Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Glaciers in the Mist

To understand why I woke up at 5:45, you need to first know that last night, as I got ready for bed, I discovered the toilet wouldn’t flush.  Dad was already asleep, so I decided to get it repaired in the morning.  Of course, I had tried repeatedly to flush it so it was little fuller than normal.

The problem was I kept wondering, what if I come down with Norovirus and have a toilet that won’t flush.  When I woke up at 5:45, I hoped that perhaps the toilet had fixed itself (it does happen), but no, it still didn’t flush, and my efforts had only increased the water level in the bowl.  I forced myself back to sleep, but at 6:30 I woke up again and then there was nothing else to do but get up and shower. 

I went to the Front Office to let them know they needed to repair it, but asked that they wait until 8 am, when my dad and I would be at breakfast.  In fact, they snaked it while he was still in bed.  I don’t think it was the first time they had a problem with this commode: I noticed lots of scrape marks at the bottom of the bowl.

The weather forecast provided by the ship for today was “chance of rain.”  This was clearly an equivocation, since the “chance” was 100%.  The sky was grey, with low-hanging clouds, and rain streaking the windows.   We had a window seat at breakfast, but I could barely make out there were mountains next to the sea.  After breakfast, I went out on deck, hoping to make out the sides of Glacier Bay, which we had already entered.  My photos are mostly studies in different shades of grey:  the bluish grey water, the greenish-grey cliffs, and the white grey clouds, and the dark grey sky.

At the park ranger briefing, he told us that the glaciers generate their own microclimates, so that we would likely have good views when we reached them.  After a video presentation of the bay, he spoke.  He clearly had a shtick and a message, which he communicated at each point of his story.  That message was about the importance of what he called “residency.”  This was when you stopped be a visitor to a place and lived in harmony with it.  His talk was followed by Bertha, a native Tlingit Indian who spoke about the history and culture of the people who call this place home.  I skipped it to go outside and see more of the bay, but dad absolutely loved it, as did our dinner tablemates, Joy and Morris.

Outside, I shivered in the cold, so I went back to my cabin for my scarf and camera (I already had my windbreaker).  I did spot several otters playing in the water, but they dove under the surface before they were close enough to photograph.  Dad had recommended the Dutch Pea Soup they served on deck, but I arrived 10 minutes too late.  I went up to the Lido deck and got a bowl there.

As we approached Gloomy Knob (seriously, that’s the name of the mountain), we could make out the tall cliffs, which were dramatically draped with fingers of fog and mist.  We were close enough to make out the white birds near shore, and the occasional thin waterfall.  Then the fog closed in, cutting off our views of nearly everything.  I knew it was time to abandon my watch when we heard the fog horn going off.

I met dad for lunch at noon, and we went back to the Lido Buffet and sat where we could keep on eye out for any improvement in the weather.  By the end of lunch, we had reached a point where we were nearing the top of Glacier Bay.  The fog had begun to lift and we could see another cruise ship turning left to see a glacier while we headed straight ahead to go to the Margerie Glacier.  I convinced dad to venture outside on the Lido’s stern with me, but it was drizzling, so we headed to the Lower Promenade Deck, which has a covered exterior walkway.

Dad had found a blanket and wrapped it around his head making him look like a nineteenth-century immigrant.  We eventually reached the glacier and the ship’s speed slowed to a crawl and we gently moved past it.  Dad said he didn’t think a ship could move that slow.  As the national park ranger had said, the fog around the glacier had lifted and we had a very good view of it.  I took many, many pictures, but after I put all my cameras away, we heard an enormous crack and the glacier calved.  Of course, there was no way to get a picture, but it was quite impressive.  After over a half an hour, the ship slowly turned and made its way back to where we had seen that earlier ship.

Here we went past two glaciers:  the very blue Lamplough Glacier and the large John Hopkins Glacier.  We couldn’t approach close to the latter because the seals are using it as a nursery and its full of pups.  Ships can only come into the inlet in September when they move on.  Still, the view was quite dramatic.  As with the earlier glacier, the fog had lifted, and we could make out the snow and ice fields feeding the glacier.  Small streams and waterfalls descended the cliffs of the inlet and the water was a murky glacial blue.

The Lamplough Glacier was rather dirty on one side due to a landslide a few years ago, which covered part of the glacier with earth.  This is a tidewater glacier, in which its shelf is visible in low tide (such as what we saw). We saw some crazy kayakers up close to the glacier.

As we pulled away, this seemed like a good time for afternoon tea, so at 3 pm, we went up.  I think there were twice as many people there today as yesterday.  Dad got his herbal tea, but only wanted scones to eat.  Unfortunately, scones are the last thing they serve.  First we get the savory items (twice), then the sweet items (thrice), and only after our tea had gone cold did they finally come around with the scones.  Thankfully, we got refreshed with hot water.  Dad wanted two raisin scones, but the server kept wanting to give him plain ones (to be fair, they were on the raisin side).  Dad stood his ground and got what he wanted. 

At dinner tonight, we met the other couple assigned to our table:  Dorothy and Dick from a small town near Kansas City, Missouri (where they run a B & B).  We had a very nice conversation with them and Joy and Morris.   We had a good balance of talking and listening, and everyone seemed to enjoy ourselves.  We only left when we started to make the restaurant staff nervous that they might not have time to clean our table for the next seating.

Dad was very excited that tonight was the comedian.  He is Lee Bayless, who specializes in “clean, family friendly comedy.”  Dad loved him.  One guy about three rows in front of us, looked as if he were going to fall out of his chair.  I found him only amusing, but everyone’s sense of comedy is different.

Afterwards, as we walked back, I noticed the ship’s art gallery is having a sale today on the work of Thomas Kinkade.  Last week at the workshop I ran I made reference to kitsch.  Someone asked what the word means, and I mentioned the (unhelpful) definition “that it is the principle of evil in art.”  In actuality, it is cheap sentimentality, unreflective art that is meant to appeal directly to the emotions while bypassing reason or thought.  “Dogs Playing Poker,” if hung unironically, is low kitsch.  Thomas Kinkade is high kitsch.

Tomorrow is our first port day.  I’m hoping to have better internet access when I’m on shore.

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