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Ocean Liner History and Stories from the Sea, Past and Present. With an In Depth focus on Holland America Line

29 May 2012; Glacier Bay, Alaska.

When we picked up the pilot at 07.45 we could already see that  it was going to be a wet day. The low cloud cover was too thick for it not to start shedding water sometime and indeed during the day it rained off and on. For Glacier Bay it is a blessing in disguise. At first look you think it is horrible to have a wet day like this, on the other hand this is the regular weather for the area and if you are here to see the Great Land in all its glory, then this is what you want. Thus we had a spectacular day in the bay and only the large amounts of ice made it hard for me to do what I like to do. Parking the ship in the perfect position for viewing the Glaciers. This time I had to stay further out as there were too many big pieces among the small stuff to make safe maneuvering possible.  I had to contend myself with staying at the rim of the icefield. You can see that they had a harsh winter here as the output of ice is much larger. Normally the ice cubes are melting much faster and most of the ice that has accumulated during the winter has already floated away. Now that process is only just starting and that means that John Hopkins Inlet cannot be reached at all at the moment. We even had issues with getting close to Lamplugh glacier. The Hopkins outflow also forced me there to stay double the distance away.  For the viewing it does not make that much of a difference. Everything is so immense in scale that you always get a good view. But if you are closer you can hear the glacier’s noises and further out that does not always work.  But the glacier calved a few times and thus all was well in the world.

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Nature Conservation is paying off. Seeing Bald Eagles was a novelty 30 years ago. Now it has become a common sight in Glacier Bay.

Glacier Bay National Park is putting more and more effort in the explanation and interpretation of what Glacier Bay is. When I started 30 years ago, we were lucky if we got two Rangers on board, most of the time it was one. She would do the narration, the lecture and walk the decks. Later on two became standard and the 2nd ranger acted as a sort of a walking Q & A centre for the guests on board. The ships then started to set up a dedicated location for them which in turn gave the Park Rangers the idea to bring books and maps on board.  In the meantime male rangers started to appear as well. (They might have been there from the beginning but apart from the Station Chief, I never saw one on board until well into the late 80’s). Right from the beginning the Rangers played a enormous role in educating  the travelling public about Nature Conservation in general and Glacier Bay in particular. 

The next step was the addition of a member of the local tribe (Huna Totem) who would explain about life in Glacier Bay. Then a few years ago, there was an experiment started with having  a wildlife spotter on board as it was an easy way to count the numbers and observe locations. This Marine Mammal Observer is now a fixed part of the group that comes on board. I have great respect for that person as it takes a lot of dedication to stand there in the rain and the cold wind, counting the wildlife. The last addition to the team is an expert on Alaska Geography who explains things about the surrounding area that encompasses Glacier Bay.


Transfering Rangers and Luggage from the Ranger boat Serac.

With this whole group comes a rather large amount of luggage in the form of a Range Finder and other electronics (for the mammal observer) and bags and bags full of books and maps for sale. Altogether the transfer from and to the Ranger boat has changed from a quick hop-on to a major transfer drill. All these things together make Glacier Bay a great place to visit and the major highlight on the cruise. Holland America has a close working cooperation with glacier Bay National Park and as the most senior cruise company visiting the bay is very active in supporting everything that is related to the Glacier Bay operation.



This time we were in the bay from 10.00 to 1900 hrs., spending the early afternoon in front of the Glacier as we shared the bay with one of our sister ships who had the morning slot. Today we had one novelty, a guest who decided to “run around glacier bay” and instead of being outside, he was on the treadmill all day. I got alerted to that because the Ocean Spa is right above the bridge and the thump-thump never ceased.  I suppose everybody has a goal in life and today he accomplished his one.

Tomorrow we will be in Haines. One of the most un-spoilt Alaskan towns, tucked away in the side of Lynn Canal. We are going to be early as the first tour will be leaving at 06.30. Highlights of Haines are (at least for me) the worldwide renowned Hammer Museum and the local Micro brewery.  We will have typical Alaska weather which means it will rain.


  1. When we first went to Glacier Bay the old Noordam lowered a life boat and brought back a large chunk of glacier ice that they set down by the Lido pool. When did this get changed ?

    • Good morning,

      This changed in the late 90’s. Picking up ice was considered a disturbance of the wildlife and the nature. We are still allowed, once a season with special permission from the Park Rangers, to lower a lifeboat for photo shoots.

      Thank you for reading my blog

      Capt. Albert

  2. Just a reminder that the Park Rangers are employees of the US government and paid for by US tax dollars. Much is returned by HAL and other ships who encourage the continued research, wildlife counting and other important things that are facilitated by being able to board the ship and use it as an observation platform. The funding for the Park Service to do their research aboard a government owned boat would be enormously expensive. It is a win-win situation, all benefit, especially the wildlife in Glacier Bay. I view it as world-wide cooperation for a common goal. HAL has lead the way in this sort of cooperation, is ever conscious that to work for the benefit of the area benefits us all. Sincerely, thank you!

  3. Good Morning Capt. Albert,

    I never knew that there was a Johns Hopkins Inlet and Glacier named in Alaska! (guess I need to come out from under my rock more often) Wow…that makes me proud being a native of Baltimore, Maryland. I mentioned this to my youngest daughter, who is an RN/Masters employed by JHH as part of their Organ Transplant Team. I think most JHH employees are very prould of their University and Healthcare System but they can be a little smug…her response was, ” oh yes, we are everywhere! ” LOL!

    Still, kudos to the Johns Hopkins University and Healthcare System– #1 in the world!!! (sorry, we healthcare folks can still get excited about this type of recognition)

    Thanks Capt. Albert for this enlightening fact about JHH and it’s Alaskian (sp?) connection.


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