so they can share it with those of us confined to the ship.

Glacier Bay National Park–truly a treasure to protect for future generations.

Mary and sign

Mary Cook: Day 7, March 25, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Friday, March 25, 2016
Time: 6:49 pm

Data from the Bridge
Temperature:
35.1°F
Pressure: 1012 millibars
Speed: 0.2 knots
Location: N 58°52.509’, W 137°04.299’

Science Log

Last night we headed out to open-sea and the waters got a bit rougher. I felt queasy so I took seasick meds and went to sleep. We steamed ahead to open sea and arrived to the site for our ROV dive. But the ROV dive didn’t occur due to a mechanical problem with the ship’s engine, so we headed back into the Bay on toward Johns Hopkins glacier for another round of sampling. Today was a very good day for many of the scientists to get a much-needed rest. The ship’s labs were quiet as we traveled back to the glacier. The ship’s crew on the other hand did not get a break. The ship must still be piloted. The galley work continued with meal preparation. The engine room and all of the ship’s operations were still in working mode.

Once we arrived at Johns Hopkins glacier, the ROV proceedings for the night began. It didn’t take long to find Primnoa pacifica! Samples were being carefully taken and put into quivers until resurfacing in the morning.

ROV Quivers for Samples

ROV samples stored in quivers overnight

 

There are all sorts of other important work that’s occurring in addition to coral collection. One of those is water sampling.

Amanda water sample

Amanda filters water samples

Scientist/Diver Amanda Kelley helps with filtering seawater collected in a Niskin bottle attached to the ROV Kraken. The Niskin bottle has plugs at both ends that are propped open to allow it to fill with water. When the plugs are tripped, the water at a certain depth is collected and sealed so that no other water will enter that sample.

Niskin bottle demo

Dann Blackwood demonstrates Niskin bottle mechanics

Filtering the water sample will help determine the concentration of particulate organic matter in a given amount of seawater at the same location of the Primnoa pacifica being collected. Scientists are trying to determine if the corals derive their food from the particulate organic matter or chemosynthetic sources. The filtered matter will be used to assess for the presence of nitrogen and carbon isotopes helping the scientists better understand the nutritional pathways of the coral ecosystem within Glacier Bay.

The scientists are measuring as many environmental variables as possible and hoping to link these to the health of the coral in Glacier Bay.

Accurate record keeping is of the utmost importance!
Oh my goodness! There are backups to the backups!

Kathy recording data

Kathy records data and checks the logbooks

Geologist Kathy Scanlon shares that she is putting geographic position data into a Geographic Information System (GIS), a digital mapping system, along with the other data collected such as diver comments and coral samples.

Kathy and GIS

Kathy records data in the Geographic Information System (GIS)

In a nutshell, it’s a way to organize data based on geographic location. In the process of gleaning this information, she says it’s also a great way of double-checking the record keeping for any inconsistencies. Another backup to the backups!
Some of the data points being recorded and re-recorded are date, time, site, depth, species, several reference numbers, and diver’s comments.

In addition to samples of Primnoa pacifica being collected, the divers are gathering samples of other organisms for documentation. These scientist divers are looking for something new—something they don’t recognize—possibly a new species or an extension of a known species location. When they surface with something unusual to them, the excitement is palpable! Everyone on the ship wants to see what’s new!

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Personal Blog

Today I’ve been a bit groggy because seasick meds make me sleepy, but I was glad to avoid the “5-star barfing” as one person described their seasick experience.

I’m so impressed with the enthusiasm for education amongst the people involved with this scientific cruise. Yesterday, I met several people at Bartlett Cove who were reading my blog and keeping up with this research cruise. All the scientists and crew onboard the Norseman II are willing and eager to answer any of my questions.

