We had another early start today, and it was another exciting day for us. We went on a helicopter tour and walked on Mendenhall Glacier! Two of our Best of Alaska guests did this excursion at the same time as us and they said it was the best shore side experience they’ve had. They did the whale watching and Mendenhall excursion afterwards and said that was fantastic, as well.
At 8:30 am, we met the excursion driver just outside our cruise terminal, at the parking lot where you’d go on the Mt. Roberts Tramway. We were whisked off to the helicopter launching pad from there.
After a mini city tour, we were ready to get on the helicopter and see Juneau from up above!
We did our very first helicopter tour last year in Juneau on a different excursion, visiting a taller glacier with a dog sled camp located there. Walking on Mendenhall was a completely different experience. Last year, the glacier we walked on was blanketed with snow. Today, we walked on ice. Needless to say, it was slippery.
It’s not smooth ice, though, but after a few minutes of slow and careful walking, we still proceeded with caution, but navigated our way on the ice with more confidence. There were crevasses and water running through. Definitely didn’t want to fall into any of those! The blue ice is incredible.
Do you know why the glacier is blue? Well, glacier is compacted ice and when light hits highly compacted glacier ice, long wavelength colors (red) are absorbed and short wavelength colors (blue) reflect back through the ice.
Mendenhall Glacier moves forward a foot a day, but it’s constantly retreating also. What a cool and educational experience this was. Anyone who has done an excursion like this can’t say enough about it.