Whittier Alaska Boat Tours – Watching Beloit Glacier Calve

by Mike Still
Whittier Alaska Boat Tours – Watching Beloit Glacier Calve

Glaciers have fascinated me ever since I learned about them as a kid.  A fascination that I’m sure played a subconscious role in moving to Alaska.  They are a pinnacle of nature’s beauty, reminding us how massive a force nature can be and visiting one should be on everyone’s bucketlist!  In early July, Elizabeth’s sister Christina married this amazing gentleman named Kevin and I was lucky enough to be invited along for a celebratory glacier cruise out of Whittier.

Prince William Sound Day Trip –
A Whittier Alaska Boat Tour

The Babkin is well equipped to take a small group on overnight adventures so this day day trip to Blackstone Bay in celebration of Doctor’s Knapp & Satzinger’s wedding, aka Quantum Love.  An Alaskan cruise with family was a perfect way for these quantum computing lovebirds to escape both the global pandemic and their computer screens.

Both families were happy to take a break from Zoom life for an intimate wedding party on this adventure just a few days before they tie the knot on Yukon Island in a dream wedding that captured everything that embodies Alaska.  I got to be Elizabeth’s lucky plus one for this celebration and managed to capture some incredible calving events with my drone on my first trip to Prince William Sound!

Driving from Anchorage to Whittier, Alaska

The day started with a drive down the Turnagain Arm just south of Anchorage.  This section of the Seward Highway might be considered the most beautiful drive in America, until you keep going or visit any of Alaska’s other incredible roadways.  The drive from Anchorage to Whittier continues into Chugach National Forest where you turn left towards Portage Lake.  You’ll see a number of hanging glaciers in the southern mountains with Byron Glacier at the edge of the lake.

Photo of Beloit Glacier Calving by Elizabeth Knapp

Be sure to check the Whittier Tunnel Schedule before driving from Anchorage to Whittier.  

I’ve been through the Whittier Tunnel a few times and its important to double check the schedule before you head out.  They currently run from Anchorage to Whittier on the half hour and Whittier to Anchorage on the hour from 5:30 AM to 11:00PM but the schedules change seasonally and for other reasons so check the Whittier Tunnel Schedule before you go.

My mom always says I don’t share enough photos with me in them.  This ones for you mom <3

Heading to Blackstone Bay, Alaska –
Prince William Sound Tours

We boarded the Babkin in Whittier and immediately left port, our first stop was just across the bay where a magnificent waterfall sprayed thousands of sea gull nests.  The roar of the water captured our attention momentarily before it was drowned out by the gulls.  

We settled in with some hors d’oeurves on this Blackstone Bay cruise playing cards while the crew prepared a delicious spread of salmon, steak and so much more.  I had the pleasure of meeting Captain Alex, commander of the Babkin and our fearless leader for the day.  She was warm, welcoming and a family friend of the Knapp’s.   An extra special thank you Captain Alex for letting me ask innumerable questions about the journey. 

Glaciers in Blackstone Bay, Alaska

Beloit Glacier, our destination, was one of the two glaciers at the end of Blackstone Bay.  First up was Tebenkof Glacier near the entrance to Blackstone Bay before Captain Alex pointed out a few’dead’ glaciers no longer reaching the water.  Glacier recession looms heavily on Alaskans who have been coming to these waters their whole lives.

Before long we could see the end of Blackstone Bay with Blackstone Glacier and Beloit Glacier proudly standing in the distance.  A brave camper left their tent on the nearby peninsula and inspired us to one day embark on a similar adventure.  Today was proving to be a lot more relaxing than camping in Blackstone Bay.

Even from a distance we could tell that Beloit Glacier was actively calving as large ice chunks sprayed ocean water high into the air.  We approached Beloit Bay as a black stone peninsula began hiding Blackstone Glacier from view.  Beloit looked tiny at first but the closer we got, the larger it loomed.  Although it is is a fraction the size of Blackstone Glacier, Beloit Galcier is still of monstrous proportions.

Alex brought the Babkin closer, slowing down as ice chunks clattered against our hull.  Another small calve rocketed blue boulders the size of a house into the water as we paused roughly mile away.  Small calves were coming more frequently hinting at a larger calving event coming.  I quickly confirmed with Alex that we would for a while and launched my Mavic recording some of my best footage yet!

I flew full throttle towards the glacier across Blackstone Bay.  A minute after takeoff the biggest glacial calve I’ve ever seen crumbles down the face of Beloit glacier.  A massive wave erupted from that spot hurtling towards us.  Captain Alex quickly started the engines to make sure the wave hit us safely across the bow.

As soon as I felt the rumble of the ship I started flying back to the ship.  Alex quickly confirmed that we were only turning so I made another push to get even closer to Beloit Glacier.  The surface of Blackstone bay was thick with ice as I approached.  A waterfall revealed itself as melt-water gushed between the rocks and the ice.  Another chunk crumbled into the sea, then another and another.  This time there I was up close and personal but no finale arrived.  Even so I think I prefer this closer video.  What do you think?

Exploring Blackstone Bay

We hung out by the glacier for a while longer before boarding a dingy and heading to shore.  A nearby rocky beach was the perfect spot for our group to explore but I wanted to fly the drone closer to the glacier one more time so Elizabeth and I got off near a rock outcropping.  Bird watching has become a bit more of a hobby after playing Wingspan and hanging out with some avian enthusiasts in Alaska.  And by that I mean I was able to recognize but not accurately name the orange beaked oystercatchers we passed on the way.

We scrambled up a few more rocks passing mossy tidepools and eventually finding a nice with a flat enough perch for me to launch the drone. But first, Elizabeth and I had to fulfill our millennial duty of taking selfies.

Launching the drone I was a bit happier to be on solid ground rather than the boat.  Even still, I made a bee line for the glacier quickly passing the dingy before coming to the floating icefield again.   These older calving events were similar to what we saw, a crumbling of the ice rather than a Titanic size calve. 

This sheet of ice grew thicker and I could see why Alex didn’t take the Babkin much closer.  Some strange rocks appeared in the bottom of my view.  I thought it might have just been holes in the ice or maybe some rock was left embedded in the ice.  As I got closer I quickly realized the shapes were in fact seals resting on the ice! 

As soon as I realized what they were I slowed down and kept my distance, hovering for a few moments before circling around the seals and rocketing towards the glacier once more.  I would have loved to stayed and filmed the seals but disturbing wildlife is a big no-no with a drone and a good guideline for people or other vehicles.  Keep your distance, take a photo if you want, and let it be on its way.

It was easy to forget about the seals with Beloit glacier was capturing my attention anyway.  This was the first tidewater glacier that I’ve been able to explore with my drone and the we saw some incredible calving. This excursion into Prince William Sound was the perfect way to kick off Kevin & Christina’s wedding extravaganza!

Recommended Reading for more Alaskan Adventures

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More photos from this adventure and others can be found on the @LiveTravelTeach Instagram Account and don’t forget to follow www.LiveTravelTeach.com by adding your email at the top of this page to make sure you don’t miss any of these amazing adventures!

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded www.LiveTravelTeach.com as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

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