I got an email from a co-worker, Holly, one of Scammon Bay’s English teachers! She told me that she shared my blog with two of her classes and used it as a journaling prompt. Also, our principal Melissa Rivers, is sharing photos and facts with the entire school on a monitor in the Commons. I so appreciate the enthusiasm from my co-workers and their willingness to help our students learn about this cutting-edge research being done in Alaska. What a wonderful opportunity to learn and expand our horizons together!
Thanks again for your support and interest!

Where’s Qanuk?

Mary Cook: Day 3 at Sea, March 21, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Monday, March 21, 2016
Time: 7:54pm

Data from the Bridge
Temperature:
45.7°F
Pressure: 1007 millibars
Speed: 1.9 knots
Location: N 58°51.280’: W136°05.795’

Science Log

My Lab Work large

My lab work: a tray of Primnoa pacifica samples labeled and preserved for reproductive studies

Today, the coral processing continued for genetic, isotope, and reproductive studies, which has been very intensive for the last two days and nights. During the daylight hours, the divers collected samples of the coral in shallow water (30 meters) and during the nighttime hours ROV Kraken 2 collected the coral samples from the deep (210 meters).

Chief Scientist Rhian Waller tells me that the coral processing work will slow down for a few days because we are leaving the known sampling sites and heading into the unknown. Unknown territory for Primnoa pacifica, that is.

According to Rhian, the most important task today has been the completion of this collection series for Primnoa pacifica (Red Tree Coral). With both shallow and deep samples, geneticist Cheryl Morrison will be able to map the spreading patterns of the Red Tree Coral in Glacier Bay!

There were a total of four exploratory dives today. The divers are having a blast! They wore GoPro cameras on their helmets and used “underwater scooters” to go faster and farther during their dive time constraints. A scooter is a handheld engine with a propeller that pulls a diver behind it. Bob Stone describes it to be like sledding underwater!

In addition to the Red Tree Coral, they’ve brought up some really interesting specimens, which include sea stars, nudibranchs, shrimps-one very pregnant shrimp loaded with eggs, a polychaete worm, a bioluminescent ctenophore, sea pens, and sponges.

On one of the dive outings, they took Qanuk and sat him on an iceberg! It was a really beautiful blue iceberg. Blue icebergs have ice crystals that are more tightly packed therefore they reflect more blue light wavelengths than other colors of wavelengths.

Qanuk Sitting on Iceberg large

This evening, scientists are once again gathered around the monitor to see what the ROV Kraken 2 will discover. So far, we’ve seen crabs, goose barnacles feeding on plankton floating in the water, anemones, poacher sturgeon, sea cucumbers and moon snails. Sounds like a yummy salad, doesn’t it?

Personal Log

Today everyone settled into their jobs and it was a smooth operation. The scientists and crew are still brimming with excitement about the possibilities for this voyage. I was glad to get the intensive coral processing completed. Though it’s very important work, it’s tedious and repetitive. One very nice bi-product of working with the coral is the scent. Red Tree Coral smell like cucumbers! Also, we get to see all the other curious types of samples brought aboard such as glowing ctenophores and jumping shrimp! I’m getting to see so many things I’ve never seen before and it’s wonderful to have experts help explain everything. They are genuinely interested in sharing knowledge with me in hopes that I will take it back to the classroom for my students in Scammon Bay. Scammon Bay kids have become important to these world-class scientists! Another cool thing about these scientists, even though they are experts in their fields, they are also eager students for learning something new. Enthusiastic lifelong learners— what an inspiration!

All in all, it’s been a good day in Glacier Bay.

 

Mary Cook: Day 2 at Sea, March 20, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Sunday, March 20, 2016
Time: 6:00pm

Data from the Bridge
Temperature:
38°F
Pressure: 1005 millibars
Speed: 0.3 knots
Location: N 59°02.491’ , W136°11.193’
Weather: Sunny with a few clouds

Science Log

Happy First Day of Spring!

Last night the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Kraken2 dove and collected many samples of Primnoa pacifica (Red Tree Coral). The science crew excitedly gathered around the monitor to see what Kraken2 was “seeing”-lots of rocks, a few fish, a few shrimp, a few crabs, a couple of sponges, an octopus and lots of beautiful Red Tree Coral attached to the rock faces.

