Michael Beck
Holgate Glacier, Alaska’s Kenai Mountains
2021

Story Info

Story & Experience

Why this Place?

Holgate Glacier, Alaska’s Kenai Mountains

I’ve had kayaking or boating  to the dynamic and complex interface waters where a glacier meets the sea for a long time. Being in the process of building a home on Whidbey Island at the head of Puget Sound near Seattle, I decided to take advantage of my proximity to  Alaska to participate in GEx 2021 while marking this off my bucket list.  If ever there was a catalog of physically observable woundings of the earth on a mammoth scale,  a melting glacier  has to be way up there near the top of that list.
I wasn’t altogether sure what the ceremony might look like as we planned the adventure beyond what I’ve always done—bear witness, be present and  let what would come move through me.  There was clearly a mixed bag of  emotions as I boarded a tour boat with my daughter Cheyenne for the two hour boat ride into Aialik Bay from the very small fishing village of Seward Alaska. I had seen plenty of videos of kayakers and even cruise liners endangered by calving glaciers.
When our ship’s captain shut down the engines and we began to drift in the freezing silence we were a mile or so away from the mile long face of the Holgate Glacier . The Holgate  pours out of 700 square miles of the Harding Icefield. I was awed by the majesty of the white wall and the peak I had above the top ledge at the 78 mile long tail that went back between steep mountain slopes and up disappearing into a solid layer of smooth bottomed clouds.
I was looking away at some seals on an ice float when the solitude was shattered by a forever memorable loud and piercing C-R-A-C-K that shot through me as startlingly as if I had been gun shot. Reverence and wonder turned to fear at the speed of a thought as my head snapped up to see a small sheet of ice sliding down the face of the Holgate followed by a time delayed swooshing from where it entered the tidewater.  Even  frozen  between awe and fear I knew we were a safe distance away from the unfolding drama.
In the end ours was ceremony of attention and presence split unevenly between distress by evidence of manmade climate change and  time spent in awe, respect and reverence of the Holgate. This year the place offered the gift more than anything we could think to leave behind.

Mike Beck

 

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