More Than Ice and Soup

by kelly

One of the days on our recent Alaska cruise vacation was devoted to sailing slowly and peacefully around beautiful Glacier Bay National Park.

Our ship stopped for over an hour directly in front of (but a quarter mile away from) Marjorie Glacier, one of the larger and more active glaciers in the bay.


Glacier Watching in Glacier Bay
Originally uploaded by Koog Family.

It was there that we had the unique experience of observing a glacier calve into the sea. The naturalist in charge of the ship’s PA system had told all of us, gathered outside in our warm hats, gloves and jackets, to watch the birds. The birds have a good sense for where a glacier is weak. It is in their interest to have such a sense. A massive chunk of ice falling violently into the sea stirs up their beloved food.

So we watched. And watched. And then it came. A cracking, groaning sound. Followed by the amazing spectacle of part of the front wall of the glacier sliding, avalanche style, into the bay.

The calving was accompanied by a wonderfully large splash. Splash seems like too small a word to describe how the water reacted to the ice, which then caused a powerful and almost frightening wave to advance in our direction.

A view through the binoculars confirmed that the fallen ice was bobbing up and down in its new watery home with amazing speed and power. I understood why the fish beneath would be disturbed.

The glacier calved two more times before our ship pulled away.

Before seeing the spectacle, I warmed up on the chilly deck by taking advantage of the warm food buffet that had been set up outside.

Having just approached the line, I spotted a tempting looking Rock Fish Chowder, and I reached for the ladle to fill my cup. Apparently, however, we pampered passengers were not to work so hard as to serve ourselves any soup. Seeing my reach for the ladle, a woman with a gentle accent beat me to it, served me the soup, and (unnecessarily) apologized in a way that I’ll never forget:

“I’m sorry. My mind flies home in this weather. (pause) I have a daughter there and I think of her when I see the little girl.” (She indicated with a head nod and her glance that she had been watching a girl somewhere behind me).

“Where is home?”, I asked.


Wow. I had been missing my own daughter, during the three-day-old trip. And at home, I often regret the time that I spend at the office and away from her during the weekdays.

But I see her most every evening and weekend day.

And this mother, who must be earning more money at sea than she could at home, is away from her daughter every day and night for what I understand to be the standard contract term of nine months at a time.

I know that she loves her daughter as every mother loves her child.

My heart goes out to those who face the choice of leaving their children for extended periods in order to support them.

I got more than warm soup in that line. I got a new perspective on, and appreciation of, my own situation.

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