Hearing the Roar of the Gods

Aialik Glacier Calving, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

The unworldly sound of a glacier calving is something that every traveler has to witness at least once in their lives. It is a calm sound, a soothing sound— but then with a sudden crack it’s an overwhelming torrent of natural power that causes a momentary feeling of awe to arise from somewhere deep inside and tingle up every vertebrae of an onlooker’s spine.

When one arrives at the terminus of a glacier (the wall of ice at the body of water) the first thing noticed is the wind. Glacial wind is a steady breeze that constantly flows along the glacial ice and into the sea at the head of the glacier. Caused by the temperature fluctuations between the air that is in contact with the ice and the open air at the same altitude, this wind is numbingly chilled and acts as a great substitute for coffee for the tiresome adventurer. One face full of glacial wind and an onlooker will find themselves feeling more awake than ever before.

Then, stillness— and the silence of the open space around them. The whirring of the wind as it rushes along the surrounding mountain peaks and, if they’re lucky, the splash of a whale breaching the water’s surface nearby. All of these sensations come together at a single moment to create the most calming comfortable feeling an onlooker might ever feel. 

Soon after, the real show begins—

At first it starts with a low rumble, maybe a distant storm hidden from view somewhere over the mountaintops, or maybe a jet daring to pass by and, in doing so, momentarily disturbing the serenity of the surrounding scene. But as the rumbling begins to rise and become steadier, small pieces of ice are noticed to be flaking off the ice front, falling with a splash into the frigid waters below—  and it is obvious that the rumbling sound is neither distant storm, nor intrusive jet.

Then, just before the feeling of internal anticipation threatens to burst from an onlooker’s chest, a house-sized portion of ice momentarily jitters before a thunderous crack marks its release into the sea. The ice roars a guttural god-like bellow as it falls, and the sea jumps to life as the ice throws the water sporadically into the air. With a sudden gasp of breath an onlooker tastes the cleanliness of the wilderness air.

Soon after, as if it never happened at all, the sea calms against the towering ice, the stillness of the mountains once again takes over, and nothing is heard but the whirring of that glacial wind. There couldn’t be a scene more perfect than this, in a world so intruded by all things human.

 

 

The above image was taken in order to reflect the sheer size of this glacier. Do you see the smaller of the two grey circles at the foot of the ice wall? That’s actually a 3-level tour boat. Click to enlarge to view in more detail.

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Author: Nathan Bush

Nathan Bush is an avid traveler, adventurer, and professional wedding and landscape photographer. His absolute favorite pastime is hiking all the while lugging his camera equipment into the backcountry in order to capture beautiful images of the wild. He currently lives in Colorado with his soon to be wife, Florence.

8 thoughts on “Hearing the Roar of the Gods”

  1. Hi,

    I just found your blog by searching wordpress on “Alaska” (since I just posted on the same topic) and really enjoyed your post. Reading it made me feel like I was there all over again. I loved your descriptive writing. And also your mention of scale at the glacier – so surreal!

    Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed my post and I hope you enjoyed your trip to Alaska as much as I did— it’s a wonderful place. Knowing that somebody enjoyed reading my writing also provides a great inspiration for me, so thank you in return for that!
      Thanks for dropping by,
      – Nate

  2. Your description of the calving is fantastic. It brings back memories of this past summer when we were in that very spot the tour boat is in your photo. There is nothing like that sound . . .

    1. No sound even comes close! When were you there, and in what month? I was there this past July. How insane would it be if we were unknowingly on the same boat??

  3. I love Alaska, it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I went there during the winter time and gone through the coldest day there(-59F)….hope to return during a warmer season:)

    Cheers:)

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