The ROV Kraken2 is run by a crew of engineers from the University of Connecticut and makes nighttime dives to deeper depths between 130 and 170 meters.

Today we busily processed the coral for genetics, isotopes, and reproduction studies to be conducted later by a series of scientists in various labs scattered across several states.

 

For the genetic samples, polyps (one individual) of coral are smashed onto special paper folders that contain a preservative. For the isotope samples, polyps are put into tiny vials then frozen. For the reproductive samples, an intact piece of coral is placed in a 15-milliliter tube and then submerged into formalin preservative. Later the formalin will be poured out and ethanol will be poured into the tubes. Preparing the reproductive samples is my job!

Three divers went down four different times collecting samples, all near White Thunder Ridge and Riggs Glacier in the eastern arm of Glacier Bay.

Riggs Glacier is showing numerous crevasses, which are usually snow-covered at this time of year. A crevasse is a big crack on the topside of the glacier.

As the evening approached, the ship steamed to the northernmost end of the East Arm where Muir Glacier was waiting to greet us. Muir Glacier is named for Naturalist John Muir who explored in Glacier Bay during the late 1800’s.

Muir Glacier was once a tidewater glacier at the water’s edge but in the last ten years has melted and receded back up into the valley.

The sky was clear and the snow-capped mountains and waterfalls were beautifully reflected in the still waters of the Bay. A gibbous moon rose over the mountain peaks just as the Sun was setting.

Personal Log

Today I learned how to process the samples for genetics, isotopes, and reproduction. My responsibility was to put a small branch of coral into a tube of Formalin. Labeling the tubes with place, depth, and species is important so the scientists as they begin working in the laboratory weeks later will know the source of the coral sample.

The Norseman ll as seen from the RHIB leaving for a dive outing

R/V Norseman II as seen from the RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) leaving for a dive outing

As we worked, Chief Scientist Rhian Waller came into the wet lab asking if anyone wanted to ride in the skiff, my heart started beating faster! I didn’t want to be pushy so I kept quiet. Then she said, “Mary would you like to go out on the skiff?” “Yes! I loved to go!” was my reply. I donned the Mustang suit, hardhat, and rubber boots. I grabbed Qanuk and went outside to load into the little RHIB, which had been lowered from the deck on to the water beside the ship’s hull. When everyone was ready, we motored closer to White Thunder Ridge. The diver’s entered the water and explored the region at about 70 feet deep. Meanwhile we waited for them and kept a watch on their bubbles rising to the surface. We used binoculars and viewed five fluffy mountain goats moving along the Ridge! It was cool to see the mountain goats but they were creating a “falling rocks” hazard for those of us down below. Our boat driver decided to move the RHIB away from the Ridge in order to avoid the rocks tumbling down into the water.

Later in the day, when the Norseman II got closer to Muir Glacier, almost everyone was on deck getting that perfect photo of the mountains reflected in the mirror-like waters of Glacier Bay. It was a remarkable scene!

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So at the end a good day, I am feeling very thankful to be a witness to the scientific work in an effort to better understand this pristine wilderness.

Mary Cook: My First Day at Sea! March 19, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Saturday, March 19, 2016
Time: 8:28pm

Weather Data from the Bridge
Temperature:
38°F
Pressure:
1013 millibars
Speed:
0.2 knots
Location:
N59° 01.607’, W136° 10.159’
Weather Conditions:
Intermittent light rain

Science Blog
Before the Norseman II left port, the Boatswain conducted all the required ship safety drills with us: fire drill, man overboard, and abandon ship. This is where we learned to don the emergency flotation suit, gathered at the Muster Station for roll call, and went over procedures in case of an emergency. These drills are taken very seriously.

