Based on a comprehensive survey conducted in 2011, it was documented that Alaska is home to approximately 27,000 glaciers. While that number sounds impressive we know that it's possibly a smaller number only a decade later and that the vast majority of glaciers today are retreating rather than growing. Many of these glaciers are the last cold breath of the most recent ice age. Depending on the source we either just finished the most recent ice age by the late 19th/early 20th century or we are living in the remnants of it now. For some of us it can be hard to comprehend ice age being a relatively recent event when we can almost fry an egg on the sidewalk at increasing locations across the globe during summer months.
The photos on this post are from only a couple different glaciers in Alaska, and I have visited only a small number more than these during my time there. Hoping in future visits to the 49th state to continue to expand my glacial ice portfolio.
While there is ice in Antarctica that is approaching 1,000,000 years old it's substantially younger in Greenland and much younger yet in Alaska. Typical life of Alaska ice from formation to flowing out at the terminus of a glacier is less than 100 years. The longest glacier route in the state taking up to 400 years. For those not familiar with glaciers, they are masses of snow that over many years been compressed into giant sheets of ice. The majority of glaciers on earth today were formed during the last ice age.
As you can imagine seeing and touching a glacier up close is not the same experience as seeing or playing with ice around your house after a cold winter storm. From what little I have visited and photographed to date, what you see is a unique experience with the many shapes, lines, and patterns that will typically only come from ice sheets that has been around many years. This doesn't even cover the aspect of how small you feel standing below looking up at ice seracs that are as large as a small house.
It's not surprising that ice interests me. I tend to gravitate to cooler temps, normally overheating at a lower temperature than the average person I know. I can recall running my fingers along the cold smooth solid ice of one of the glaciers. One ginormous ice cube.
The two glaciers I visited were vastly different experiences. One was paddling up close on a pack raft meandering through icebergs as large as small houses while the other one was a guided hiking tour limiting where and how long I could go. Equally rewarding personally, and photographically, just in much different ways.
With the time to date I have been fortunate to enjoy some ice time in Alaska over the last couple years. Here are a few photos I made from those outings. Special thanks to my brother who not only enjoys time outdoors like me, it's part of his job as a professor and researcher working with geology, hydrology, and climatology.
Lastly, if you are interested in reading more not just about ice but about life in the arctic, I would recommend the book Arctic Dreams. It contains a chapter dedicated to ice and light. I am currently reading the Kindle version. Barry Lopez creates vivid visuals with his text while weaving in educational and historical references.