Monday, January 25, 2016

Glacier Close Up

The glaciers are shrinking, melting, retreating...that is clear.  They are still pretty big when you look at it from the perspective of a random human clinging to a rock that's spinning through space at a speed of 1000 mph.  But if you're the planet, they're getting pretty small.  Here is one beautiful example of what we stand to lose in the coming decades.

Here is another one.  The glacier is big, but those bare rocks in between the base and the top remind us that we would have taken a very different picture here just a decade ago.

That's right, a decade ago.  The tour boat driver, who was younger than I, said that when he started doing this, the boat couldn't get this close because the ice extended  beyond the edge of the mountain and into the sea.  The gray silt seen in the right of this picture is the glacial deposit.  10 years ago, this whole slope and several miles of the sea were all ice in the summer.

All that area...was glacier just 10 years ago.  Don't tell people in Alaska the world isn't changing.  It's changing before their eyes.

Glacier ice is an intense teal blue.  This is because glacial ice is actually compressed by the massive weight of the glacier itself density change causes a change in the refraction of light.  Blue light is scattered more.

Glacier are not just snow.  Because they move, there can be dirt, silt, and rocks mixed in the lower levels.

Here's a cross section of the glacier on zoom.

When the glacier calves (that's when pieces fall into the water), car or house size pieces are falling into the water.  How often does this happen?  Several times an hour it seems.  The tour operators know they can bring people out here and put the engine to idle and will be almost guaranteed a calving event in the 15-20 minutes they are here.

In addition to the calving, there is the melting.  Streams flow out of the glaciers constantly.

This looks to me more like a scene from Lord of the Rings and filmed in New Zealand.  Alaska has its green mountains as well.

One of my favorite spots in Canada, it the area by the Angel Glacier, on Mount Edith Cavell, in Jasper National Park.  The Angel Glacier is very small compared to this one.  But there is something otherworldly about the glaciers.  Perhaps its just they are one of the few things left on that are a bit mysterious to us still.  Sure the science is there, but unlike Caribbean beaches, less people come and see these natural beauties.  That's probably a good thing for the glaciers.  Or any ecosystem actually.

I like how there are so many unique shapes within the ice.

These spires reminded me of hoodoos in the badlands of the Midwest.

And this one I can't quite place but somewhere in the depths of my brain I am thinking it's a scene from an early 80's movie...maybe Labyrinth with David Bowie?  I am not sure.  It's very ice castle like.

The contrast of the landscape was very striking.  Ocean.  Glacier.  Greenery.  Ancient Rock.  Snow.  Pretty cool to see it all in one frame.

We got to stay long enough to see a calving, and take it all in.  It seems a type of reverence is many more generations will see these masses of ice and the animals that thrive near them? It's a little sad to think of...but....

...we were happy to be able to see it for ourselves!  I hope to go back a few more times too!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Otters Away!

I have to admit, I saw more sea otters than I expected to see on the Klondike Express.  They  would pop up like tiny little puffballs, floating along in pairs or groups in the colder waters, out quite literally in the middle of nowhere.  A group of otters is called a raft.  We were lucky enough to happen across a raft of otters.  They were however, basking in the direct sun and so getting a great picture was a bit of a challenge...their cuteness was forever in their own little shadow.

This first little guy is doing ocean calisthetics.  Touching his little toes...maybe a few crunchies making sure he is fluffy but not fat.

He (or she,can't say I can tell who is who yet) stopped to give a curious glance our way.

Once he (or she) was satisfied we weren't coming any closer and didn't look like an Orca or anything else predatory, they stretched out and displayed a miiiighty big foot.  I always thought Bigfoot was a I think it might just have been a sea otter who wandered onto land.

Otters seem to be quite friendly.  This little sweetie actually waved at us!

A few weren't very interested in us...they were having much more fun playing otter snuggles and weren't about to let us interrupt.

I said I couldn't tell if they were girls or boys...but the guy on the left definitely has to be a guy.  He's like Gandalph of the sea otters.

Doesn't get much sweeter than this!

A little grooming going on.

Otters look like they are the best huggers in the animal kingdom.

Even when they look a bit embarrassed to have been caught in the act.

Unfortunately, that's all I have for today.  I'm otter here...I mean outta here.  Lame.  I know.  I'm a lazy blogger :)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Woo Is Me

Everybody likes to be wooed.  You know, to be spoiled, pampered, have nice things done for them.  Usually we wait for someone else to do it.  I have decided to take matters into my own hands.

This is not a matter of complaint, but a matter of fact.  I worked very hard in 2015 --  I took a lot of hours from home, fitness, and fun and invested them in work.  It was worth it, it needed to be done, but I am making a conscious effort to sway the scales back into balance.  I realize how nice it is to give myself a little treat.