Ranger Greg is a good sport

We left the port of Auke Bay just north of Juneau at around 10 pm Friday night and steamed into Glacier Bay to arrive at Bartlett Cove this morning at 9 am. We disembarked to attend a required safety orientation for Glacier Bay National Park. Ranger Greg informed us that he had recently seen 4 humpback whales headed into the Bay! Also, that orca live in the Bay year round. Many of the channels are ice-free now because it is warmer than usual for this time of year.

After the brief stop at Bartlett Cove, we steamed into the East Arm of Glacier Bay toward White Thunder Ridge. Many of us were on deck with binoculars looking for wildlife and enjoying the scenic snow-capped mountains. We saw birds, otters, moose and mountain goats!

 

Chief Scientist Dr. Waller conducts science meeting

While en route, Chief Scientist Dr. Rhian Waller conducted a science meeting reviewing the purpose and plans for the cruise, which is to explore, collect samples and data on the presence and emergence of Primnoa pacifica in Glacier Bay. Primnoa pacifica is commonly called Red Tree Coral. NOAA’s Dr. Bob Stone, who first pursued collecting data on the Red Tree Coral in Glacier Bay back in 2004, is working on this expedition. Other than Bob’s documentation, the Primnoa pacifica of Glacier Bay, Alaska is a mystery.

Two dives were conducted below the steep incline of White Thunder Ridge. The divers got into their dry suits, reviewed their plans on how to communicate and collect samples underwater, and then boarded the little boat called a RHIB (rigid-hull inflatable boat). They returned to Bob’s old spot and dove about 72 feet down for sample collection. The dive took about 30 minutes and when they returned with samples, we began processing each one.

The Primnoa samples will be assessed for three different things: genetics, isotopes, and reproduction. The genetic fingerprints will be useful in determining the generational spreading pattern of the Red Tree Coral in Glacier Bay. The isotopes will aid in understanding what they eat and their place in the food web. The reproduction assessments will identify sex and level of maturity. An interesting observation is that Primnoa pacifica is one of the first corals to seed newly exposed rock faces when glaciers recede. Bob estimates that the tallest of these coral are about 40 years old because that is when the glacier receded past this point. Using that fact, he also calculates their growth rate to be about 2 centimeters per year.

 

Tonight, the ROV Kraken 2 will be deployed in order to explore deep depths for the presence of the Red Tree Coral. ROV means remotely operated vehicle. More on that tomorrow!

Kraken 2 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

Personal Blog
I must say it is a pleasure to be aboard the Norseman II with such enthusiastic scientists and crew. The atmosphere on the ship is one of anticipation and this is how I imagine the early explorers of Glacier Bay must have felt. Rhian, our Chief Scientist, described this expedition as exploratory in nature. I’ve always dreamed of being an explorer and now I get to watch some real explorers in action! These guys and gals have done so many cool things like study life in Antarctica, map uncharted territory, design and build new equipment, and travel to the deep ocean in the Alvin submersible. I am so thankful that they are excited to be a part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program and share with our students in Scammon Bay and beyond. I’ve enjoyed listening as they brainstorm ways to use our eagle mascot, Qanuk, to engage young people in real science and exploration.

So, as I call it a day, I’d like to congratulate our Scammon Bay Lady Eagles who become the Class 1A Alaska State Champions today! Go Eagles! I’m so proud of both our boys and girls teams and their coaches. They’ve worked hard, played smart and represented our community with dignity and respect.
Good night…..

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Mary Cook: From Scammon Bay to Glacier Bay! March 17, 2016

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Thursday, March 17, 2016

Introduction

Hello!  My name is Mary Cook and I’m a science teacher in Scammon Bay, Alaska. Scammon Bay is a cozy little Yupik village nestled at the base of the Askinuk Mountains on the edge of the vast frozen tundra where the Kun River meets the Bering Sea. We live in what many people call Bush Alaska. It’s remote. We have no roads connecting our village to other places. Everything comes and goes mostly by small Bush planes. Barges bring supplies in the warmer months. We get around locally by snow-go, 4-wheeler, or boat.

map of ak

Map of Alaska showing Scammon Bay

school entrance

Entrance to Scammon Bay School

The Yupik Eskimo of Scammon Bay are traditionally fishers, bird hunters and trappers. Moose have also become an important food source over the last 20 years or so. Today they continue with this subsistence lifestyle blended with more modern conveniences such as cell phones and running water.

