On our daily walks here in Victoria along shores of the Pacific Ocean, amongst other visitors, we meet many passengers and crew from Alaska cruise ships.
Almost all vessels sail from here to Seattle. That’s where those who have just come from Alaska disembark, to make room for the new passengers who’ll do a 7-10 day journey.
Glacier Before and After
When we ask them how the sailing went and whether it met their expectations, we get different reactions. Those who’ve never been to Alaska are somewhat disappointed in seeing little of the ‘glory’ advertised in the glossy brochures.
Top (before) Bottom (after)
Then there are those who are repeats. These people are very disappointed and saddened to see how the glaciers are disappearing. Most crew members are from Indonesia or the Philippines, so for them any vista of ice or glaciers, glimpses of bears or eagles, is something different and exotic. Then there are the passengers who often live in concrete jungles we call cities, or suburbs, for them also going to Alaska is a welcome balance from hectic urban life. We were on an Alaska voyage four years ago to mark my eightieth birthday and even then noticed fewer glaciers compared to our research before the sailing. Of course, we now hear the Arctic is the fastest warming spot on earth with record-breaking melting ice and snow. Snow and Arctic sea ice extent is plummeting suddenly.
NOAA and NASA both ranked June 2013 as among the top 5 month on record. The snow extent shrunk from 12.4 million sq. miles to 6.2 million sq. miles in a month’s time. The Inuit – indigenous peoples of the Far North - are threatened by the rising waters caused by this melting of colossal volumes of snow and ice. (Of course there is also major melting in Antarctica.)
Then there is the “drill, baby, drill” mentality of oil companies that will only cause more upsetting changes in the pristine and beautiful wilderness of the Arctic. Polar bears find it difficult to hunt and survive due to the rapid melting of ice, causing them to spend more time swimming, sometimes for too long distances.
It took thousands of years to form these icy regions but we may see in just one generation its demise. How high will the seas rise? What will be the effects of these causes? Yes, some passengers are happy to have sailed to Alaska, but most seem to be disappointed and worried. So you can see how during our strolling along the sea shores, we meet members of the Human Family and hear of their experiences. Now if there was only a way to stop or reverse this very rapid warming of the North . . .
that would be a welcome miracle.
Henri van Bentum