Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cruise to Alaska Day 06: Hubbard Glacier

Although this day was an "at-sea" day, its highlight was to be over two hours spent at rest directly in front of the Hubbard Glacier, an extraordinarily active glacier that meets the ocean in an out-of-the way inlet. There's no road access to it, so it was a treat to be able to see it via the cruise ship.

But first, breakfast!
You will notice, I fear, that although I am still eating a large portion of healthy fresh produce, I have had to put that produce on a second plate to make way for my Official Breakfast Boyfriend of bacon, sauteed mushrooms, roasted tomato, and chocolate croissant. I have been working out extra hard since we got back, but it was worth it, my Buttery Chocolate Lover!
When we were finished, we FINALLY got to attend a presentation by our shipboard lecturer, Dr. John Kessler. His three lectures were scheduled for the final three days of our nine-day cruise, and after a while, every time I saw him, I was basically like, "OMG, when are you going to teach me something?!?"

I really like my learning!

John's lecture was, of course, freaking epic. He's an oceanographer whose interest is in the chemistry of the ocean; basically, as he tells it, he treats the entire ocean as a giant reacting flask, taking samples and studying the chemical processes that occur. He studies, in particular, the ways that biochemical reactions in seawater can create or dissipate greenhouse gasses. We learned about carbon reserves locked in the Alaskan permafrost, and methane hydrate fields that contain almost two times as much carbon as all current fossil fuels combined.

If you're an academic, you know that one of the things that you do when a fellow academic bro speaks is make damn sure that you've got some emergency questions to ask them. A lecturer's nightmare is to finish a presentation, ask, "Any questions?", and hear crickets. The only time that nobody has questions is if nobody paid attention. So just in case, you prep your own questions during their lecture--not softball ones, and just a couple, just enough so that you've got a back-and-forth and there aren't any crickets and the rest of the audience knows that *somebody* was riveted by that amazing lecture!

Anyway, you'll also know, then, that it's a testament to how seriously awesome John's lecture was that, like, everybody had a billion really cool questions for him afterwards. Like really. I had no idea that I was interested in the chemistry of the ocean, and now I'm all, "Dude, I wonder what's the melting point to warm up a methane hydrate field to release its methane?" Ooh, and does the methane have a liquid state, or does it go straight from solid to gas in the ocean?

I'm telling you--the chemistry of the ocean. Look it up.

Okay, and now that I've told you all the things about this really interesting lecture that I went to, here's a beautiful glacier to look at!

We passed through an ice field to get to the glacier, and it was studded with these gorgeous, huge icebergs. I did not over-saturate this image in post-processing--this is what this iceberg really looked like! So many colors of blue!
 Here's a view of the cruise ship kicking through that ice field:



And here's the Hubbard Glacier!

I couldn't even get the entire glacier in the camera frame, we were so close.
See all those different colors of blue and grey, and all the layers of dirt and rock and sediment? It's hard to believe that you're looking at four stories of glacier up there, and who knows how much below!



Hubbard Glacier is extremely active, and we were able to see it calve numerous times.
 If you listen carefully in the videos, you can hear thunderclaps every now and then. That's the sound of the glacier calving!



Although mostly we're all running around all over, the Hubbard Glacier proved to be a handy spontaneous meeting spot, and it turned into a party with a beautiful backdrop.
This is my favorite picture of us on our vacation, although as soon as she'd snapped it, a shipboard acquaintance who was taking it said, "Okay, now let's get one that's not silly."
We stayed on deck for the entire time that we were near the glacier, just soaking it in. You have to look at it with naked eyes to understand how big it is, but when you look at it through binoculars, you can take in all the intricate details that make it up.
We warmed up with wine and DVDs in our cabin for much of the rest of the afternoon, but that evening, we had a dinner with the other members of our university alumni travel group. One of the unanticipated pleasures of being without the kids in a space where everyone is without their kids is how the conversations don't revolve around kids! I now know more than I did about black bears and the Seattle Public Library, and I know what restaurant I'm going to eat dinner at the next time that I'm in Columbus, Indiana.

I also did not realize how long a single dinner can take when you're in a nice restaurant. Thanks to several courses (including my first beef tartare--I rate it "eh") and excellent conversation, dinner took something like THREE HOURS. We were barely in time to catch our cruise buddy Tim's piano concert!

Excuse the crappy quality of the photo, but it was really dark in there and I'd had some wine. Or champagne. Can't remember, but it was good, and the concert was amazing!
Not pictured: the IU flag that was hung on the ship in our honor that day, Matt's crouching death grip on the rails of Deck 10 because he's afraid of heights (which both amused people and made them feel sorry for him), the champagne that we were given and how Matt didn't knock out a lightbulb (this time) when he opened it, or my dinner, although I super wanted to take a picture of my beef tartare because it looked like dog food served in one of those Fancy Feast goblets.

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