Note: Paperback includes map, Kindle digital version does not, suggest getting map below.
The hidden jewel of Prince William Sound is College Fjord – within an eight mile stretch are eight major tidewater glaciers. Plus, while Glacier Bay has emerged from the ice so recently that trees have not gained a foothold close to the ice, College Fjord is a place where trees and ice have existed side by side for centuries. The result is a perspective on the great rivers of ice not seen in Glacier Bay – to see the ice of Wellesley Glacier towering over the adjacent spruce forest is particularly impressive.
Calving bergs – before the big ships started coming to Alaska beginning in the early 1980s, there weren’t many rules and when a big ship did come up close to a big glacier and there wasn’t any active calving, they would often try to start some with a toot of the steam whistle. Today such practices are prohibited, so it is just a waiting game. I was here aboard the Dawn Princess in 1997, and the Captain spied an apartment building sized spire of ice that seemed to be tipping toward the fjord. We circled slowly for an hour or so and then were rewarded with a splash that must have been 280 feet high and a boom the echoed up and down the fjord. See below pix.
The college names for the glaciers came from the artists and naturalists, including John Muir and photographer Edward Curtis, aboard a steamer chartered by railroad magnate Edward Harriman in 1899.
Being so close to Seward and Whittier, College Fjord, is only visited by some, but not all of the ships that use those two ports. If your ship does’t go into College Fjord and you still want to see some more glaciers – you’ll also pass Portage Glacier on the bus or train from Whittier to Anchorage – there are glacier viewing excursions both from Seward and Whittier.