After our recent journey to Juneau, Alaska, there have been some ongoing feelings I have had that I wanted to get out on a blog. The whole time we were there we kept telling ourselves that this is “the last frontier” and at many times throughout the week we felt just that. What has been ongoing for me has been the intimate look we had at the local glaciers.
For me, when I first learned about glaciers in uni, my professor described them as these living things. They change in size, make all sorts of noises and have a profound impact on their surrounding areas. It is an amazingly beautiful thing the way they can sculpt a landscape, slicing through the earth in order to move back and forth like a slow moving snake. They change with the seasons and during ice ages have surged to grow to a point where they covered 32% of the earth (today just 10%)!
If you have followed our social media at all, you saw that we had the opportunity to take a 2 day 1 night kayaking trip to Tracy Arm Fjord, which is just 30 miles south of Juneau. We took a boat from Juneau and once we got to the entrance of the fjord we began to see some truly gigantic icebergs and we knew we were in for some sights we hadn’t experienced before. After slowly making our way through the fjord we were dropped off at South Sawyer glacier with nothing but our kayaks and camping gear. From there, we paddled around the icebergs, watched as the last tour boats left us and started to see and hear the power of the glaciers.
It was at this time that I started to notice this eery feeling that has been on my mind since. Perhaps it is because that professor described glaciers as these living things to me, but as we watched gigantic walls of ice falling (glacial calving), I couldn’t help but feel as though I was witnessing something ancient and amazing, slowly dying. Once you add the noise the glacier made when it cracked that sounded like achy groans, it really took it’s effects on me.
Our friend (and guide that trip) Matt, who had been on a couple previous kayak trips to the fjord, told us that the amount of glacial recession he has seen in the last few years is so vast that it always surprises him. He had been there around 10 months earlier and since then a beach the size of a football field had shown up adjacent to the north glacier. It is almost to the point that during winter, that glacier will no longer expand to reach out across the ocean waters and will remain over land all year.
This type of glacial receding is happening all over the world. Giant shelves of ice in Antarctica are on the verge of falling and these massive additions to the oceans are going to start to have major impacts on the levels of the sea water. I know that there are arguments for climate change on both sides and from what I have learned, I know that the earth has warmed up like this in the past. I do not want to try and change your mind about your beliefs. What I do want to say is that to think that the effects of human impact on this planet are so minimal that we can’t make a difference, is just irresponsible. Why not error on the side of caution? We only have one planet and all the tiny and profound things that needed to happen in order to make this planet as amazing and habitable as it is are truly an act by something greater than us. Be that God or Mother Nature or science, who knows.
So the next time you are leaving the house, make sure all the lights are off. If you’re walking the dog, bring along an extra bag and pick up some litter along the way. Try to think about what you can do personally to have a little less impact because we only have one shot at this. I’m not sure that those glaciers are receding so dramatically because of natural causes or more so because of human impact. I would guess that it lies somewhere in the middle. What I do know is what I heard and felt while experiencing my time in the area and I will continue to do better to leave less of an impact on this small world of ours.