The Amazing Cruise: Day 3

Contributed by
Sep 5, 2007
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Day 3:

Well, it's been quite the past 24 hours or so.

First off, we hit a patch of rough seas last night. Starting shortly after dinner, I noticed the ship was swaying port to starboard. It got stronger, and stronger... and after a few minutes, people started stumbling around. We went up to the top deck to a bar/dance floor/chocolate feast, and it got really bad. Several of our friends got sick. Mrs. BA and I were pretty good, though. I thought it was fun, at least until it was time to go to bed. We are on the 7th deck, at the very fore of the ship, and got the brunt of the action. It took me an hour to fall asleep, with the ship bucking and jumping -- mind you, the ship displaces 91,000 tons, so when it moves, it moves. There were several loud BANGS during the night, too. I have no clue what they were even now. And we're back in choppy waters again. It's fun, but it definitely makes it hard to shave.

The next morning I gave my talk (about solar flares, aurorae, and such). I think that went pretty well. I made lots of dumb jokes, and everyone had a good time. Regular readers may remember that I got a copy of my first book autographed by several astronauts. I mentioned I had big plans for it... well, today I presented that book to Randi so that he may auction it off and raise money for his educational foundation, JREF. Randi does a lot of good in the world, and I am very happy to be able to contribute in any way I can.

Right after my talk, appropriately enough, a striking rainbow appeared off the starboard bow:

It faded and brightened with time, and at one point there was a secondary bow, too. It was stunning. Better yet, and you can just see this in the image, the rainbow could be seen below the horizon line! Usually you can't see that, so this was a gift. The raindrops that make a rainbow need to be in a conical shell (like a thick ice cream cone shape) in the opposite direction of the Sun in the sky. Any raindrop in that shell can contribute to the rainbow, whether that drop is near or far. Since we were on the 4th deck, about 50 feet above the water line, we could see many drops looking down, between us and the water. Those drops made the faint part of the bow seen below the water line. Cool.

Shortly after that, the ship approached Hubbard glacier, located in a vast bay on the Alaska coast. This is one of the reasons I wanted to go on the cruise; to see the wonders of nature. We were not disappointed.

This magnificent glacier was hundreds of yards across, and perhaps 200 feet high or more. We came within a few hundred yards of it. The blue color you see there (click the image to embiggen) is absolutely real. You can see layers of silt and sediment in the glacier ice, created as rocks are ground up or sediment swept up as the ice flows from the mountains to the sea. The rails were packed with gawkers, and even above the noise of hundreds of gasping people, you could hear the straining moans of the ice as it cracked. Every minute or so a piece would calve off and fall into the water, making a noise like a gunshot.

It was incredible. I got footage of one tower falling into the water which is spectacular, but my craptastic Mac video editing software wouldn't import the sound! I'll see if I can fix that, and post the video on YouTube.

We left before this section could fall off:

I wish I could have seen that collapse. Wow.

The previous calving events produced icebergs, and we got a great view as they floated by.

Up close, they come in fantastic shapes and colors. Some are jumbles of ice and snow, others smooth. Some are clear, others white, and some like mini-glaciers, with blue ice, stripes of silt, and other odd inclusions.

It was a truly astonishing and awe-inspiring event. If you ever get a chance to see such a thing, take it. The power, the inertia, the sweeping beauty and majesty of the glacier is something I will take away from this cruise no matter what else happens.

That's it for now. Tonight is dinner, and then a relaxing evening before we hit Juneau tomorrow. I imagine I'll have some more great pictures from that, too.