Incredible Glaciers

Prince William Sound is known for its high concentration of glaciers and deeply carved fjords. There are over 100 named glaciers in Prince William Sound. Our cruises depart from Whittier and explore the western side of Prince William Sound. We travel past a variety of glaciers including alpine, piedmont and tidewater glaciers. To help you understand the difference between the glaciers, we have a glossary of glacier terms for your reference.

Glaciers are rivers of moving ice. Glaciers slide and grind their way down mountains sculpting the fjords and valleys by the forces of gravity.
Calving: A word meaning to break off or "calve". 
Alpine or Hanging Glaciers are the smaller glaciers that are literally hanging on the side of a mountain.
Piedmont Glaciers from the French word "pied" meaning foot and "mont" meaning mountain, are glaciers that rest at the base of a mountain.
Tidewater Glaciers terminate at the ocean’s edge. As the glacier moves into the ocean, pressured by its own weight from behind, it is weakened by the warming action of the water and giant slabs of ice break away and calve into the sea.

 

26 Glacier Cruise Route

    • Billings Glacier
    • Tebenkof Glacier
    • Crescent Glacier
    • Amherst Glacier
    • Williams Glacier
    • Dartmouth Glacier
    • Baby Glacier
    • Yale Glacier
    • Downer Glacier
    • Harvard Glacier
    • Smith Glacier (Alaska)
    • Bryn Mawr Glacier
    • Vassar Glacier
    • Wellesley Glacier
    • Holyoke Glacier
    • Barnard Glacier
    • Coxe Glacier
    • Barry Glacier
    • Cascade Glacier
    • Serpentine Glacier
    • Baker Glacier
    • Surprise Glacier
    • Cataract Glacier
    • Roaring Glacier
    • Harriman Glacier
    • Pigot Glacier
    • Whittier Glacier

Glacier Quest Cruise Route

    • Billings Glacier
    • Northland
    • Blackstone Glacier
    • Beloit Glacier
    • Lawrence Glacier
    • Marquette Glacier
    • Ripon Glacier
    • Tebenkof Glacier
    • Whittier Glacier

Types of glaciers & definitions:

Glaciers are rivers of moving ice-glaciers slide and grind their way down mountains sculpting the fjords and valleys by the forces of gravity.

Alpine or Hanging Glaciers are the smaller glaciers that are literally hanging on the side of a mountain.

Piedmont Glaciers from the French word "pied" meaning foot and "mont" meaning mountain, are glaciers that rest at the base of a mountain.

Tidewater Glaciers are glaciers that terminate at the ocean’s edge. As the glacier moves into the ocean, pressured by its own weight from behind, it is weakened by the warming action of the water and giant slabs of ice break away and calve into the sea.

Calving is often accompanied by sharp crackling sounds or a thunder-like rumbling. Calving can be an awesome sight.

Icebergs are dense formations of ice that have calved off a glacier. An iceberg’s density is such that only about ten (10) percent, the “tip” of the iceberg, is visible above water. That means that 90 percent is under water. This is what makes icebergs dangerous.

Moraines are created as the glacier pushes its way down the mountains, scraping along the bedrock, pushing rock and dirt into formations.

Lateral Moraine forms as the glaciers scrape the side of the mountain, the rock and dirt fall on top of the glacier forming a black stripe along the side of the glacier.

Medial Moraine formed when two small glaciers, both scraping their way down the mountain merge, their lateral moraines on each side, to form one glacier. The lateral moraines of each form a black line of debris down the middle of the combined glacier.

Terminal Moraine is the rock and dirt that is scraped up from the bedrock and pushed in front of a tidewater glacier as the glacier moves forward as it advances and left behind when the glacier retreats.

Why is the ice blue? Glacier ice is made of solid crystals. It is very dense. All colors of the light spectrum are absorbed into the thick ice except for blue. Blue, having the shortest wavelength and most energy in the color spectrum is refracted. Overcast days produce more blue color; when the sun is shining there is too much reflection and the ice appears washed out or white.

Are there such things as ice worms? Ice worms - cousins of the earthworm - live on top of glaciers and feed on pollen and red algae that grow on the glaciers. Iceworms burrow into the snow during the day to protect themselves from the heat of the sun and come out at night to feed. Iceworms cannot get into temperatures more than 40 F and less than 22 F or they will die. They are found only on glaciers near the ocean where the climate is warm enough for meltwater to be in the glacier at all times.