Ice Bergs


We are on a large cruise ship in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska, west of Juneau. Mostly everyone is out on deck at some point scanning the seas surrounding us. The ship’s outside speakers are switched off as their noise could encourage calving of the icebergs which stand like huge monoliths.

There are orcas in the distance, flipping in and out of the water. There are rules here about how close one can get to the wildlife.

We have whales in the waters surrounding Ireland too and I have been fortunate enough to be on deck in a 40ft boat when a 60 foot fin whale surfaced within 20 feet. The thrill of seeing this huge creature, the crenellations of its mouth, and its sheer scale, will stay with me for ever.

And then suddenly it happens. Naturally the icebergs begin to calve and with a sound like a rocket, huge pieces explode in a flurry of what looks like smoke. The ice shatters and islets form and float on the water. They are not white, but a deep turquoise blue colour, and almost immediately, a scattering of tiny birds appear, from I know not where, to land on the floating ice and as the surface of the ice melts they begin to feed.

The blue colour fascinates me. I ask one of the national park rangers who have come aboard the liner where the colour blue has come from. He tells me the ice in the iceberg has been compressed so tightly that the blue is the only colour in the spectrum that cannot pass through the ice.

It’s all a bit beyond me, but I am enjoying the experience, one that I wish everyone could share.