Seward Hwy, Alaska – Dying glaciers, dying salmons

Who ever wrote about instable weather in Kenai Peninsula must have been wrong. Since one week there are dependable 13° C, constant drizzling rain and patchy fog. From far we can’t see the glacier even today, but on the easy 5-km-roundwalk you get to the glacier toe. Signs with years on them document the dramatic glacier retreat. A glacier consists of fluffy snowflakes at the surface that become thicker further down, gradually thickening to firn and finally, when nearly all air is extruded due to the weight of the glacier, melting together to a compact ice mass. A melt layer develops between glacier and mountain due to the enormous weight on which the glacier slowly drifts downstream. Crevices arise from the movement that allow to loo into the interior of a glacier. The compressed ice absorbs yellow, orange and red light rays but allows high-energy photons to pass and evoke a blue shimmer. But the Exit Glacier is completely blue, missing its protecting snow- and firn layer on top that will feed the glacier to built new ice. Its innermost is bare. Maybe summerly melting is one of the reasons, but I can’t displace the idea of looking at a dying glacier.

70 km south of Anchorage we are turning into Portage Lake Road. After a few kilometres you can watch spawning salmon in a clear brook from Willow Fish-Watching Platform. Little ducks are diving against the current to catch some fish eggs. From late July to early September there are pink, chum, coho, and chinook salmon. Depending on their species they become two to six years old, and return for spawning from the sea to the creek they hatched out. Unlike Atlantic Salmon the Pacific Salmon migrate once in their life and die then.

Behind the Begich, Bloggs Visitor Centre at Portage Lake you can see small icebergs even during summer that Portage Glacier calves into the lake. Portage Glacier can be reached only by boat. There is a short hiking path to the neighbouring Byron Glacier. Although signs warn from walking on the ice since you could fall into a crevice, there is no cordon to hinder you from doing it. We are following hundreds of other footprints until we’ve got enough glaciers for today.

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