So after my work self has a long week, I feel like I am wooing myself. A nice cooked meal at home.  A trip to the theatre to see Star Wars.  Tidying up a little so my work self comes home tomorrow to a freshly vacuumed home.   Some candles and aromatherapy.  A nice hot bath.  Some peace and quiet with the new treadmill.  I daresay a few more days like this and I might fall so darn in love with myself that I stop spending so many hours in the office!  Not a bad plan perhaps.

My freshly spoiled self decided to catch up on the computer.  Go through the emails, have a few chats, and pick up on the pictures and blog...still stuck way back in August.  In a way it's not so bad to find a few summer photos on a winter's day.

The summer blog left off aboard the Klondie Express.  On the 26 Glacier Cruise.  Being out on a boat affords you some new views...Alaska is big, and one would need many days and many modes of transport to see every mountain, every glacier.  After taking 5 years of exploring the nooks and crannies of the 21 square miles of Bermuda, seeing Alaska's 663,300 square miles seems impossible.  I may need several lifetimes here.

But one can't compare Bermuda to Alaska.  Pink sand beaches and summer snowcaps just aren't in the same class.  As I always say, there are different types of beautiful.  So long as you wake up and see one each day, you are doing something right.

But on this summer day I wasn't thinking about beaches at all.  I was thinking about glaciers.  How many were there...are they really going to all melt?  What would they have looked like 10 years ago?  20?  100?

This is a true tidewater glacier, reaching into the ocean...but just barely.  The dirty path shows it will not reach the water much longer.  It is receding.

There are people that say this is all part of a cycle.  Those who say it's the fault of global warming.  I would like to believe it's a cycle, and it will revert back to normal in time.  But I am afraid everything they started to tell us 30 years ago is starting to come true.  I am coming up on my second February in Alaska... and I have only seen a handful of snowy days.  I fear these snowcaps will be smaller still the next time I see them.  Maybe it has snowed a lot more deeper in the mountains.  I hope so.  I would hate to know this could all change in my lifetime.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Thoughtful Gifts

The holidays are over.  So far 2016 has brought a bit of calm after the storm of activity of 2015.  It's only the 9th of the month and I'm already well underwear into a second entirely squandered day off. I haven't forgotten about the new treadmill, but it has a nice long lazy indoor walk setting, one doesn't have to tackle it like a mad fiend after all.

I think the glow of Christmas will stick with me for a while.  In part that's because my Christmas tree is still up and I still plug it in every night.  I know I SHOULD take it down.  But...I don't want to yet, it's too pretty.  As well, it was my first ever Christmas where family came to me instead of the other way around, and we had a really nice time.

It was one of those years where I really didn't need anything for Christmas, but someone I ended up with all the most thoughtful things!  There comes a time in life when someone gives you fuzzy cat lady pajamas and you actually have just given in to the reality and love them.  (That would be from my sister)

This second gift, also from my sister, was the coolest thing.  She called Christmas morning and asked if my package had arrived.  I wasn't expecting one, and hadn't checked the postal box in a couple of days.  She said it could freeze so hurry and go check.  I opened my door Christmas morning and there it was all packed up and waiting on my doorstep.  Such a cool surprise!  

Another thing I wasn't expecting -- the Canadian Olympic outdoor set.  I will look amazing at Idatarod in my Canada toque, mittens, and scarf.  The little mitts are new new keychain, and the accompanying Canada mug was already in use at the time of this photograph.  Just in case anyone at work every forgets I'm Canadian (not likely).  Thanks Jerry and Tess!

My friend (and kitty sitter) Sharon lives in Girdwood...home of Forest Fair, the local ski hill, numerous crafty people, quasi hippies, and better yet, crafty quasi hippies.  She had these little glass panthers commissioned and placed on a mirror...I'm not gonna lie...I love it!  They definitely look like my Panthers!

This neat little dryer from my mom (and my Saskatchewan hairdresser who made it possible -- thanks Elaine!) is supposed to be much gentler on your hair.  And it just looks cool!

Mom and Dad also gave me a couple of terrabytes to store my pictures on!

All the way from Ireland came a little angel, and a book on angels, which I should finish reading on this lovely lazy Saturday!  Chocolates perished prior to photography event as well.

From George and Sonya, a nice warm knit sweater for those long Alaska winters, and a cozy cat frame for the cat I said, I just own the label now.  Pretty impressed with my brother for going sweater shopping too!

From the Olson's -- as the fabulous Ikea directions show -- I got a greenhouse to make my attempt at flower and plant growing a little more successful this year!  Can't wait to see if I can make some little edibles grow this year (for me, not the cat, who eats anything with leaves).

