As we sail towards Glacier Bay, maybe we should have a word or two about glaciers?
Some folk describe them as ‘a river of ice’, and, in essence, that’s just what they are. It starts with a snowfall, back in the Year Dot. If that snow doesn’t melt, there’s another snowfall next year, which just lies on top of it. Repeat this process for a few thousand years, and the snow is compressed into ice. Just the same as if you squeezed a snowball really tightly, you’ll finish up with an iceball.
Slowly but surely, the ice heads off downhill until it reaches a level where it can melt; on the way, it carves out those great formations that mountain-goers and fjord enthusiasts love.
If it wasn’t for the action of glaciers, most of our mountains would just be boring, featureless hills.
Most glaciers are in retreat; at many of them, you’ll see photographs or pictures of how it used to look in bygone years. And, before anyone starts yelling ‘Global Warming’ … I’ll just say it’s a natural process that’s been going on since the last Ice Age, and will probably continue until the next one. If it wasn’t for that retreat, most of Northern Europe would still be under an ice sheet.
On this trip, we’ve already visited the Mendenhall Glacier and, if you can scroll back to 2013, the Svartisen Glacier in Norway. That’s the only one in mainland Europe that finds its way down to sea level.
Back in 1988, I actually walked on a glacier. That was on a Joint Services expedition to Norway’s Jordal Glacier. Officially, though, it was a ‘course’, because the ‘Whitehall Neddies’ don’t like the idea of the troops having fun at the taxpayer’s expense. So, very little time was spent just walking and admiring the view. Most of the time, we received ‘instruction’, mainly on how to get out of a crevasse, and how to get other people out of a crevasse.
Really, we only learnt one thing, if we didn’t know it already:
‘Don’t fall into crevasses!’