My students, co-workers and I are so excited to be involved with the NOAA Teacher at Sea program! Our school has been abuzz with preparations over the last few weeks.

Congratulations to our 4th graders for making a fantastic banner to take aboard the Research Vessel Norseman II! Also, thanks to many students who submitted names for our eagle mascot.

 

cook poster

Scammon Bay 4th Graders with Vice Principal Harley Sundown (L), TAS Mary Cook, Principal Melissa Rivers, and 4th Grade Teacher Michele Benisek (R)

Drum roll……His name is Qanuk! (Qanuk means snowflake in the Yupik language.) I anticipate that he will make some mystery appearances around the ship in the coming days.

TAS Mary Cook styrofoam cups

Stryofoam Cups decorated by Scammon Bay students

We have decorated and signed lots of Styrofoam cups to be sent to the bottom of the Bay. We are very curious about what will happen to our cups as they descend into the depths! We also can’t wait to find out more about the secrets of the Red Tree Coral, which is the focus of the research for this voyage into Glacier Bay.

Wednesday, I left my students in Scammon Bay as I boarded the small bush plane headed for Bethel. Then flew from Bethel to Anchorage and from Anchorage on to Juneau. It was a long day of flying and waiting and flying and waiting. But the late night flight into Juneau was worth it when, as we rose above the snow clouds, I peered out the window to see a magnificent aurora glowing in the sky!

 

Yesterday I had a little bit of time to get out and see the sights of Juneau. My favorite was the Mendenhall Glacier. Wow! So beautiful and powerfully majestic in all its frozen splendor. In addition to the glacier, there are bald eagles perched in treetops all around town.

 

Last night I met many of the science crew and a few of the ship’s crew. What a positive and exciting group of people. Even they are excited about being part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program!

This is going to be fun—-and educational.

Don’t you just love that combination?
Fun and educational.

Today we load the ship.
Tomorrow we sail away into the Bay.

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Susan Smith, June 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Smith
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 1-12, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical area of cruise: Trocadero Bay, Alaska; 55°20.990’ N, 33°00.677’ W
Date: June 11, 2009

Weather at 9:45 AM 
Temperature: Dry Bulb:  7.8°C (46°F);  Wet Bulb: 6.7° (44°F)
Cloudcover: OVC
Visibility:  10+ nautical miles
Wind direction: 285, 7 kts.
Sea Wave Height: -0
Sea water temperature: 8.3°C (41°F)

Margerie Glacier

Margerie Glacier

Science and Technology Log 

Today’s log is an accounting of our voyage up Glacier Bay to the Margerie Glacier. Along the way we received information about Glacier Bay from Lewis, the National Parks Service employee whose assistance we enlisted. At approximately 5:30 AM Lewis came on board. He was delivered by boat in the Sitakaday Narrows, near Bartlett Cove. We actually entered Glacier Bay a few hours later. Our destination- Margerie Glacier,at the border of the United States and Canada.

 

Reid Glacier, south of Tarr Inlet

Reid Glacier, south of Tarr Inlet

Margerie Glacier’s height is 250 feet. The glacier also extends another 100 feet below the water line. The Statue of Liberty is 307 feet tall by comparison. The Reid Glacier, south of the Tarr Inlet, is 150 above the waterline and is ••• mile across. It is the fastest moving Tidewater glacier, moving at approximately 8 feet per day. A Tidewater glacier is defined as “a glacier that terminates in the sea, where it usually ends in an ice cliff from which icebergs are discharged”.