I also got a girly blue home tool kit, with teal levels for the garage!

And before the family left, they hung my old Saskatchewan license plate in the garage so I would see it every day when I got home...and remember Saskatchewan.

So that's what I am doing today.  Basking in the post Christmas glow.  My Doterra mister is spouting healthful aromatherapy while I drink coffee and read my new book in new jammies under the reflection of glass panthers on the wall while I wonder what will do best in the greenhouse, if I should take my warm wear out for a winter walk, or do my hair my my new salon style dryer and go see a movie.  Coz that's how days off roll.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Quasi New Year's!

I had to work the New Year's weekend, which was actually kinda nice because they were the holiday shifts were the most peaceful days at work I have had since....about a year ago when I wasn't at work at all.  As a bonus, working the weekend means getting a weekday, like a Tuesday, off.  And so today was an at-home-no-commitment-not-gonna-worry-about-missed-meetings-and-deadlines kind of day.  I resolved to be commitment and obligation free; required to do absolutely nothing for the day.  I'm not going to was kind of awesome.

I made and drank a whole pot of coffee.  I skyped with my parents, IM'd with a niece, I toodled around the house doing long neglected things I mean to do (fear not, I didn't achieve many, there are more things that need doing the next time the notion strikes).  I did my best to be the laziest creature on earth.  But...I failed that challenge because I live with this little guy.

How do you out lazy cat?  I don't believe it's actually possible, heaven knows I tried.  I spent a good chunk of the day in a similar position just one couch over.  I don't want to be the same shape as my little cat "baby phat", although he's adorable, so....

Behold!  The New Year's Resolution has arrived!

It's actually not a New Year's Resolution.  I love treadmills, it's my favorite gym equipment.  When i viewed this apartment I pictured this room as a little gym area, and since I have such a comfy cozy home that I never want to leave, it was finally worth the investment.  The knee has recovered as much as it's going to, and it's time to get back into the groove.  So it wasn't a New Year's resolution, but the post Christmas sales had a little something to do with it.  Will I use it?  Well, the first miles rolled off today!  And now...I don't feel so guilty about being back on the couch with my lazy cat...who has been there the whole day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Epiphanies are funny things.  You never know when they are going to hit.  I had one just a few minutes ago while Skyping with my mom.  "Auntie Claire was quite interested in everything.  She said she was a lab tech in Anchorage."  Just an offhand comment.  The funny thing is, for almost two decades most of my family has pondered how exactly this one little apple fell so far from the tree.  I think it's safe to say I turned out to be the adventurous one, to the surprise of all.  I come from a long line of people who quite like being close to home and are quite connected to the land.

"Auntie Claire" would actually be my great aunt.  She's in her 80's and in Texas.  I think I only met her once, when I was about 8.  She was born about 40 miles away from where I grew up, but her mom passed away when she was 9, and so she was raised by the sisters at a local convent.  As soon as she was old enough, she booked it to Montreal to study nursing.  In 1940's, nursing came with a few perils we don't think much of today -- she contracted TB and spent 2 years in a sanitarium.  She was fortunate enough to receive a shiny new antibiotic that would prove to be the first effective anti-tuberculosis drug, Streptomycin, which was just out of its first clinical trial .  In that time, doctors didn't mind telling a woman that she should consider a less strenuous profession than a nurse as a convalescent.  But, then she got a letter offering her to take part in a pilot program.  They were looking for people with enough science background to try a new program, "Combined X-ray and Laboratory Technology."  She jumped on board and was one of the first graduates of the newly formed program back in Saskatchewan.  I vaguely knew she was a lab tech, but not until I was applying to school to be one.  I thought it was in interesting coincidence.   But I was quite surprised that she left Saskatchewan for a job in Anchorage and here I am in her footsteps about 60 years later was a bit of a surprise to me.  I guess that means two things...we finally know where I got the wandering instinct from (mom's side), and if the trend continues, I can expect to land in San Francisco next.

There are other kinds of epiphanies though.  The book "Eat Pray Love" summed it up best, when the lead character is having a mini meldown crying on the bathroom floor and pray for guidance...a little voice comes back and says "go to bed."  That made me laugh.  I think we all have a little voice inside of us that knows exactly what needs to be done...especially when you are so overwrought you are missing what obviously needs to be done.  I am not feeling particularly overwrought right now, so I was a little surprised to hear the little voice the other day.  The little voice is not a character of many words.  It only said one thing.  Write.

I have kinda missed it lately.  Perhaps that little voice is right once again.  So...that's the story of today's blog.  That's what's on the I wrote it.  I hope the little voice says chocolate croissant next.