What Is Happening To Our Glaciers?


Those who have explored the Alaskan coast report seeing changes over the years. Glaciers are retreating back past anything seen before.

When Patrick and Heather Hill sailed north in 1978, then again 2012 and 2015, they went despite the warning published in Alaskan Pilot: “The Aleutian Low looms over the North Pacific as a climatic warning to mariners navigating the Alaskan waters… Sustained winds may reach 60 to 70 knots… [with] extreme wave heights of 60 to 70 feet.”

Braving the potential weather issues, they found that, for instance, the Hubbard Glacier at Yakutat Bay used to cover the whole bay in the 12th Century. It has retreated to considerable extent, so that in recent times it separated into several smaller glaciers around the land bordering Canada and Alaska. Any further retreat could open an access to the sea for Canada at that point.

In addition to seeing the glaciation that had occurred over time, Patrick and Heather both felt and viewed earthquake damage. They were cruising leisurely around Prince William Sound, when they heard “a rumbling throughout the boat… A very alarmed crew, also realising it was an earthquake, erupted into the cockpit wondering what might happen next… Heather’s reaction was, ‘We should watch if the sea level is dropping.'” That would have been an indication that a tsunami was approaching, which would have tossed the boat onto the shore.

It didn’t. The earthquake was measured at 6.4, having done some damage to their next port of call, Valdez.

The combination of dramatic storms, calving glaciers and earthquakes made the Alaska trip full of present-day adventure and wonder at the past events that have shaped the coast.

Their book is available here: “Explore the Alaskan Coast”

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