Questions of the Day:

  1.  Why does the ice look blue? The ice in the glacier absorbs shorter red and green wavelengths.
  2.  Why is part of the glacier black? Rocky debris mixes in with the ice.
  3.  Why are the edges jagged? Because glaciers advance and recede constantly they leave jagged patterns on the ice edges.

I took several photographs through the Flying Bridge’s high powered binoculars, or “Bug Eyes”. As you can see the crevices are very deep and unstable, causing the ice to break off and drop into the water. Ice breaking away from a glacier is called calving.  

Interesting patterns as seen through the high powered binoculars

Interesting patterns as seen through the high powered binoculars

Top of the glacier

Top of the glacier

Black debris covers part of the glacier

Black debris covers part of the glacier

Lewis explained several interesting historical things to us.

  • John Muir traveled this area in 1879, by canoe, giving vivid descriptions of what he had encountered. This opened up tourism like never before.
  • In 1925 President Coolidge, by presidential order, declared this area as Glacier Bay National Monument. It wasn’t until 1980 that it became Glacier Bay National Park.
  • In the 1990’s it was officially recognized as a UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. Each World Heritage Site is the property of the state on whose territory the site is located, but it is considered in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
  • Glacier Bay was covered with glaciers 100 years ago. When the glaciers receded they carved out the bay as we know it today.
Margerie Glacier with calving splash

Margerie Glacier with calving splash

Glacier Bay National Park has 3.3 million acres of land, with a park shoreline of 1,000 miles in the bay proper. Outside of the official boundary the waters three miles out cover another 300 miles. (When the Grand Pacific Glacier receded into Canada’s land area the Canadians jokingly stated they should build a deep water port because now the water was on their side of the border) 

Park Regulations: No more than two cruise ships may enter the park per day. This provides less disturbance on the wildlife and environment. The park director may mandate a speed limit of 10 knots, depending on whale proximity.

Recreation 

  • There are no trails in the backcountry.
  • Geikie Inlet is a kayaker’s haven
  • There are five areas of wilderness waters, four of which are closed to motorized traffic and sea planes during the summer, and one area with two sections, each closed half of the summer.

1. Beardslee Islands- forested with 200 year old trees

2. Adam’s Inlet- young, flat area with moose, wolves, bears

3. Rendu Inlet- raw and exposed area, not protected

4. Hugh Miller complex- including Scidmore Bay and Charpentier Inlet, west of                the wilderness boundary at the mouth of the Hugh Miller Inlet.

5. Upper Muir and Wachusett Inlets- a. Muir, a large and exposed area, is closed from June 1-15; and b. Wachusett is closed July 16-August 31

Grand Pacific Glacier, brown area

Launch up close with the glacier

Research Projects-There are many research projects going on in Glacier Bay National Park. Academic research is continually being done by universities. There are long term weather stations set up within the park and 24 CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) stations to check. Three specific populations being studied are the brown bears, whales, and birds. These populations are being monitored to determine the extent they are affected by motor vessels, tourism, and land management. There is also huge research (approximately 40 projects each summer) on plant succession. Simply by the multitude of research projects occurring you can easily see why Glacier Bay National Park is known as a research park.  For more photographs and information, go here.

Grand Pacific Glacier- The mountains are Canadian.

Grand Pacific Glacier- The mountains are Canadian.

Teacher at Sea Experience Summary 

This trip has given me such insight on all the work done to insure the safety of all who utilize Alaska’s waterways. Before coming on board I had no idea of the volume of intricate data which must be collected and processed to make navigational charts. I had no knowledge of how a NOAA ship as large as Rainier operates and the myriad of jobs necessary to make it all run smoothly. After 11 days on the Rainier I can honestly say there is no other ship I would have enjoyed being on more- the hospitality shown me from day one was remarkable, the patience required to answer the same questions over and over was stellar, I got to take the helm, and I learned more science and nautical vocabulary than even I anticipated.  Thank you, NOAA, for this opportunity and thank you, the people of Rainier S-221, who allowed me to spend part of my summer vacation living and working with you. Bravo Zulu!

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