Travel Route: Chitina – Valdez – Columbia Glacier

Exxon Valdez

I remember the news and images in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez crashed and spilled gallons of oil into Prince William Sound; thus, I was looking forward to visiting the area.  Today, the Exxon Valdez spill is a historical event; wildlife is back to what it was before.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System

There were a couple of articles in the local newspaper about the 40th anniversary of The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which happened this month.  The TASP is 800 miles long and considered an engineering marvel.  The talk is mostly around the question of: Where did all of Alaska oil money go?  Over the years, Alaska collected $141 billion in petroleum taxes.  And the short answer is: Look out your window.  If it weren’t for the oil money, about half of what is presently around – building, roads, bridges, homes, even people – wouldn’t be here.

Columbia Glacier

Aboard Lu-Lu Belle with 25 passengers, Captain Fred, and his crew of two helpers.  The glacier is a mile wide and 300 feet high from the water surface.  Talking about global warming, the captain said that when he started the tour in 1979, the glacier’s edge was 12.5 miles further into the ocean.  When the engine was off, the only sounds were of crashed chunks of ice falling into the water.  I love the colors; I can’t get enough of it.  I think that though it’s the same scenery, each snapshot is a world on its own.

Why does glacier ice look blue?

I learned something new: Why does glacier ice look blue?  It is often a deep blue color because as sunlight passes through the ice, it’s broken up into its many inherent colors and energy wavelengths.  Red and yellow have very little energy, and the thick ice soaks them up readily.  The blue light has enough extra energy to escape from the ice crystals without being absorbed.